Sharing its borders with Switzerland and Austria, this German, Italian and Ladin speaking corner of Italy is a wonderful blend of European culture. It’s something that is perhaps best reflected in the delicious wines that emerge from the region. You see, for the thirsty travellers out there, this is one of the most magical spots to indulge in some wine tasting – and something a little different from the well-trodden trails across the vineyards of France.
Wine making is a long-standing tradition in South Tyrol (known as Alto Adige in Italian – or Südtirol in German) and there’s evidence that it started here in a period before the Romans. No wonder they’ve got it down to a tee. Still championing very traditional, environmentally friendly methods, there is personal care and attention at each stage of the wine making process, which may be part of the secret to their success. The region also benefits from a unique location between the Southern Alps and the Dolomites, giving it the perfect combination of Alpine and Mediterranean climates for grapes to thrive. Sun is key in viticulture and the dramatic, mountainous terrain also has an important role; while the lower hillsides soak up the sunlight each day, allowing the grapes to develop colour, produce sugars and ripen, the higher peaks dutifully protect from harsh, cold weather and damaging frost. But enough of the science, let’s move onto the fun part – sampling the wines.
With over 150 wineries to entice you, we recommend taking the “wine road” along the valley of the River Adige; Italy’s most famous wine route and deservedly so. You can easily spend a whole day (or a whole week) cycling between vineyards to your next tasting experience and down picturesque country roads. If you’re not quite comfortable on two wheels, however, simply meander from the lower Adige to the upper Adige at a leisurely pace, stopping off to taste different wines as you go. There are several different varieties of grapes grown in the area, so we say challenge yourself to try them all – but definitely keep an eye out for wines made from the original, indigenous grapes which are Gewürztraminer, Schiava/Vernatsch and Lagrein. An excellent way to swot up on local wines is by visiting the South Tyrolean Wine Museum, which can be found in the centre of the lovely little town of Kaltern. Here you can learn all about the evolution of this local craft, and see the traditional tools that contributed towards the success of their wines today. Seeing a vault in the pressing rooms that dates back to 1693 will give you just an inkling of just how rich the history of wine is here.
A destination whose history is exciting, whose identity is intriguing and whose wines are simply world-class; it’s time to sit up and take notice of South Tyrol in all of its gourmet glory.