Wines From The Alps Region

‘E’Wine of the Week

By Bruce Cochran

Hello, Everyone:
I’m leaving for Italy soon, and to get ready for the trip I’m going to discuss wines this month from countries that border the famous Alps, where I’ll be spending some time.
Many of the world’s best wines are made near large mountains around the world, and this is very much the case in Europe.
Whether it’s southern France, northern Italy, western Austria or Switzerland, the beautiful foothills of the Alps provide scenic backdrops to centuries of great wines — and the local foods, something else we’ll touch on this month.
Try a new wine this week!

Venetian Wines
Everybody’s heard of Venice, one of the world’s most beautiful cities. But, did you know that it’s in an excellent wine region? Most people don’t.
True, the city’s lowland location, often flooded in recent years, doesn’t look like a place to plant a vineyard. Only a few miles away, though, the flatland gives way to some of Europe’s most beautiful mountains — the Alps!
West and a little north of Venice is where Prosecco is made in the scenic Alpine foothills near the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. The area easily can be reached in an hour or less.
Traveling north from Venice also takes you to the Alps, especially a range called the Giulian Alps. This region, near the corner where Italy joins Austria and Slovenia, has much more in common with the Austro-Hungarian Empire (of which it was a part until only about a century ago), than with parts of Italy to the south. Much of northern Italy is like that. Five regions are officially designated as “autonomous zones with special characteristics.” Also, some of the world’s best prosciutto is made here near the town of San Danielle. It differs from Parma’s prosciutto, Italy’s other famous ham, in that it has a more robust flavor.
Locals say the clean air has something to do with it, but I think the pigs’ diet is important as well. Around Parma, the pigs are given some of the milk left over from the production of Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese, giving the hams a unique delicacy. Around San Danielle, acorns are more likely to be a part of the diet than milk.
The grapes that thrive here tend to prefer cool weather, and it’s a good thing they do. Each evening, cool breeze sinks down from the glacier-topped peaks, cooling the lower hills. Traditional grape varieties here range from Tocai Friuliano to Ribolla to Picolit, Refosco and Schioppettino, as well as members of the cold-loving pinot family: pinot noir, pinot blanc and pinot grigio.
White wines from Fruili emphasize pure fruit flavors unencumbered by oak.
The best pinot grigio is from these northern areas, where the cooler climate helps to preserve the crisp, tart fruit acids, that can “burn off” when warm weather ripens the grapes too much.
One I found while traveling last year is from this area, specifically the Grave district of Fruiuli, not far from a town named Podedone. It’s called “Pitars,” and snow-capped peaks are visible from the vineyards. It combines depth of flavor with crisp, vibrant fruit acids, a style associated with cool weather pinot grigio. Pitars Pinot Grigio retails locally in the $10 to $15 range.

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Categories: Legacy Archive