Typicity is a term in wine tasting used to describe the degree to which a wine reflects its varietal origins, and thus demonstrates the signature characteristics of the grapes from which it was produced. Typicity of place means the wine tastes like where it came from. Typicity of variety means that the varietal character of the grapes comes through in the finished wine. If both of these – typicity of place and typicity of variety - are present, a taster can begin to accurately place and identify the wine. When I taste and correctly identify a wine, I must have tasted characteristics that expressed at least some typicity. Our two wines this month are very distinctive, hand-crafted wines that reflect the regions they are from and showcase the unique and delicious flavors of the grapes they are made from. I guess you could say they are “typical”, but even more important than their typicity is their deliciousness and their ability to pair with a vast array of dishes.
The Trentino-Alto Adige wine region, unique because it’s comprised of two areas, is the northernmost region of Italy's boot, at the very top. Geographically, Trentino-Alto Adige sits just below the Austrian border. Trento refers to the southern part of the region, and its capital is Trentino (the ancient Roman Tridentum). The name Alto Adige identifies the northern territory of the region that includes the higher (alto) part of the Adige River. It is home to what is often referred to as “the most beautiful mountains in the world”, the snow-capped Dolomites, a collection of breath-taking peaks composed largely of porphyry rock walls. Known also as Südtirol, due to its bicultural Italian-Austrian heritage, Trentino-Alto Adige, is an eclectic mix of Austrian accuracy and Italian spirit. The region is one of the smallest wine-growing areas in Italy. It is a diverse region with climate and soil variations even within its smallest localities. The main range of the Alps in the north protects Südtirol/Alto Adige against cold Alpine winds. Toward the south, the province opens up and benefits from the temperate influences of Lake Garda and the Mediterranean Sea. The region averages more than 300 days of sunshine a year, wide day-night temperature swings, and an average growing season temperature of over 64°F. The lowest vineyards are located at 600 feet and the highest reach 3,250 feet above sea level. The topography of the region’s winegrowing area is like a complex puzzle. Vineyards are planted with different exposures and varying elevations, have changing microclimates, and are composed of some of the most varied soil types, ranging from volcanic porphyry to weathered primitive rock soils composed of quartz and mica, to limestone and dolomite, to sandy marl. Südtirol/Alto Adige represents less than one tenth of Italy’s total wine production, but it leads the country in wines meriting a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) designation: 98% of its wines fall into this category.
The Putzenhof Winery in St. Jakob, south of Bozen/Bolzano, sits in Alto Adige’s northernmost Suditrol region. The story begins back in 1956, when the grandparents of the current manager of the company, Roman Mottironi, decided to buy an ancient farmhouse perched on a hill and leaning against the foot of a porphoric wall. The access road to the farm was almost impassable, the house was literally falling apart, and the vineyards were old and neglected. However, the position - with a breathtaking view that sweeps from Burgraviato to Bassa Atesina and the surrounding mountains - the climatic conditions, and the exposure of the rows were excellent. Roman manages the farm with great care for every detail, cultivating fruit and wine and offering "holidays on the farm" at their agriturismo. The vineyards stretch over an area of approximately 3.6 hectares at the foot of a porphyry rock face at an altitude of between 350 and 600 meters. The excellent climate, south-facing vineyards, and porphyry soil offer ideal conditions for producing high-quality wines, with high minerality and balanced acidity. In the early days, the family only pressed enough for their own consumption and for guests. Any remaining grapes were delivered to the local co-op. However, since the harvest of 2009 they started bottling and labelling their wines made with their estate-grown grapes. Environment friendly agricultural practices are followed. Weed killers have been banned over 15 years ago and cover crops are left on the aisles between the rows of vines. Only products approved by the protocol for organic viticulture are sprayed in the vineyards. The range of wines, all Alto Adige
DOC, includes three whites made with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Kerner and three reds, a Lagrein, a Pinot Nero, and a Bozner Leiten, a blend of 85% Schiava and 15% Lagrein and Pinot Nero.
Kerner, a grape that is a cross between the German varieties Trollinger (Schiava) and Riesling, was named after the German poet Justinus Andreas Christian Kerner (1786-1862), who wrote many works on medicine and the supernatural. Putzenhof’s 2018 Kerner is made from 100% estate-grown Kerner coming from vineyards planted in 1980. The vineyards have excellent southwest exposure with soils that are a combination of sand and clay. Once the grapes are harvested, fermentation takes place in stainless-steel tanks at low temperatures, and subsequent aging takes place in stainlees-steel. The winery typically produces a little over 300 cases of Kerner annually.
The Putzenhof 2018 Kerner has wonderful mouthfeel and balance, with intense fruit, minerality and crisp acidity. The finish is clean and refreshing with lingering fruit flavors of apple, lime, white peach, and wild herbs. Try pairing this Kerner with everything from freshwater fish, smoky mushrooms, mild curries, and stuffed cabbages to hearty potato dishes, dumplings, rich cheeses, cured meats, and smoked sausages. Traditional dishes such as spinach dumplings called strangolapreti, or applesauce-glazed pork chops with sautéed mushrooms taste even better accompanied by this Kerner.
The 2018 Putzenhof Kerner is $24.00/bottle, $259.20/case.
Calabria is the southernmost region in mainland Italy and forms the “toe” of the geographic “boot” that comprises the Italian peninsula. It’s a dry mountainous region with dramatic variations in microclimates between the warm, Mediterranean climate of the coastal areas bordering the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas, and the cooler environs of the mountainous interior. Calabria has the right soil and a variety of different climates capable of accommodating many different types of grapes, probably one of the main reasons why it was once called the land of wine. The mountainous interior receives adequate rainfall and the high-elevation breezes mitigate the deleterious effects of the intense Mediterranean heat. In terms of commercial production, Calabria’s output is perhaps the most minimal of all Italian wine regions. Its dramatic, rugged coastline and interior mountains make it difficult for mass industry or agriculture to take hold. The region has always occupied a position of isolation in the panorama of national enology partly due to the lack of market competition, and the region’s poor economy.
Vineyards in the Calabrian wine region cover about 11,000 hectares. Presently, there are 12 DOC appellations in Calabria producing a variety of different reds, whites and roses. The main production areas are concentrated in the provinces of Crotone, Cosenza, Catanzaro, and Reggio Calabria, where nine DOP certifications and nine IGPs are located. Despite having DOC designations, the wines from the region have had a reputation for being mediocre. Only 4% of total annual wine production comes from these DOC regions. The most famous DOC is Ciro, which is located in the eastern foothills along the Ionian coast. There, 95% of the red wine production is based on the Gaglioppo grape.
The Malaspina winery was founded in 1967, when Consolato Malaspina decided to devote his life to his passion of wine.
Consolato is still involved in making the wine and has passed on his love of the land to his family, including his four daughters, Domenica, Caterina, Irene, and Patrizia. Caterina, oenologist, follows the production process in every phase; Domenica deals with the administrative and accounting aspects; Irene makes her contribution in the cellar, and Patrizia handles marketing and export strategies.
The hills on which Malaspina vineyards are located are near the sea, but the altitude of 700 meters gives rise to excellent climactic conditions which produce grapes of remarkable quality. Vineyards that produce Nerello Cappuccio, Castiglione, and Calabrese Nero are situated in the town of Palizzi, near the districts of Dareri, Catania and Stavro’. They are cultivated using the Alberello and Espalier methods, with a planting density of 6,000 plants per hectare.
Malaspina’s 2014 Il Palizzi Calabria IGT, is a blend of two indigenous grapes, 50% Calabrese Nero and 50% Nocera. The grapes for this wine come from vineyards at the farthest point south in Calabria, right on the coast and at almost 2300 feet above the sea. This unique and dramatic position offers the Malaspina family a very special climate zone in which to grow their vines. They are able to harvest in mid-October, resulting in wines with better balance. The 2014 Il Palizzi is fermented in stainless steel with a prolonged maceration at controlled temperatures. The wine is then aged in French Allier Barriques fort six months. Malaspina’s 2014 Il Palizzi is very similar in style and character to its neighboring Sicilian wines from Etna with a little bit of tannic grip and a very complex aromatic nose. Like most Italian wines this wine is made for food. Every region has its own specialty dishes and Calabria is no exception. Due to its geographical location, Calabria enjoys a bounty of seafood, particularly swordfish, cod and sardines. The hilly terrain makes it an ideal location for pigs, lambs and goats to roam around, and as such pork is the protein of choice with lamb right behind it. The Malaspinas suggest having this wine with pasta with a pork ragu, roasted leg of lamb, or sausage.
Malaspina’s 2014 Il Palizzi Calabria IGT is $23.00/bottle, $248.40/case