Some of Italy’s least known white wines might just be your best match for this American holiday.
Even if you haven’t heard of these wines before, don’t let that stop you. The wines are clean and crisp, with a bit of fruitiness to complement various traditional Thanksgiving dishes. They come from a mountainous region of Italy in the foothills of the Alps, bordering Switzerland and Austria to the north. The vineyards are planted in plentiful sunshine, on hills that slope down to river valleys running from the Dolomite Mountains to beautiful Lake Garda.
Here are four wines from the Italian region of Alto Adige, also known as Südtirol because of its Austrian cultural identity. It was part of the Hapsburg empire for centuries before it was ceded to Italy following World War I, and the region retains a very independent position to this day. The winemakers are currently about five years into their 2030 Alto Adige Wine Agenda, committing to sustainability, and leaving the soil, vines, wines, territory people “better than they found it.”
2021 Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina Valle Isarco The kerner grape itself was created in Germany in 1929, as a “better type of riesling” specifically to grow in this type of climate; not vitis vinifera, it is a cross between the schiava and riesling grapes. That is how the managing director of the region’s youngest and smallest winery co-operative explains it. The Valle Isarco is comprised of 130 member families, and kerner is their most important grape. It is extremely versatile, with buttery and herbal accents, bright acidity, some smoky citrus and stone fruit on the palate, and a long finish with a suggestion of fresh herbs. A good counterpoint to cranberry or stuffing.
2020 Falkenstein Weissburgunder is a Pinot Blanc from a 200-year-old family farm which traditionally specialized in apples as well as grapes. In 1980 the father of the current winemaker decided to give up apple growing in order to prioritize winemaking. This pinot blanc is a high-altitude wine with minerality from the granite and slate in the vineyards. It has a touch of citrus and an appley elegance: a delicate companion for plain, roast turkey with a savory stuffing.
2020 Cantina Tramin “Stoan”is a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, gewurtztraminer and pinot blanc. Chardonnay was planted in this area 150 years ago. All the grapes in this wine ripen well in the plentiful sun and the heat from the southern part of the region. Being surrounded with crisp mountain air also encourages the development of aromatics in the wine. As the wine ages, its chardonnay characteristics become more prominent. This wine is made by a cooperative founded in 1898, which currently has 190 families. This wine could take you from the main course – especially if there’s butternut squash – all the way to dessert, at Thanksgiving.
2020 Elena Walch Gewürztraminer Vigna “Kastelaz”. About 150 years ago the Walchs moved here from further north, in Austria. Several decades ago, young architect Elena married into the Walch family and instead of designing buildings, decided to build a family winery on their land; her two daughters now run the winery. These grapes are from a single vineyard right in the town of Tramin, which is where all gewurztraminer grapes get their name from. The wine is brightly aromatic, with rose aromas and the floral spice of carnations. It has a hefty mouthfeel, with roses and light fruit persisting into a moderately long, apricot finish. Definitely try to save some of this wine for your Thanksgiving pecan pie.