Trentino-Alto Adige is a powerhouse wine region with a dual identity. While most grape growing areas celebrate homogeneity and common characteristics in their wines, here the two distinct co-existing personalities of these close neighbors dovetail nicely. The province of Trentino is firmly planted in Italian culture while the Alto Adige region has had a far more storied history with political and cultural associations in the Germanic traditions.
Both districts are located squarely in the outskirts of the Alps and are aptly influenced by the mountainous terrain. Vineyards climb steep terraces and teeter atop ridges up and down the picturesque valleys. Although it is the northernmost Italian wine region, the towering peaks actually have a moderating influence on the weather and protect Trentino-Alto Adige from chilly winds and undesirable rainfall. The high elevations provide boundless amounts of sunshine and eliminate challenges associated with growing grapes on the hot valley floor. While the environment may seem inhospitable at first, in reality, it is quite conducive to first class viticulture.
Separately, these regions take the top two spots out of all Italian wine regions in producing the highest proportion of quality wine. Nearly 80% of the wine made in both of these jurisdictions qualifies for DOC level, which is the Italian designation for quality wine that follows all the protocols and meets the high standards of the region it specifies.
The differences between the two counterparts begin to be noticeable in the grapes that comprise each area’s signature wines. Both Trentino and Alto Adige vineyards are heavily planted with local favorites, Lagrein and Schiava, as well as international staples of Chards, Cabs and Pinot Noirs. Additionally, Trentino branches off to produce Bordeaux blends and white blends based on Pinot Bianco, while Alto Adige is renowned for its Germanic varieties, Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau, and Silvaner. Also, Trentino contains a sub-appellation that focuses on traditional method sparkling wines, whereas Alto Adige does not have a corresponding bubbly equivalent.
Further distinctions are evident in labeling. Although for the most part, wines originating from this region tend to be varietally labeled, Trentino does have a penchant for producing blends that are marketed under the terms Trentino Rosso and Trentino Bianco. Alternatively, Alto Adige is heavily focused on single varietals labeled as such. Alto Adige wines also frequently employ German oriented nomenclature. For example, Trentino-Alto Adige may be listed as Trentino-Südtirol or Trentino-South Tyrol and Schiava noted as Vernatsch, indicating the German terminology for place and grape.
This complexity may cause some initial slight confusion among oenophiles unfamiliar with Trentino-Alto Adige’s split personality, but the high-quality amazing wines originating from both halves here are bound to win over even the harshest critics. Besides, the double diversity in the wines makes for a very good reason to try twice as many!