ALTO ADIGE DOC, denomination covering the northern part of Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region. Alto Adige borders Austria to which it belonged as Süd Tirol (South Tyrol) until the Austro-Hungarian empire was broken up in 1919 after the First World War when it was ceded to Italy for its support of the Allies. The region’s predominant German-speakers still refer to Alto Adige as Süd-Tirol or Süd-Tiroler, and refer to the land to the south (Italy in other words) as “that country down there” (David Gleave, 1989 p56). Later, Mussolini encouraged migration here from the south of Italy, and favoured the Italian rather than the German language.
The name | Alto Adige translates from Italian as the ‘Upper Adige’, referring to the Adige (Etsch for German-speaking locals), one of two main, valley-forming rivers here, the other being the Isarco (or Eisack) and whose confluence is Bolzano (Bozen), the regional capital.
Terroir | As Alto Adige’s vineyards can reach altitudes of 700 metres (2,300 feet) the region is considered ‘cool climate’, however protection from the Alps creates a sub-Mediterranean microclimate well suited for wine grapes (‘Fresh Blood’ by Walter Speller, Decanter Italy 2016 supplement, p32-36).
Native wine grapes | As noted above Adige was formerly part of Austria and so Germanic varieties such as Gewurztraminer, and Riesling survive here and although traditional to this area, they are not native Italian wine grapes. The native grapes of Alto Adige are Moscato Rosa (Pink Muscat) which is made in small quantities; the Schiava group which makes the light, easygoing red called St Magdelener; and Lagrein, a native grape giving much more full-bodied wine than Schiava (Ian D’Agata 2014, p39). There exists significant plantings of other grapes in the Alto Adige region, notably Sylvaner, Kerner, Müller Thurgau but like Gewürztraminer these are also neither native nor traditional to Italy (Ian D’Agata 2014, p.x).
Vineyard area | 2018 5,400 hectares (13,100 acres) of wine grapes. 350,000 hectoliters (3.9 million cases) of wine. Around twenty different varieties. 60% white. Of this, 70% are Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay. The remaining 30% of the white wine vineyard is Sauvignon Blanc, Müller Thurgau, Sylvaner, Kerner, Riesling, and Veltliner. 40% red. Alto Adige’s two indigenous red grape varieties are Schiava (Vernatsch) and Lagrein. Other red wine grapes: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc.
IGT | Vigneti delle Dolomiti.
DOC | Alto Adige has one over-arching eponymous DOC for all its wines, listed below.
DOC–by sub-region | Colli di Bolzano or Bozner Leiten DOC. | Meranese (di Collina) or Meraner (Hügel) DOC. | Santa Maddalena or Sankt Magdalener DOC. | Terlano or Terlaner DOC. | Valle Isarco or Eisacktal or Eisacktaler DOC. | Valle Venosta or Vinschgau DOC.
DOC–BY VARIETAL | Alto Adige DOC Bianco. | Alto Adige DOC Cabernet. | Alto Adige DOC Cabernet-Lagrein. | Alto Adige DOC Cabernet-Merlot. | Alto Adige DOC Chardonnay. | Alto Adige DOC Chardonnay-Pinot Bianco. | Alto Adige DOC Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio. | Alto Adige DOC Gewürztraminer. | Alto Adige DOC Kerner. | Alto Adige DOC Lagrein. | Alto Adige DOC Lagrein-Merlot. | Alto Adige DOC Lagrein Rosato or Rosè or Kretzer. | Alto Adige DOC Malvasia. | Alto Adige DOC Merlot. | Alto Adige DOC Merlot Rosato or rosè or Kretzer. | Alto Adige DOC Moscato Giallo. | Alto Adige DOC Moscato Rosa. | Alto Adige DOC Muller Thurgau. | Alto Adige DOC Pinot Bianco. | Alto Adige DOC Pinot Bianco-Pinot Grigio. | Alto Adige DOC Pinot Grigio. | Alto Adige DOC Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero). | Alto Adige DOC Pinot Noir rosato or rosè or Kretzer. | Alto Adige DOC Riesling. | Alto Adige DOC Riesling Italico. | Alto Adige DOC Sauvignon Blanc. | Alto Adige DOC Schiava grigia. | Alto Adige DOC Silvaner. | Alto Adige DOC Spumante. | Alto Adige DOC Traminer aromatico.
Certified Biodynamic | Alois Lageder.
No certification | Cantina Produttoi Cortaccia.
David Gleave, The Wines of Italy (Salamander Books, London, 1989).
Dr Ian D’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014).