Trentino-Alto Adige is a wine-producing region in the far north of Italy, bordering with Lombardy to the west, Austria to the north and Veneto to the south. The region comprises two provinces - Trentino which refers to the southern part, with its capital of Trento and the name Alto Adige identifying the northern area of the region around the town of Bolzano that includes the higher (alto) part of the Adige River.
Historical and cultural differences distinguish the two regions, with Trentino being more classically Italian whereas Alto Adige is known as Südtirol due to its largely German-speaking population. The entire region has mountainous terrain, with the Dolomites and Rhaetian Alps surrounding the area, so viticulture is not possible on much of the land.
However it is performed on many steep slopes under difficult conditions. Due to the challenging nature of viticulture in the region, there is a real emphasis on quality that makes it worth persisting with the difficulties of the terrain and climate across the region. The Trentino-Alto Adige wine region has 14 DOCs: Alto Adige or Südtirol, Alto Adige Colli di Bolzano, Alto Adige Meranese, Alto Adige Santa Maddalena, Alto Adige Terlano, Alto Adige Valle Isarco, Alto Adige Valle Venosta, Casteller, Lago di Caldaro, Sorni, Teroldego Rotaliano, Trentino, Trento, and Valdadige or Etschtaler.
Production of wine in the Alto Adige area are produced mostly by small family-owned wineries that sell their wines locally with limited exports, while Trentino has a large number of growers grouped into large cooperatives, producing wines from a mixture of local and foreign varietals, and with consistent styles and character.
Because this region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1919, there are several German named grape varietals, such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Though Alto Adige's Sauvignons, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio’s are world-class, with their Chardonnay expressions improving with each new vintage. Alto Adige’s climate naturally suits white wine production, though reds have been important historically. Indigenous red varietals such as Schiava are used to make the classic red of Bolzano, known as St Magdalener. The local Nosiola varietal makes crisp dry whites and some excellent sweet dessert wines in the Valle dei Laghi area. The red Marzemino has character and makes fresh easy-drinking red wines that are popular within the region - some of them have a delicate spritz. The most exciting native red is Teroldego, crafting wines which have a lively acidity and a unique character that is distinctly Italian.
Some fine rosé wines are made in the region, like the aromatic Lagrein Kretzer and the dessert wine Moscato Rosa, appreciated for its delightful floral characters. The region’s aromatic whites are generally considered to be delicate and intended for early drinking, some have outstanding potential to age. The best examples can age elegantly for more than a decade, achieving a rich honey complexity. The famed and popular Pinot Grigio is widely planted, although Chardonnay is catching up, as Trentino now produces more Chardonnay than any other Italian region. The rose-petal scented native Gewürztraminer thrives in the region - as the name is derived from the village of Tramin and ‘würz’ meaning ‘spice’.
Sparkling wine production is on the increase in Alto Adige - as Trentino has been an area of quality sparkling wine for many years under the DOC Trento. The Méthode Traditionnelle technique is used, even the same grapes as Champagne - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with Pinot Blanc is also permitted.
Some excellent reds crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Nero are also helping to build upon the regions merits and the attention now given by the international wine market. The region undoubtedly has enormous potential and offers serious competition to the dominance of Friuli, where they have been leading Italy's white wine scene for pure, varietal expressions with international characteristics.