For many German consumers, spumante stands for Asti-heavy headaches from their youth. Others associate it with their much-loved Prosecco. Few people suspect that northern Italy, the autonomous province of Trento, is home to a small treasure trove of excellent sparkling wines. They call themselves Trentodoc, produced according to the Metodo Classico - the classic bottle fermentation. And apart from the South Tyrolean growths, they are the only Italian spumante produced in the mountains.
"There are more oenologists than deer in Trentino," says Marco Sabellico, co-editor of the Italian wine bible Gambero Rosso. Only, unfortunately, hardly anyone in the world knows that. Trentino is quasi vinological terra icognica, eking out a Cinderella existence among big names like Bordeaux, Chianti or Champagne. Yet the region bordering South Tyrol has a lot up its sleeve in terms of terroir
|Vineyards in the Adige Valley|
In the Adige Valley, where most of the vineyards are located, the alpine climate meets the Mediterranean warmth coming up from Lake Garda. Every day the south wind "Ora" makes its way from Lake Garda to the slopes of the Adige Valley and ventilates the vineyards. The strong temperature fluctuations between day and night also ensure aroma-concentrated, healthy grapes in many places during the ripening period.
Golden rain over unknown quantities
Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero benefit from this - the grape varieties from which sparkling wines are produced in 27 wineries around Trento, the capital of Trento, and which carry the D.O.C. designation of origin. And that's not all. Six of the "Trentodoc" wines even received the highest rating of "3 glasses" in the Gambero Rosso 2010. With the "Guilio Ferrari Riserva Brut", the Ferrari Spumante house was also on the winner's podium: "Nevertheless, one should not forget that 85 percent of the approximately eight million bottles of Trentodoc sold annually are drunk in Italy itself," Alessandro Lunelli points out.
The 30-year-old runs Cantina Ferrari in the third generation with his sister and three cousins. On 120 hectares of their own vineyards along the Adige Valley, 80 percent Chardonnay and 20 percent white and red Burgundy are planted. Another 200 hectares are owned by 1,000 contract winegrowers who have been exclusively supplying the winery with vines for decades. The trained engineer has been in the Ferrari cockpit for just six months, after years as PR manager for the Unilever company in the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. Now Alessandro Lunelli has to push the German export market in his own family business and turn 100,000 Ferrari bottles sold to Germany into 200,000. No easy undertaking, as the tall Trentino knows. "If we were an alternative to champagne or crémant, that would be something. But we are an alternative to Prosecco". Alessandro Lunelli smiles at his résumé, at the boldly underlined spoken conclusion, which he finally puts even more briefly: "In the world, spumante stands for everything and nothing."
Pole position in the ageing cellar
The fact that many consumers are just as unfamiliar with the term "Trentodoc" as they are with the word "Cava", which is behind Catalan sparkling wine alias Freixenet or Cordoniu, cannot be due to the way it is made. Starting with the Chardonnay and Pinot vines, which ripen slowly on calcareous soil, to the hand harvest and the classic bottle fermentation, the process for Trentino's premium sparkling wines is not much different from that of their sparkling competitors from Champagne
At some levels of production, Ferrari is even more pontifical than the Pope: "We process all our yeasts for fermentation in our own laboratory. These are yeasts from our own grapes, not industrial yeasts, so that the sparkling wines reflect the terroir 100 per cent," remarks chief oenologist Ruben Larentis during a tasting. The vintage sparkling wines in Ferrari's cellar vaults are not mechanically riddled like his base line. The lees are successively brought into the neck of the bottle by hand through regular rotation. A method that is threatened with extinction even in Champagne.
Pact with the birds
|Endrizzi Wine Cellar|
Biodiversity is the order of the day. Insecticides have long been taboo on the 45 hectares in total. Instead, stone nesting boxes are hung in front of the vine rows and small biotopes in the form of hedges, bushes and trees are built around the vineyards. Blue and great tits, robins and bats nest and divide the harmful insects among themselves in a 24-hour rhythm. "But the bird concept alone is not enough. That's why we also use pheromone traps," explains Christine Endrici. The 50-year-old is proud to have launched the project together with the San Michele Agricultural Institute. For her, insecticides are among the worst of the chemical clubs: "What contaminates the vines also contaminates the body of the wine drinker in the end".
Not all of the 27 Trentodoc producers live such a rigorous philosophy in the vineyard as the Endricis. And by no means every winery experiments with the yeasts of its own vines like the Ferraris. But with many Trentino D.O.C. sparkling wines, nothing is strained. You can taste the typicality of the Alps. A serious type with a certain irony seems to climb out of many a spumante glass into the nose. And what was the verdict of the Gambero Rosso co-editor at the round table discussion in the Trento Chamber of Commerce: "The wine is in the DNA of the Trentino winegrowers".
|Vineyards in the Adige Valley|
|Info on the producers|
238010 S. Michele/ TNTel
. +39 04 61 65 01 29www.endrizzi.it
Endrizzi in the Wein-Plus Guide
Ferrari F.LLI LunelliVia
del Ponte di Ravina, 1538123
. +39 0461 97 23 11www.Ferrarispumante.it
Ferrari in the Wein-Plus guide