It is centuries old. It is venerable. It is intriguing. And it is barely known. But then, Lagrein comes from Alto Adige, itself the little-known northernmost wine region of Italy that produces only 1 percent of the country’s wine. And although this indigenous grape is Alto Adige’s foremost red wine, it covers barely 8 percent of the region’s vineyards.
Lagrein’s basic characteristics include aromas of red berries and other fruits, a hint of pepper, rousing acidity, deep garnet shading and a firm tannic spine. Happily, some of the best Lagrein are available in the United States. Of the 20 I recently tasted, I found a number that clearly express those characteristics.
Cantina Andriano’s Tor di Lupo Lagrein Riserva 2007 ($45) has an intense aroma and flavor of ripe plum, lively acidity and a light, balanced oak nuance.
Tiefenbrunner Lagrein Riserva Linticlarus 2007 ($30) shows why this producer is considered one of Alto Adige’s finest. A wineFriedof deep, perfumed flavors mingling with a spiciness, it has a full body and an extraordinarily long finish.
The young Cantina Bolzano Perl Lagrein 2009 ($24) has a zesty acidity and a hint of vanilla.
Caldaro (Kellerei Kaltern) Lagrein 2009 ($20) is also young, an easy quaffing wine showing the grape’s basic character in the fine balance of its acidity and tannin.
Kurtatsch-Cortaccia Frauriegl Lagrein 2007 ($25) is a focused, medium-full, appealing wine with a satisfying finish.
I tasted two impressive Griesbauerhof wines: Lagrein 2009, a young wine with a jaunty acidity and youthful vigor; and Lagrein Riserva 2008, a berryish, forward, sprightly wine.
Elena Walch Lagrein 2009 ($19) displays great balance and taste, young vivacity and a long, pleasant finish.
Castelfeder Lagrein Riserva Burgum Novum 2005 ($50) has the lovely mature flavors that a few years’ aging can bring to Lagrein. Its deep, concentrated nose conjures up toast with a hint of coffee. Its body is compact and balanced. Its finish is long and memorable.
It is an old tradition in Alto Adige to make Lagrein also as a rosé. Alois Lageder’s Lagrein Rosato 2010 ($17) is deep pink, fruity and fresh with a fine balance between sweetness and acidity
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