I visited Cantina Bolzano in Alto Adige last week with the team from AI Selections for the first time. It was clear that Spring was just beginning to stretch and yawn. We arrived in that perfect moment where Winter has almost released its cold, bony grasp. The cusp of change- the very tipping point before a full-blown explosion into bloom. The vineyards at Cantina Bolzano are the perfect place to see it all happen, in high-definition.
We walked through the vineyards with Klaus Sparer, who gave us the chance to meet a few of the growers and to get our feet in the dirt. Steep vineyards high above the valley are planted with white varietals like Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon. Down in the valley however, we visited the famous Taber (“tah-bur”) vineyard where Cantina Bolzano sources the Lagrein grapes for its eponymous Taber Lagrein.
As you can see above, the Taber vineyard is in the foothills, only about 250 meters above sea level. Lagrein is the only Alto Adige wine grape that thrives at this elevation. The Taber vineyard is traditionally planted with a large pergola system and very wide row spacing. All of this, in combination with the age of the vineyard, is meant to induce quality, not quantity, in the fruit.
On our way to the Taber vineyard we had to stop at the winery in order to pick up the key to the front gate. Taber is named for the family who owns the estate- and live on it. Thankfully they are accommodating towards American visitors who want to stomp around in their vines!
Klaus pointed out the “tears” forming on the vines. This was not condensation, but rather a sign that the ground was beginning to warm up, allowing the roots of the vines to search for water. Klaus also taught us that a drop or two of these “tears” are the best remedy for red eyes. Move over, Visine!
The Taber Lagrein is one of the most impressive examples of the varietal I have ever tasted. It is deep black-purple, inky and almost completely opaque. On the palate it is weighty, a voluptuous wine with beautiful acidity heightening the mid-palate. We tasted a couple of older vintages as well and noticed how mineral the wine became with a little age- a steely backbone for all that handsome fruit.
Spring has definitely arrived in Alto Adige.