Alto Adige wines to buy: 2021 Cantina Kurtatsch "AMOS" Alto Adige Südtirol White

7 Alto Adige Wines to Seek Out This Summer

Why Your Shopping List Ought to Include Pinot Bianco, White Blends and Chillable Reds

6 min read

In 2019, I visited the city of Bolzano twice, and on that second visit, attended the Wines of Alto Adige Summit, an annual celebration and educational seminar series devoted to the region’s magnificent wines. During that three-day event, I kept hearing the same aspirational word from winemakers: “freshness.” What was this quality they were seeking in Alto Adige wines that, until then, I’d only heard here and there within a wine context?

Well, talk to any winemaker in the world today and you’ll hear all about “freshness.” It’s a word most often used with white wines (and always with rosé), meant to describe a feeling of energy meeting precision. Nothing sits on the palate with weight when you have freshness. Everything moves from point A to point B. Think of biting into a perfectly ripe green apple and you get what they’re aspiring for (just don’t say “ripe” because in wine that connotes too much sugar. Ugh, the semantics of this business!).

Why do I bring all of this up? It’s not to say that the producers in Alto Adige are prescient verbal trendsetters, but rather to highlight why I gravitate towards these wines once summer comes around. But as a wine drinker, I don’t aspire for “freshness” as much as “refreshment,” and while there is nothing simple about the seven wines spotlighted here, they all satisfy the demands of a discerning wine drinker who isn’t afraid of using their ice bucket now that its hot. And that goes for the red wines, too, of which I spotlight three below.

Over the last several months I’ve been tasting through several wines from the region to compile this report. These are simply my favorites. For more on Südtirol-Alto Adige, view my video wine class.

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2020 Cantina Kurtatsch Südtirol/Alto Adige “Kofl” Sauvignon Blanc

   

Suavignon Blanc might ultimately be an Alto Adige casualty to climate change in the not-too-distant future. The grape prefers the highest of elevation sites, and room is running out to climb the hills any further. With temperatures warming, achieving balance is getting harder and harder, but some stellar examples persist because their vineyard origins are just too fundamentally sound.

Cantina Kurtasch’s “Kofl” — a steeply pitched, east-facing slope of quartz and dolomite stone — is one of them. The 2020 Sauvignon Blanc from “Kofl” (★★★★ 1/2) has finely honed aromas of ripe peach and kiwi, pyrazine pepper pops and delicate flowers, so there is no mistaking this wine for something other than Sauvignon. But its refined palate feel and overall balance speak to that steep slope and the good water drainage, which has prompted the roots to dive deep. I found this wine — as well as a few others from Cantina Kurtatsch — to be a standout from a crowded field.

2021 J. Hofstätter Südtirol/Alto Adige Weißburgunder

Pinot Bianco surely has to be among the most underrated white wine grapes in the world. From the right terroir and in the right hands, it can offer a transcendent experience of succulent fruit and beguiling freshness, as in the case of J. Hofstätter’s 2021 Weißburgunder (★★★★ 3/4) (the Germanic name for the grape). This highly regarded Tramin-based producer offers an impressive, featherweight rendering of Pinot Bianco, seemingly etched in crisp stone fruit, white flowers and fine minerality. What I found so pleasing with this wine is how it invites the drinker in with delicacy and grace more than power. For a $16 wine, this is as good as it gets.

2022 Cantina Tramin “Stoan” Südtirol/Alto Adige Bianco

 

The village of Tramin is most famous for lending its name to Gewürztraminer, the potent and highly floral white grape variety that finds its place in this wine — the 2022 “Stoan” (★★★★ 1/2) — alongside Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc and a majority Chardonnay. I can only take Gewürztraminer in small doses, as it can become an overbearing show of potpourri and alcohol, but here in Cantina Tramin’s showpiece wine, it makes a great deal of sense, even at a small percentage, by adding spice and a touch of tropical decadence to a bright and minerally white wine ideal for ambitious dinners. What is more, it feels like the kind of wine that should come from the namesake village — Tirolean in its precision, but inflected with hedonism from Gewürztraminer.

2021 Cantina Kurtatsch “AMOS” Südtirol/Alto Adige Bianco

   

Alto Adige has a lot in common with Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Both regions have been molded historically by Habsburg influence, which has often meant seeking winemaking inspiration from Austria rather than Italy. Both also specialize in white wines, and both regions are the preeminent places in the world for quality Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. One more commonality: the best white wines are often white blends.

A recent tasting of Cantina Kurtastch’s portfolio demonstrated that this quality-minded cooperative is not only batting 1.000 with its white wines, it is synthesizing those elements into a symphony of Alto Adige’s identity with its flagship blend, the 2021 “AMOS” (★★★★ 3/4). There’s Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, but also Sauvignon Blanc for zip, and Kerner for personality. Oak aging for 15 months rounds things out and brings all of these distinct personalities into harmony. Give this wine some time to aerate, for its aromas only get more refined as the night goes on.

2022 Cantina Valle Isarco Südtirol/Alto Adige Vernatsch

 

Vernatsch is also known as Schiava, a red-wine grape with the aromas and tones of autumn, but the body and structure for summer. The sweet spot for this grape is on the slopes north of Bolzano, where most of the Schiava in Alto Adige is grown.

Cantina Valle Isarco is a high-quality cooperative winery located further north, closer to Bressanone, but for this easy-breezy Vernatsch (★★★★ 1/2), they source the grapes from the slopes of Bolzano. The fine and subtle tannins plus the brisk character of this wine might urge you to put it on ice a bit, which I would recommend. Plum- and red currant-like juiciness — as well as a tinge of almond, the tell of Schiava — lend appeal and just enough intrigue to elevate this simple wine into intriguing territory. Serve to guests who don’t see it coming.

2022 Muri-Gries Südtirol/Alto Adige Lagrein

 

Frankly, most Lagrein are a “hard pass” for me, but at the city’s Benedictine abbey — Muri-Gries — they make the preeminent one, which is shining with the 2022 vintage (★★★★ 3/4). Using delicate viticultural techniques and even-handed winemaking, the monks of Muri-Gries are able to coax a degree of character from Lagrein that is both a surprise and delight. I particularly liked how the aromas of the 2022 conjured dried blueberries and polished leather. This is faithful to a slight chill for these summer months thanks to its low tannins, but if you don’t get to it until the fall, no worries: it certainly has a “sweater weather” feel to it on account of those smoky aromatics.

2020 Castelfeder “Alte Reben” Südtirol/Alto Adige Vernatsch

 

While Vernatsch/Schiava can be light and fresh and downright gulpable, it can also achieve structure, complexity and age-worthiness. One way to notice this promise is the phrase “Alte Reben,” which essentially means old vines.

Castelfeder is one of Alto Adige’s stalwart family wineries of Alto Adige, with a keen focus on the majesty of red wine from the area. Their Pinot Nero is among the best in Italy, and here, the “Alte Reben” Vernatsch (★★★★ 3/4) strikes a similar chord. To me the fruit suggested cranberries with dimensions of tea, smoke and forest floor — all of it bringing to mind half a dozen different Pinot Noir from around the world. The culprit of such complexity are 80-year-old vines in a single vineyard in the gloriously beautiful village of Cortaccia. An incredible wine given the $16 price.

 

All photos: ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

Note: Some of these wines were submitted as samples by either Wines of Alto Adige or the PR company representing a winery. Castelfeder’s “Alte Reben” was purchased with funds from our editorial budget. Learn more about our editorial policy.

A selection of Alto Adige wines tasted for this report. Not all were included.
2021 J. Hofstätter Alto Adige Südtirol Weissburgunder (Pinot Bianco)
Steep vineyards in the Bassa Atesina area of Alto Adige-Südtirol
A waterfall near Seceda, Alto Adige (Italy) with the summit of Sassolungo looming in the distance.
2022 Cantina Tramin "Stoan" Alto Adige Südtirol White Blend wine
2022 Muri-Griess Alto Adige-Südtirol Lagrein
2020 Castelfeder "Alte Reben" Alto Adige-Südtirol Vernatsch
Bolzano flower market in summer
Schloss Maretsch / Castel Mareccio in the heart of Bolzano with the distant Dolomites

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