Focus on Alto Adige
One issue with big wine tastings is the fact that inherently flashy wine gets noticed. I mean high-alcohol, superripe and fruity and/or heavily oaked styles are what stick out by definition. And when you're tasting so many wines all at once, it's easy to miss out on the examples of more restrained, balanced, contemplative styles.
Earlier this week, I was lucky to attend a trade tasting featuring the wines of Alto Adige, a region at the very Northern tip of Italy, bordering Austria. The region drapes down from the Alps in the North, facing the Mediterranean in the South. The wine reflect this combination of cooler, high-altitude Alpine climate and moderate Mediteranean influences: classy, aromatic wines with focused acidity, good fruit, never getting too ripe.
The region's strength is in white wine, with consistent themes across different varietals; acidic, linear whites with fantastic focus. Some highlights offered at Binny's: Colterenzio's pinot grigio is nice and light, with notes of pear and limestone. Tiefenbrunner's pinot bianco is more toward the modern style, with more fruit than most others at the tasting, but still defined by racy acidity. Elena Walch offers a memorable pinot grigio with fresh lemon citrus and circus peanuts, with more breadth than most.
It's worth pointing out that every one of these falls under the fifteen dollar mark. Talk about value.
The gewurztraminer from Alto Adige is spectacular. Gorgeously aromatic on the nose, with full honey and melon, these gewurztraminers smell sweet. This is deceptive, though, as the wines are often fermented dry, spicy and linear. Favorites include those by Terlano, Colterenzio, and an upcoming release from Elena Walch, though none are on Binny's shelves yet.
A bit of trivia: Gewurztraminer means "spice from Tramin." Tramin is a town within Alto Adige, so linguistically speaking, Alto Adige is the home of gewurztraminer, or so the locals claim. More on that story on Wikipedia.
I enjoyed these wines quite a bit. Most are consistency vibrant, structured, and classy, and outstanding values too. Even those that stand out as fruitier and more plush only do so in a matter of context they still fall into this charming but angular profile.
I felt like this tasting was the ideal way to appreciate these particular wines. I had been worried that a tasting featuring only Alto Adige would be a little narrow. But in a larger contest, say, the Tre Bicchieri tasting just a few weeks ago, or maybe among hundreds of brown-bagged wines in a big reviewer's blind tasting, these little wines would surely get lost in a sea of heavier, more showy and obvious styles. And trust me; that would be a real shame.