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Details for Tramin, Lagrein, Alto Adige

AppellationSüdtirol - Alto Adige DOC
Cantina Tramin
(click to find out more)

Alto Adige

Italy’s northernmost region, the Alto Adige - Südtirol is the Y-shaped river valley at the centre of our satellite picture, hemmed in by the snowcapped Dolomites (part of the Alps).  Being confined to the valley makes it one of Italy’s smallest wine regions, with less than 1% of the national vineyard area.  Quality, by contrast, is high.  Over 98% of the production qualifies as DOC, and this is one of the few areas in Italy where vineyard area is increasing.
Until 1918 the region was part of Austria, and the majority of locals still speak German as their first language.  Wine labels, like the place names, are usually in both German and Italian.  Unusually for Italy, the region’s fame rests on its white wines, which make up the majority of the production.  A declining 40% is red wine, mostly light, Beaujolais-style quaffers from the local Schiava (Vernatsch) that are consumed locally or in neighbouring Switzerland and Austria.
This is one of the sunniest and dryest parts of Italy, averaging 300 days of sunshine each year.  Most vineyards need to be irrigated; fortunately there is plenty of meltwater flowing down the valleys.  Although summer days can be very hot, the nights at this altitude are always cold, preserving acidity and aromas in the grapes.

Cantina Tramin

Strictly speaking it sould be either Cantina Termeno or Kellerei Tramin, but the Italian word for ‘wineceller’ is rather better known than the Austrian kellerei, while the village of Tramin is much better known by its Austrian name than its Italian one, Termeno.  Using the Tramin name also plays well with the story that the grape (Gewürz) Traminer originated here, as its name would suggest.
Founded in 1898, Cantina Tramin are the local growers’ co-operative, now with 310 members tending 260 hectares of vines.  They have developed an enviable reputation for quality, winning the coveted Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso on more than twenty occasions.  This feat makes them a “two star” winery – one of only thirty in all Italy.
As a large operation they produce a full range of wines, including some unusual high-end blends in a region where varietal wines are the norm.  They have a particular focus on Gewürztraminer, offering five different examples: basic, selection, single-vineyard and two late-harvest.

about this wine About this wine

Lagrein is very much a Südtirol speciality, although it seems likely that it originated just to the south in neighbouring Trentino.  Until very recently the two were considered to be part of the same wine region, so I can stand by my claim on the postcard that Lagrein is “found nowhere else”!
Inevitably, of course, that isn’t entirely true.  Australia has been experimenting with it; at the turn of the century there was a single producer but now there are a few dozen.  Quantities are still tiny, and as far as I know none is exported.
Even in Südtirol and Trentino there isn’t much: about 650 hectares in total.  That’s about a tenth of the area devoted to the other local black grape, the pale and undistinguished Schiava.  Thick-skinned, deep-coloured Lagrein produces much better wine but it needs a warm site, and in this alpine region there aren’t many that fit the bill.
This wine comes from the warmest, south- and southwest-facing vineyards around the village of Tramin and the nearby villages of Ora and Egna on the opposite, eastern side of the Adige valley.  The vineyards of Cantina Tramin rise to 850 metres but the high ones are too cold for Lagrein; these grapes come from vineyards between 250 and 350 metres.
The hot summer of 2015 suited this variety, while cold winds descending from the mountains at night preserved acidity and aromas in the grapes.  A cooler (though still dry) September slowed the ripening, giving the flavours time to develop.  The grapes were hand-harvested into small hods to avoid damage to them.
At the winery they were destemmed before being fermented at a controlled 28°C to 30°C in a mix of stainless steel and cement vats.  This is slightly cooler than usual for reds, and should emphasise aroma and fruit purity while limiting tannins (and colour, though that’s unlikely to be a problem for this grape).  The wine was then aged for at least six months, partly in a mix of different sized oak barrels and partly in cement tanks.

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