To wine lovers who enjoy discovering the undiscovered, the pleasure of lagrein awaits. Pronounced lah-grine, it is the name of the red grape grown and the wine produced in the northernmost Italian province of Alto Adige.
This mountainous region was part of Austria until 1919 when it was ceded to Italy. Eighty-six years later, it’s still more common to hear German than Italian spoken in this place where wine is called wein and where the people call themselves South Tyroleans.
Guarded by the stunningly beautiful Dolomite Mountains, most Alto Adige vineyards climb up the mountain slopes. Lagrein, however, is usually planted in the warmer valley. Its grapes make a dark ruby wine, often with a hint of pepper and spice and other intriguing aromas, and a full, round texture. Think of it as a relative of syrah/shiraz.
Despite still being relatively unknown, there are many lagreins available in the United States. Especially noteworthy are Cantina Bolzano Lagrein Reserva, Prestige Line 2004, well-knitted, robust with forward fruit flavors; and the same winery’s Lagrein Taber 2004, a rich, sumptuous wine of small production; Elena Walch Lagrein Riserva 2003, Castel Ringberg, a deep shaded, flavorful wine with a full, velvety texture; Abbazia di Novacella Lagrein Riserva 2003, inky with an intense aroma of spice and flowers and a supple texture; H. Lun Lagrein 2004 with its subtle spiciness, lively acidity and smoothness; Weingut Kornell Lagrein Greif 2005, deep colored, fruit-laden with lively acidity; and Franz Gojer Glügglhof Lagrein 2002 with its fragrant cherry aroma and silky texture.
One of the most amazing is Tiefenbrunner Lagrein Riserva 2003, Linticlarus, a beautifully perfumed, elegant wine that has a smoky spiciness, a lively focus and is simply delicious. Alois Lageder, one of the most prominent leaders of wine in Alto Adige, produces Lindenburg Lagrein 2003, a well-integrated, relatively delicate wine with a lovely perfume. Look also for Cantina Nals Margried Lagrein 2003, Baron Salvardori, a wine with a peppery nose, exquisite balance and velvet texture, and Cantino Terlano Lagrein Riserva 2002, Porphyr — rich and plummy, evoking dark chocolate and coffee flavors, and the 2003, all spicy youth.
Lagrein is Alto Adige’s oldest red grape. It now seems destined to become the newest red wine discovery.
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