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Alto Adige – discovering Italy’s most northerly wine region

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

Hello, fellow wine lovers!  Today, let's journey together to Alto Adige/Südtirol, a hidden gem nestled at the very top of Italy where it meets Austria. Imagine a picturesque 'Y' shaped glacial valley, steeped in history and culture, and you'll get some idea of the geography of Alto Adige. This enchanting region, once the main passage between Italy and the rest of Europe, has a somewhat gory past as a main route used by invading forces from ancient times to modern history. Since 1919, Alto Adige has formally been a part of Italy, with a trilingual culture in Italian, German, and Ladin. I’ve skied many times in Alto Adige and to me it feels like a lovely mix of Italian flair and German (or Austrian!) organisation.

In Alto Adige, the vineyards are planted on the valley floors as well as the mountain slopes, some sitting above 1,000 metres. Alto Adige has an incredible variety of grape-growing conditions, with different micro-climates and various soils. The vineyards here are a testament to the region's unique geography, with the vines climbing up the sides of the glacial valleys in neat horizontal rows. Even with a relatively modest size of just 14,085 acres, Alto Adige is categorised into six distinct growing sub-zones, each offering its own unique wine profile.

In Alto Adige, it’s also very common to see German names and words on the label - you may find a bottle of Weißburgunder instead of Pinot Bianco. Most Alto Adige DOC wines list the German title first, followed by the Italian one: e.g. “Südtirol/Alto Adige/Denominazione di Origine Controllata”. They can also legally be labelled as “dell’Alto Adige”,, “Südtirol”  or “Südtiroler”.

Alto Adige has quietly become arguably Italy’s top white wine region. The Alpine-Mediterranean climate, the quality of the soils, and the enviable locations of the vineyards make it possible to produce some absolutely stunning wines. I love the Pinot Biancos and Chadonnays from this region – as well as the fabulous Pinot Grigios. Whether you go to Alto Adige for a ‘settimana bianca’ of skiing and snowboarding or whether you choose to go in summer for hiking, mountain-biking and relaxing, this is always a fantastic place for a holiday (I’m lucky enough to have done both, and I’m not sure I can choose between them!).

Cheers, Elizabeth & Wine 🍷🌄🇮🇹


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