Here’s an opportunity to experience a little taste of the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy through their native grape Lagrein. Lagrein is the oldest indigenous grape variety of the Alto Adige region and a relative of Syrah and Teroldego. Alto Adige is Italian for South Tyrol (Südtriol in German). It is Italy’s northernmost district and is also one of its smallest. The landscape is punctuated by the peaks and valleys of the Dolomites and Italian Alps. The producers in this area focus on quality over quantity. Most, if not all, of their wine, is terroir-driven. Castel Sallegg Lagrein D.O.C. 2019 is one of those wines. Made with 100% Lagrein grapes manually harvested from their humus-rich clay soil vineyards in the vicinity of Lake Caldaro.The grapes are then selected, destemmed, mashed, and, malolactic fermented at a controlled temperature in stainless tanks. It is aged in stainless steel (80%) and French oak for twelve months. It is blended for two to three months and bottle aged for an additional six months.
Castel Sallegg Lagrein 2019 has a very dark ruby color with faint floral aromas. Flavors of mixed black fruits are carried on a structured medium body with mild tannins appearing mid-palate. More than ample acidity throughout. Pairs well with any grilled or roasted red meat or pasta in a hearty red sauce.
Castel Sallegg is a family-run firm of winegrowers located in Caldaro, Alto Adige (Italy) that is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the winemaking culture of the region. With a storied history and a tradition of commitment to excellence, the von Kuenburg family has ensured the production of quality wines from Castel Sallegg for over a century. While the winemaking team has great pride in its past they are focused on the future and the challenges that must be navigated to maintain its high standards in all phases of the operation.
For answers about how they are addressing these problems and what we should know about Castel Sallegg, I asked its Director Ulrike Platter to share her thoughts with my readers and me.
1. The wines of Alto Adige are famous for being able to express their terroir. What methods and technologies does Castel Sallegg employ to ensure this “Sense of place” is preserved in your wines?
“Oltradige, the epitome of the wine-growing tradition in Alto Adige, lies at the foot of the Mendola Mountains in the hills of the western Adige Valley between Bolzano and Termeno. Vines have found ideal conditions in this delightful landscape for thousands of years. The winegrowing region of Alto Adige is one of the oldest in Central Europe and the entire German-speaking world.”Oltradige, the epitome of the wine-growing tradition in Alto Adige, lies at the foot of the Mendola Mountains in the hills of the western Adige Valley between Bolzano and Termeno. Vines have found ideal conditions in this delightful landscape for thousands of years. The winegrowing region of Alto Adige is one of the oldest in Central Europe and the entire German-speaking world.
The Alps form a protective barrier against cold winds from the north, while the southerly Ora wind from Lake Garda has a mild Mediterranean influence. Our wines benefit from the cool downslope winds coming off the Mendola Mountains. The vines flourish here thanks to an average of 1,800 hours of sunshine per year and average temperatures of almost 17 degrees Celsius during the vegetation period.
The family-owned vineyards are located in 3 historical vineyards in Caldaro:
✓ Preyhof / vineyard Prey: 550 m above sea level and situated in the Caldaro district of Paese di Mezzo.
✓ Leisenhof / vineyard Leisenpuiten: 500 m above sea level. Central location in the village of Caldaro.
✓ Seehof/vineyard VIGNA Bischofsleiten, vineyard Nussleiten: 230 – 280 m above sea level. San Giuseppe al Lago, Caldaro.
Due to the vineyards, which range from 230-550 m above sea level, Castel Sallegg identifies the best conditions for each grape variety and tries to make optimum use of this diversity.
Best practice: Our VIGNA Bischofsleiten Lago di Caldaro scelto classico superiore DOC: VIGNA (What is a Grand Cru for the French is a VIGNA for the Italians and for us South Tyroleans.) guarantees our customers that the grapes for this wine come 100% from this vineyard. In order to preserve these 50-year-old vines, the vines that fall out due to age, illness, etc., will be replanted with our own clones.
The goal is to produce top-quality wines in harmony with the terroir we have.”
2. With Alto Adige containing so many different microclimates and growing conditions in its vineyards, have the vineyard managers noticed any changes as a result of climate change? If they have, what can you tell us about them and how are you planning for your future vineyard management?
“Our vineyard manager noticed the changes, especially this year, which was hot and dry. Since Castel Sallegg is more of a red wine winery (we produce 58% of red wines) and we often had difficulties in the past years, with the red grapes, such as Lagrein, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon fully ripening, so 2022 was a great year for us.
In addition, 80% of our vines are 30-50 years old, which means that the roots are growing very deep to get enough water for themselves even in a very hot season. These vines are stable.
Problems can be seen in younger plants or new plants.
For this purpose, we invested in a project for the next few years, which will digitize needs-based irrigation. This means that the humidity of the soil is measured by soil sensors and the vines in different places were partially watered by a targeted system.
Since we have some vineyards on a slope and the vines get less water at the top by draining and the vines at the foot get more water we can irrigate more targeted and water-saving.
We have also noticed increased hail in recent years. For this reason, we will place our most important vineyards under hail nets in the next 2-3 years.”
Thank you to Ulrike for sharing her time and down-to-earth expertise in the mindset and operations at Castel Sallegg.
My review of the 2019 Castel Sallegg Lagrein will be posted soon.
Erste+Neue is the product of the 1986 merger of two wineries that began in the early part of the twentieth century. Erste Kellerei and Neue Kellerei combined to form Erste+Neue. The two wineries moved forward as one with a commitment and determination to stay on the cutting edge of alpine winemaking.
In 2018, Erste+Neue was awarded the prestigious international seal for sustainable viticulture by FAIR’N GREEN. The goals and standards of FAIR’N GREEN mirror the same deeply ingrained beliefs that guide the winemaking culture at Erste+Neue. Sustainability, protecting the environment, biodiversity, natural viticulture, and the protection of natural resources are the guiding principles that drive all decisions made at Erste+Neue.
The wines of the Alto Adige Region are famous for being terroir-driven and their bias to a specific area of the region. I was curious to hear how the vineyard managers and winemakers at Erste +Neue balance the demands of preserving and integrating the “terroir” factor into their wines while balancing the needs of the local ecosystem with the standards of producing world-class grapes and wine consistently.
Seeking answers to these questions and others, I posed them directly to a leading viticulture professional and Chief Enologist at Erste+Neue, Andrea Moser. The following is our interview published in his own words.
How does Erste+Neue approach the unique challenges that making wine in the Alto Adige present while still being able to produce the highest quality wines that display a “sense of place?
“Facing the challenges of climate change is becoming increasingly important in every wine-growing region of the globe, and in South Tyrol, too, it is no different.”
However, Alto Adige and specifically our area are at a great benefit with respect to this issue, in fact, our orographic situation is very particular. The vineyards start in fact with the red varieties at about 230 m.a.s.l. and arrive in just a few kilometers to elevations of about 700 m.a.s.l. where the white varieties find excellent ripening conditions. This large elevation range, combined with a constant south-to-north wind “the Garda Hour” and strong temperature fluctuations between day and night due to the mountains surrounding us (Mendola range), allows us to consistently obtain high qualities on both red and white grape varieties.
Ripe but fresh and elegant reds and whites with low pH, good acidity, crisp and fresh that perfectly embody the spirit of our territory and our vineyards located in the middle of the Alps.”
How has being FAIR’N GREEN certified complemented your winemaking practices and philosophy in both the vineyard and cellar?
“For us, sustainability and especially respect for the environment has always been a key point to consider during our work from vineyard to bottle.
Since we have been working with Fair&Green we have made this commitment measurable and have strived to improve our efficiency and sustainability a little more each year.
In the first year of certification, we scored 68 percent while we are now at 82 percent on the scale that verifies, measures, and evaluates our degree of environmental commitment. Today, having reached the fifth year of certification, we have made many steps forward, such as completely eliminating some synthetic molecules for the phytosanitary defense of the vines, eliminating chemical weeding by 92%, increasing the areas under green manure thus increasing biodiversity in the field, and introducing sexual confusion in the vineyard to combat certain types of harmful insects. All our wines can be considered vegan since we have not used any clarifiers of animal origin for several years now, only yeast derivatives. By now, all the facilities for the production of cold, compressed air and nitrogen are equipped with energy recovery to produce hot water. We have equipped ourselves with photovoltaic panels that can provide us with about 40 percent of the energy we use.
In terms of packaging, the biggest step has been taken by eliminating bottles that are too heavy. In fact, we have gone from 700/750-gram bottles to 500-gram bottles, reducing our CO2 footprint by a third.
The road to true all-around sustainability is still a long one, but we are very committed and determined to get there as soon as possible.”
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Martin Klammer, Sales Director of Erste+Neue for his support because without it this article would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Andrea Moser, Chief Enologist of Erste+Neue for his time and candid insights into the ideology behind the winemaking mindset at E+N. I found his comments about how the culture at E+N and the environment are intertwined extremely informative because I hold a degree in nature conservation. The following is my review of Erste+Neue Classic Pinot Nero 2021.
Pinot Nero is known internationally as Pinot Noir. Pinot Nero is an early-ripening grape with a thick skin that has the reputation for being a “Heartbreak Grape” variety because it requires a great deal of care in the vineyard thus making it difficult to produce a successful harvest consistently.
Erste+Neue Classic Pinot Nero 2021 is a sophisticated well-made wine that can be purchased at a very fair price. This Pinot Nero is ruby red in the glass and opens with the aromas of cherry & faint raspberry that is followed by the prominent flavor of cherries on the palate while smooth tannins and lively acidity are borne on the medium body of this wine. The finish is lengthy and agreeable.
This Toscana is produced in Tuscany, Italy. It is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a lighter wine than many of the more complex and pricey Toscana bottlings from Tuscany.
Frescobali Rèmole Toscana Rosso 2020 is a balanced wine with its “middle of the road” approach when it comes to body, acidity, and flavor profile. With an approachable 12.5% ABV and bewitching scarlet red color in the glass, the faint aroma of berries leads you into the muted flavors of cherry and raspberry on your palate. It pairs well with lean red meat and pasta dishes with red sauce. Priced at less than $10 it is an excellent choice for a “weekday wine”
If you lack confidence when ordering wine from a restaurant’s wine list you are not alone. You should never be intimidated by wine because wine should be fun and an opportunity to learn. Keep it simple and don’t get caught up in what you don’t know but have an open mind to any interesting suggestions that are offered. While many people fall back on the same old selections or point to a bottle and hope for the best, you can do better with a little preparation. Here are a few tips I learned from a sommelier that will help them find you the best wine for your dining experience.
First and foremost, be honest and engaging when asked about your preferences. Tell them the body and style you like because a restaurant invests a lot of money to have a sommelier help you make the wine selection process more enjoyable so take advantage of their knowledge. Here’s a tip that will get the best wine available for the price you want to pay. Simply point to a bottle on the list with the price you are willing to pay and say “I have had (wine name) before but I would like to try something different”. This will let the somm know what you are willing to spend and they can guide you to a bottle in that price range. After you make your selection the somm will retrieve your bottle from the cellar and open it tableside. They will present the cork to you but this is purely ceremonial and there is no need for you to either touch or smell it. Next, they will pour a small sample for you to taste. This sample is for you to check for flaws not to see if you like the wine. If it is acceptable give them a small nod and they will begin serving your dining companions with you being served last. One last tip, during your initial exchange ask your sommelier if there are any wines they are excited about. This allows them to share hidden gems now that they know you share their love of wine.
After reading an article recently about pairing wine with food truck fare I suddenly realized the perfect synergy that food trucks have with the wineries they visit. The eclectic menu items provided by the ever-changing food truck line up at wineries offer a unique opportunity to experiment with wine and food pairings that is simply impossible to achieve in a brick and mortar restaurant.
The following suggestions are only a starting point so I urge you to be creative when composing your pairings. The mind-boggling variety of food choices offered by these vendors provide winery goers an exciting range of dishes and cuisine to explore.
Every item will be accompanied by a Pennsylvania-made wine and one that is widely available and value-priced because remember you are being served your food through a window of a food truck.
BBQ & Grilled Meats: Without question these are the menu items on which the food truck industry was built. When you order from these trucks you need a wine with some backbone to stand up to the flavors of grilled meat, smoke, and sauce. These two bottles fit the bill nicely.
Pierogies: This Polish specialty is a comfort food favorite in Western Pennsylvania. Pierogies are most commonly filled with either potato, sauerkraut, or cheese but they can be filled with any number of unusual stuffings. A sweet option to the traditional savory ones is Prune Lekvar. A testament to how beloved pierogies are in the fabric of the community is that the Pittsburgh Pirates hold a pierogie race at every home game. I suggest pairing them with South Shore Wine Company Grűner Veltliner http://enjoymazza.com or Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewűrztraminer
Pizza: You can get anything from an authentic Neapolitan pie to the latest trendy gourmet creations seen on Instagram from a food truck these days. High temperature brick ovens have become the norm in food trucks so it calls for an equally impressive wine to complete your pizza adventure. Try Ripepi Winery & Vineyard Zinfandel http://ripepiwine.com or Menage-A-Trios Pinot Noir
Tacos: A mainstay of the food truck culture on the West Coast, taco trucks have developed a loyal following in Pennsylvania. When it comes to variety and originality you can always find something good at taco truck. I recommend selecting a Rosé or Blush. Consider these wines when doing your pairings. Greendance Isabella http://greendancewinery.com or Château ď Esclan Whispering Angel Rosé
Mac & Cheese: These trucks have filled a niche that has blossomed into one that provides choices not found in the mainstream trucks. When you have the chance please try some of what they are serving up because I think you will be happy you did. My wine picks here would be Narcisi Riesling http://narcisiwinery.com and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
Chicken: Chicken is a blank canvas for the chefs in a food truck. They paint masterpieces using broad strokes of flavor and style. To keep up with their always evolving flavor palates you must pair them with wines that can handle a broad spectrum of spices and preparation methods. These wines are well-suited for that challenge. Winslow Winery Vidal Blanc http://winslowwinery.com and Bogle Vineyards Merlot
Seafood: Seafood themed food trucks offer more than just fish sandwiches. They run the gambit from lobster rolls to sushi. While not as numerous as other cuisine focused trucks, when you find one it will likely be a memorable alternative to standard food truck grub. These two wines are sure to please. Bella Terra Chardonnay http://bellaterravineyards.com and Cantina Zaccagnini Pinot Grigio
My last word to you about pairing wine with any food, not just food truck food, is to trust your instincts because you just can’t make a mistake. So get out there and get the most out of what the wine world has to offer.
If you have visited this blog you know I am a big fan of the Georgian wine grape Saperavi. I have written about it often here and in print publications, websites, and online magazines. There’s another ancient Georgian white grape that is extremely widespread in that region whose wine I have also become fascinated with and that is Rkatsiteli. Rkatsiteli is a pale-skinned cold-hardy Vitis vinifera wine grape that can trace its origins as far back as Saperavi and like Saperavi it is considered to be one of the oldest wine-producing grapes in the world. Rkatsiteli is widely planted in the Caucasus Region, the area that connects Europe and Asia. While its acreage is considerable it is far less than it occupied during the Soviet-era when quantity was valued for the mass production of wine. The main reasons for the popularity of Rkatsiteli in that part of the world are that it has a strong resistance to cold temperatures while retaining a good level of acidity in hot growing conditions and versatility in the cellar where it can be made into anything from table wine to sparkling wine and everything in between. Rkatsiteli can be found outside of the Caucasus in China and the United States. You can find it being grown as Rkatsiteli in the northeastern U.S., mainly in the Finger Lakes Region of New York and also in Virginia. In China, it is being grown and produced as Baiyu.
Rkatsiteli is made in many styles and types of wine but it usually displays a light body and high acidity. Since Rkatsiteli is made into such a wide variety of wine by a diverse community of winemakers and cultures I will focus on the Rkatsiteli wine made on the East Coast of the United States where it is taking on the characteristics of each unique terroir it encounters.
Like Saperavi, Rkatsiteli was first planted in the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York by the legendary Dr. Konstantin Frank where it continues to be grown and made into a classic style of Rkatsiteli by his family at the Dr. Frank Winery in Hammondsport on Keuka Lake. When you taste Dr. Frank Rkatsiteli 2019 the first thing you will notice is Rkatsiteli’s signature acidity and a lean body upfront but the flavors tropical fruit and pear come out on the finish. This wine is a nice light-bodied white wine now but will improve with time in the bottle.
McGregor Vineyard is one of the two vineyards that grow Rkatsiteli in the Finger Lakes. McGregor is most recognized for its iconic Saperavi blend Black Russian Red but their Rkatsiteli is one of their most popular and exclusive wines with only 41 cases produced in 2019. McGregor Rkatsiteli 2019 is a light wine perfect to drink at a festive gathering or on a picnic with friends because it has refreshing acidity and a long finish filled with fruit flavors.
Horton Vineyards in Gordonville, Virginia began growing Rkatsiteli after losing vines to the bitter Winter of 1996. Horton Vineyards Rkatsiteli 2017 displays aromas of nectarines and Meyer lemon that when combined with its prominent minerality and acidity renders a fresh-tasting wine that you can enjoy alone or pair with lighter fare.
As fall gives way to winter and our tastes turn to more full-bodied reds don’t forget about Rkatsiteli. My suggestion to you is to buy a couple of bottles to save for next summer because it will be here before you can say Rkatsiteli.
When you think of wine grapes grown in Rioja, Spain you naturally think of Tempranillo. While Tempranillo is the predominant grape by far in acreage planted in Rioja, Garnacha plays a crucial supporting role in most of the wonderful Tempranillo-Garnacha Rioja blends coming out of that wine region. This enjoyable red grape is called Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France. Celebrity chef Curtis Stone presented a candid view of Rioja on his television show “Field Trip with Curtis Stone” which airs on the PBS Create TV channel. Stone visits artisanal producers of food and wine around the world to get inspiration for new dishes at his Beverly Hills restaurant “Maude”. During his visit to Rioja, he was invited to supper at the home of a winemaker where he is treated to wine from the host’s 100-year-old Garnacha vineyard. Check your local listings for this insightful glimpse into some of the most storied food and wine regions on Earth.
Campo Viejo Rioja Garnacha 2017 received a 90 pts rating from James Suckling and has also been well reviewed by many other notable wine critics. This is a great introductory Rioja with subtle oak notes, good acidity, and structure at a value price. On the palate, it is smooth and soft with dynamic fruit flavors. Don’t overlook this varietal just because of all the luscious Tempranillo- Garnacha blends that Rioja offers. Please be open to exploring wine from Rioja because you will be pleasantly surprised by what you will find in your glass.
Here’s a fun fact if you are curious about the exact location where this wine is made checkout the longitude and latitude coordinates on the top of the label.
I am happy to announce that I am the newest contributor to The
Photo courtesy The Vintner Project
Vintner Project. http://vintnerproject.com The Vintner Project is an effort to make the sometimes confusing world of wine more approachable to consumers globally by offering a personal look at wineries, their wine, and the people that make them unique. It is a diversified collection of voices and points of view that bring all the wine regions and winemakers stories together so readers can explore and learn about segments of the winemaking community that might not be covered by the mainstream media.
Founded in 2018 by Nelson Gerena and Kiril Kirilow, The Vintner Project has developed into a dynamic cutting edge media outlet
The Vintner Project founders Nelson Gerena and Kiril Kirilow Photo courtesy vintnerproject.com
for news and insightful content for wine lovers worldwide.
Organic, biodynamic, natural, sustainable, and many other techniques of viticulture and winemaking are once again making their existence known in the wine world. Yes, I said again because these farming methods are being updated using current technology but the basic premise of all of them is nothing new. The idea behind all of these methods of producing wine using the least human intervention possible was once done by necessity rather than by a conscious choice. In the not too distant past, there were no chemical controls and spraying programs available to vintners. Winemakers had to rely on taste and experience to know how their grapes and wine were progressing without a lab to verify their assumptions. Even after chemical controls became available the poorer producers still had to rely on biological controls and manipulating the natural conditions to bring in a harvest.
Understanding the delicate interactions between nature and agriculture has always been a passion of mine. My preoccupation with keeping the ecosystem clean and free of dangerous residual chemical compounds is completely understandable once you know a little about me, my background, and my education. I grew up across the road from my mother’s family farm where I watched my uncle, aunt, and cousins farming and caring for the land. I would pursue my higher education at California University of Pennsylvania where I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Nature Conservation. I have since combined that education with my interest in writing and the love of wine into an exciting journey of discovery. My writing has allowed me to become friends with many winemakers and vintners, not only in the northeastern United States but around the world. I have leveraged my access to these remarkable men and women to further my understanding of the practicality of using less chemical intervention in the vineyard. After years of conversations with the people who know first hand which practices work and which don’t work for their particular circumstances, I have assembled a mosaic of the feasibility of organic viticulture across North America and the world. My findings are that success and failure is very location and climate-specific. Climatic factors have never been predictable but are in flux now more than ever before.
In my ongoing effort to gather opinions on growing grapes organically, I recently had the pleasure to discuss the subject with Greg Winslow, owner/winemaker/vintner of Winslow Winery concerning his efforts to keep his vineyard as organic as possible using the options available to him. The Winslow winery and vineyards are located in the picturesque southwestern Pennsylvania town of Perryopolis. Greg grows a diverse collection of wine grapes, including a recent planting of a favorite of mine, Saperavi. Greg quit using glyphosate in 2016 because of the uncertainty surrounding the effects it might have on the eco-balance of his vineyard. That same year he decided to take a chemical-free approach to weed control when be purchased a weed burner manufactured by Flame Engineering. A weed burner is basically a flame thrower that incinerates the vegetation in the vine rows. It’s easy to see how this method of weed control is environmentally friendly even if it can be visualized as a plot from a cartoon where the results can be
both hilarious and disastrous. Greg pointed out some nice positives of using his weed burner. On the positive side is that it’s organic, weeds can’t develop a resistance to it, all the weeds and grass in the target area are destroyed instantly, and it has the unexpected benefit of helping sterilize the ground under the vines of fungus and mold that might splash up onto the vines during a rain. He also noted on the negative side the extra cost when compared to chemical herbicides and it doesn’t have the duration of chemical controls. Greg included one unforeseen danger of using this device in the vineyard that I hadn’t thought of. “It is absolutely devastating to bird netting. We use side netting that we leave up all year round then roll it down to cover the fruit zone during version. Once you drop the nets, don’t even think about using this.”
Not completely satisfied with the weed control the weed burner was providing Greg purchased an offset tiller, a Rineri EL170 to be exact, to complement his weed control program. In addition to using his offset tiller to work the floor of his vineyard, he added drainage tiles and annual ryegrass between his rows to improve the water flow out of the vineyard and lessen soil compaction. His efforts are proving to be effective but are labor-intensive and costly but sustainable by definition. I suggested
Rineri EL 170 offset tiller Photo courtesy: Winslow Winery
he consider the organic broad-spectrum herbicide Weed Slayer to enhance his other weed controls. I first heard of Weed Slayer from Mary Rocca at Rocca Vineyards in the Napa Valley of California. I saw photos of her vine rows completely clear of weeds after vineyard manager Sergio Melgoza had applied the product. Weed Slayer consists of two separate products that are mixed with water to produce an effective herbicide. Weed Slayer is the herbicide and Arg Gold is the biological adjuvant. These two products work together to kill weeds from the root up while leaving no toxicity in the soil. If you have used Weed Slayer in your vineyard or another agricultural application please let me know of your experience with this product.
Greg Winslow believes in the idea of growing organically in his vineyard and pursues it as best he can while having to battle the same problems all producers of agricultural products face in the northeastern United States. When asked about the viability of growing his grapes completely organic and chemical-free he answered honestly and realistically. “I think that growing organically is a noble cause and it would be nice to market wines that were grown that way”. “I think growing organically would be difficult at best, at least in the mid-Atlantic states”. ” I haven’t met anyone in southern Pa and points south that is doing totally organic”. I do however use some organic products in my spray program, I use copper, sulfur, and hydrogen peroxide in my spray rotation, especially as harvest nears”. “I am trying to use only what I need when I need it and not spray irresponsibly for everything”.
Greg Winslow’s candid answers are very similar to the sentiments expressed by all the growers that I have posed these questions to in the Northeast. They say going totally organic would be great but it isn’t feasible at this time. Growing grapes and making wine is no different than any other business in that you need a product to sell. Growers are challenged every year to produce a harvest whether it be organically or with the help of chemical controls or a combination of both. I am always amazed by the ingenuity of these tenacious individuals and their sheer will to succeed.