As much of the country suffers the effects of an unrelenting heatwave, the Italian Food Wine & Travel group has set its sights on northeastern Italy, where alpine breezes provide a source of constant refreshment.
We’re exploring the vineyards clustered along Italy’s borders with Austria, and Slovenia, particularly the regions of:
- Alto Adige/Südtirol, and
For a closer look at this part of Italy and the beautiful wines produced there, check out the invitation post from our host this month, Kevin, at snarkywine.com. It’s full of photos and geeky details that will inspire you to explore these wines.
The full discussion, featuring food, wine, and travel tips on all the goodies available in northeast Italy gets underway Saturday, August 3rd, at 11 am ET. Please join us and share your favorite stories, wines, and recipes! All you have to do is follow #ItalianFWT on Twitter and make sure to add the hashtag to your tweets.
Here’s a preview of what each of us is bringing to the table:
Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla hunts down “Coniglio in Agrodolce + Ronchi di Cialla Ribolla Gialla 2017.”
Wendy tries “Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Pizza with a Terlano Pinot Bianco” over at A Day in the Life on the Farm.
Linda investigates “Alto Adige Offers More than One White Wine” at My Full Wine Glass.
Gwendolyn is The Wine Predator, and she will be “Celebrating Summer in the Mountains of Italy : 4 wines with 4 courses from Südtirol.”
Jeff at FoodWineClick! will be getting back to nature with “A Food-Friendly Skin-Fermented Vigneti delle Dolomiti.”
Cindy will be taking a look at “Picolit – A Historic, Rare, Sweet Dessert Wine from Collio DOC” over at Grape Experiences.
Jennifer will be taking her Vino Travels to the farthest reaches of Italy’s northeast to discover “Friulian Reds with Zorzettig.”
Lauren, The Swirling Dervish, will be trying out “Elena Walch Müller Thurgau with Summertime Shrimp Pad-Thai.”
Katarina will be look closer at “Aquila del Torre winery: An Oasis in Friuli Focused on Local Identity and Innovation” at Grapevine Adventures.
Nicole from Somm’s Table shares “2 Ounce Pours: A Quick Look at Pinot Bianco.”
And Kevin will be doing a bit of a double-header here at SnarkyWine, with some “Mountain Bubbles and a Tannic Finish.”
Müller-Thurgau Finds Its Place in the World
A cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale, this grape has had a bit of a hard-luck story in its native home of Germany. In the hopes of combining Riesling’s ethereal aromas and characteristic acidity with Madeleine Royale’s penchant for early ripening, Dr. Hermann Müller brought them together. The result wasn’t really what he had envisioned.
His experiment yielded a variety that could produce tons of fruit, albeit with thin skins prone to rot. And, while these grapes ripened early, they lacked many of Riesling’s most attractive qualities. They seemed better suited to table grape status than as the raw material for great wine.
One thing this grape did accomplish though, was helping rebuild the German wine industry after World War II. A variety that would ripen reliably and yield lots of grapes was just what farmers needed after the decimation of the war. The fact that most grapes were used to make inexpensive sweet wines in the style of Liebfraumilch, didn’t bode well for its future in fine wine making, but it did provide a shot in the arm to Germany’s economy.
Today, German Müller-Thurgau is usually blended with another variety to balance out its shortcomings. Generally speaking, it is not regarded as the best expression of the grape.
Müller-Thurgau grown in the Alto Adige region of Italy is another thing altogether. Grapes are grown on impossibly steep slopes at high elevation, resulting in wines with pronounced aromatics, tart acidity, and a steely mineral quality. The best producers make wine from vines that have been established for decades.
This family-owned estate is run by the winery’s namesake and her two daughters, Julia and Karoline, who represent the fifth generation to make wine here. Trained as an architect, Elena married into a family wine tradition and proceeded to put her stamp on the business.
Her approach to farming the estate’s 60 hectares of land is, in her words, terroir-focused. While the primary goal is to grow the right grapes in the right places and make wines that reflect those special plots, it must be done using sustainable methods that preserve and protect the land. I love how she describes the learning process as a long-term apprenticeship.
(If you’d like to read more about their sustainable methods, click here.)
2017 Elena Walch Müller-Thurgau Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT (12% abv; $21 retail)
Walch grows her Müller-Thurgau in the Altenburg Vineyard, located at about 600 meters above sea level. Soils are a combination of rhyolite, a product of continental volcanic eruption with a high silica content, limestone, and dolomite (a mixture of calcium-magnesium carbonate.) Don’t you already get a sense of what this wine might taste like?
Fermentation is temperature-controlled in stainless steel vats, and the wine rests on its fine lees for several months. While intended for drinking in the short-term, the winery advises that this wine could improve for three or four more years.
Color: Pale lemon-green, fading to colorless at the rim.
Nose: White peach, apricot, and thyme, complemented by wet stones.
Palate: Medium+ acidity underpins the stone fruit flavors, which taste less ripe than they smell. Medium body with a medium+ finish that lingers with notes of apricot and nutmeg.
I was conflicted by this wine: my first instinct was to gulp it down – so delicious! But it also begged me to sit and think about it: the ancient soils that nurtured the grapes; the alpine breezes that cooled them. The thought and care that drove the winemaking process. Good thing I bought another bottle!
Food Pairing: Summertime Shrimp Pad Thai
As a resident of Miami, I’m used to suffering in the summertime: hazy, hot, and humid is our daily forecast. But this summer I’ve watched my wine friends in more temperate regions succumb to extreme heat for weeks at a time.
Lucky for me, a few of them were inspired by the weather to create some delicious menus requiring little, if any, cooking time. Two such friends, Shaun Myrick and Martin Redmond, crafted pad thai dishes that sent me right into the kitchen to make my own version.
Inspired by their efforts and limited only by the ingredients in my fridge, I got to work. The only cooking involved the shrimp, which takes a minute or two; the rest of the prep is just chopping and slicing. I highly recommend it on a hot day when you still want something delicious for dinner!
As for the pairing, it was fantastic: the stone fruit flavors in the wine worked well with the slight sweetness of the pad thai sauce. And the wine’s acidity was a boost of refreshment on a warm evening. Definitely a duo I’d put together again.
About the Italian FWT Group
We’re a group of food and wine writers that gather the first Saturday of each month to share recipes, pairings, and travel stories on our favorite Italian wine regions. In September we’ll be talking about passito-style wines, with our host Katarina of Grapevine Adventures. Keep an eye out for her invitation post!