Lagrein is a red grape varietal native to the South Tyrol Valley in north-eastern Italy. The name was used in the 17th century, in records of the Muri Benedictine Monastery near Bolzano. But other sources claim the grape can be dated as far back as 1379 AD. It was thought the grape came over from Greece and the source of the name ‘Lagrein’ was either from the Greek word lagarinthos (hanging), or the Greek Colony of Lagaria in southern Italy.
Today it is thought the name comes from the Lagarina Valley in Trentino, just south of Alto Adige. Whatever the source of the varietals name, its origin is no longer in doubt, with recent DNA testing in 2004 having shown that its parent grapes are; Teroldego crossed with Schiava Gentile - and it is related to Syrah, Pinot Noir and Dureza.
These connections strongly indicate that the Lagrein grape varietal was born in the Trentino / Alto-Adige wine region. Today it is extraordinarily difficult, but not impossible to find Lagrein grown and produced outside of Alto Adige region. Though in Australia there are a small handful of pioneering wine producers, mostly found in the cooler parts of the country, crafting interesting Lagrein wines. There are also small parcels of Lagrein grown in the Central Coast region of California where it produces single varietal wines and can also be found to be blended with Syrah and Durif.
The cultivation of the Lagrein grape varietal in southern Tyrol typically produces highly tannic red wines named; Lagrein Scuro, or Lagrein Dunkel, though they can also produce fragrant Rosé wines named; Lagrein Rosato, or Lagrein Kretzer. In recent years, winemaking techniques have changed, practicing much shortened maceration periods and the subtle use of oak to craft less aggressive flavours and earlier drinking styles.
Near the Austrian border in northern Italy, the Alto Adige wine region is renowned for producing excellent expressions of Lagrein which pair externally well with rich winter dishes. As the area of Alto Adige is very close to the Austrian border and having shared a history - hence both languages can appear on a wine label.
Lagrein is one of Alto Adige’s leading red wine varietals, and if managed well in the vineyard can produce wines with character and has recently experienced a genuine renaissance. Lagrein is impressive with its aromas of berries, fresh cherries, and violets. On the palate, it demonstrates a rich texture, confident tannins and balanced acidity, along with flavours of chocolate, herb, and plum, but if not cared for, can have a bitter finish. After aging in small oak barrels, spice notes lend additional charm and character to the top expressions.