Tantalizing Trentino

July 1, 2010

Trentino is adjacent to the southern borders of Alto Adige, and then proceeds further south to Lake Garda and the Veneto. It possesses a more Italian flavor in terms of its cuisine (polenta and gnocchi) and its language than Alto Adige.

There are many types of white wines produced in Trentino. The varieties of white grapes used in the production of their wine include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Bianco. Trentino makes more wine from Chardonnay grapes than anywhere else in Italy.

Pinot Grigio is now made in many areas of Italy. Actually, it seems that everywhere in the world is trying to make a wine from Pinot Grigio grapes. I had one recently made in Napa Valley, California. The call for Chardonnay as the house wine for almost 20 years in United States restaurants was the impetus for the formation of the ABC Movement (Anything But Chardonnay). In its quest for a substitute, I have heard the cry for Pinot Grigio more and more in the last few years. Unfortunately, many of the mass-produced types are almost tasteless.

I recently tasted a wonderful expression of Pinot Grigio made in Trentino. It was a 2003 Maso Poli Pinot Grigio. Although it had the familiar pale straw color of most wines of this type, it possessed a beautiful flowery and pear nose with a much more full-bodied flavor than most I have found in retail stores.

The native red grape of Trentino called Teroldego makes a wonderful ruby red wine to look for. Its best example is called Teroldego Rotaliano produced in an area called Campo Rotaliano in the province of Trent. Although you can enjoy its fresh berry flavors in its youth, some of the better ones can improve with age. Producers to look for include Bottega Vinaia, Cantina Rotaliana, and Foradori.

The international varietal grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc also do very well in Trentino. The cool Alpine slopes are capable of growing grapes that make world-class red wine.

The estate that typifies the best expression of these grapes in Trentino is Tenuta San Leonardo, owned by Marquis Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga. This family has owned Tenuta San Leonardo more than 200 years. The only grapes they grow are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The vines range from 10 to more than 25 years in age. They make two wines comprising 100 percent Merlot; the San Leonardo Merlot and the San Leonardo Villa Gresti.

My favorite wine that they make is called simply San Leonardo. It is made in a Bordeaux style, which means that a blend of grapes is used. The normal blend is usually 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Cabernet Franc, and 10% Merlot for the San Leonardo. The resulting wine has an intense ruby color and a very long finish. It has been awarded the highest Tre Bicchieri Award by the prestigious Gambero Rosso Organization for almost every vintage in the last 10 years.

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