Two Winning White Wines from the Peak of Italy
Wine for june - Under $20
Colterenzio, “Altkirch” Chardonnay 2011 (about $17)
The Alto Adige region continues to gain accolades for the quality of its wines - red as well as white. The Alto Adige region - also known as Südtirol due to its bicultural Italian-Austrian patrimony - is nestled right below Austria at the very top of Italy. This mountainous region at Italy’s peak would seem a harsh environment for growing quality wine grapes. But it is just the opposite. The tall Alpine mountains provide protection from cold northern winds and the steep, south-facing, sun-saturated slopes, significant day-night temperature variations and a long ripening season all combine to provide an excellent habitat for growing wine grapes.
Colterenzio (more formally known as Schreckbichl Colterenzio) is a wine producers’ cooperative, founded in 1960 by 28 wine growers from the small village of Colterenzio located southwest of the city of Bolzano. Over time, other vintners from in and around Colterenzio asked to join the cooperative and today Colterenzio has approximately 300 wine growers that collectively have about 750 acres under vine.
Colterenzio is one of those exceptional wine producers’ cooperatives that does things right. Colterenzio has supplement traditional winemaking practices with modern winemaking equipment and technology and, more importantly, works closely with its members to ensure that the grapes ultimately offered are of the highest quality. Colterenzio also encourages its members to implement organic farming practices and combat vineyard pests and diseases by natural methods.
Colterenzio’s 2011 “Altkirch” Chardonnay is made entirely of Chardonnay grapes that have been fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and subsequently aged on the lees for three months. This ageing protocol is designed to increase complexity and add additional aromas and flavors to the wine.
In the glass it is straw yellow in color with green tints at the edge. It has delicate floral and white fruit aromas that follow through in the flavors. It has a crisp acidity infused with pineapple and mildly-sweet yellow apple flavors and has a note of almond paste on the dry finish.
This wine can be served with a variety of dishes. It is excellent as an aperitif and partners well with seafood salads, vegetarian risotto dishes, a variety of seafood and pasta dishes as well as simply-prepared chicken and pork dishes.
The wine is easily recognizable by its striking label with an image of a black castle - or is that a church? - on a white background.
Jermann, “Vintage Tunina” Venezia Giulia IGT 2010 (about $62)
This wine is from the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (generally referred to simply as Friuli) region in northeastern Italy. Friuli shares a border with Austria on the north and Slovenia on the east and is about as far north in Italy as you can get and still be in Italy. The climate as you might expect is cool and the vineyards hug the south-facing hillsides for maximum sun exposure.
This is white wine country and the Vintage Tunina produced by Silvio Jermann is one of the area’s - and Italy’s - best white wines. It is a serial recipient of Gambero Rosso’s prestigious Tre Bicchieri award and is ranked number 5 in Gambero Rosso’s listing of Italy’s best white wines.
Vintage Tunina was first released in 1975 and is a blend of five native white varieties from Jermann’s vineyard holdings. The best grapes from the various vineyards are selected for this wine and harvested late in the season, typically two weeks after the all other grapes have been picked. The grapes are vinified together and aged in stainless steel tanks.
The exact percentages of the various grapes utilized for Vintage Tunina is not divulged and changes from year to year. It is a wine for the discerning wine enthusiast.
The 2010 Vintage Tunina is straw yellow turning to golden- yellow in color. It has a layered and inviting bouquet with perfumed expressions of sweet, ripe peaches and apricots. It is full-bodied and intense but also well balanced and elegant. It is dry and pleasantly acidic with layers of white fruit flavors that go well with most first courses, especially if they involve mushrooms or truffles. But this full-bodied white also has the stuffing to accompany most white meat dishes involving pork or chicken as well as not-too-seasoned cheeses. Unlike most white wines this wine will age well and will typically last 7 to 8 years and up to 10 years in exceptional vintages.
Yes, it may be one of Italy’s best white wines but it’s expensive and its price tag will be daunting for a budget-minded wine enthusiast simply looking to purchase a white wine for a special-occasion dinner. Italians have an appropriate expression for a quandry like this: “Il buono è buono, ma il migliore è meglio” - good is good but the best is better.
June 4, 2014
To view other wine of the month selections, see Monthly Wine Reviews