Pinot Grigio: Italy's Trentino-Alto Adige Region Produces a Great Summer Sipping Wine

Summertime.  For many of us that is the time for a cool white wine.  Of course many of them are produced in Italy.  One of the more commercially successful whites is the Pinot Grigio from Italy.  Specifically, those produced in the north-eastern province of Trentino-Alto Adige.  Surrounded the Alps and Dolomites, and bordering Austria and Switzerland, this is the northern most region in Italy.  The area is mountainous with only about 15% of the land being farmable.

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Historically, Trentino and Alto Adige are two separate regions combined into one for political purposes.  At the start of the 19th century, both of these areas were ruled by the Austrians.  Alto Adige had been a part of Austria’s Tyrol for hundreds of years.  It is also known as the Suditrol (or South Tyrol).  The main city is Bolzano and much of the city’s population is German speaking (the area is officially bilingual).  Trentino, just to the south, was a conquered land ruled by the Austrians.  Its capital is Trent and the city is Italian both in language and culture.  In 1919, after the defeat of the Austrians in World War I, the lands were annexed by Italy.  The two regions have similar geography and both share the Adige River, an important thoroughfare for commerce.  Due to this history, the culture and foods of the area have strong Austrian and Germanic influence in addition to the Italian clout.

Trentino-Alto Adige produces quite a bit of wine.  About seventy-five percent of the wine meets DOC requirements with the majority being exported.  Among the eight DOC’s of the region, there are two large encompassing DOC’s, one named for Trentino and the other Alto Adige, that produce most of the wines.  Historically, most of the production has been for red wines which still account for two-thirds of all production.  In recent years it is the whites that have garnered the most attention.  Not surprisingly, the white wines of Trentino-Alto Adige have more in common with the German and Austrian wine made just to the north.  Included in the white varietals are Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Manzoni, Muller Thurgau, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Sylvaner, Gewurztraminer, and Kerner.  The grapes, grown on steep, often terraced, mountain vineyards can provide lovely aromatic white wines with floral aromas that provide crisp wines that go great with food.  There is also a very important IGT classification for much of the Pinot Grigio that is produced called delle Venezia.  Wines carrying this IGT designation may be from Trentino-Alto Adige, but also may be from the Veneto or Friuli.  Much of the Pinot Grigio, especially on today’s market comes from this IGT. 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.