Driving alongside the Adige River, the second longest in Italy, which divides this mountainous region, you have to remember to concentrate on the road, as there is so much that catches the eye.
As the name suggests, the Trentino-Alto Adige is comprised of two separate areas. Trento refers to the southern part of the region and its capital is Trentino. The name Alto Adige identifies the northern territory that includes the higher (alto) part of the Adige River.
Following the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the area experienced the same fate as many other parts of Italy.
Subsequent waves of invaders occupied the region, but it was in the Middle Ages that the current ethno-cultural mix composed of mostly Italian and Germanic people occurred.
On my second day in the region I drove to Tramin-Termano - the home of the Gewurztraminer grape, yes I had to sample a glass.
As you drive through this region you can see why it is so sort after for the development of tourist resorts, agriturismos, B&B and holiday homes, especially in the beautiful Alpine areas of Alto Adige. I stayed in a relaxing eco-hotel in Sopramente, and then with some friendly local advice and directions that included pointing across the valley to a very tall peak - I eventually found a wonderful restaurant hugging the side of a mountain in Vezzano - I nearly forgot all about the wonderful meal and wine that was served, as the view was simply breathtaking..
When you meet people and talk about food and wine you will hear - “Pane e vino fanno un bel bambino” or "bread and wine make a beautiful baby". This local expression reflects the widespread belief that bread and wine are fundamental sources of diet and development. That said; Trentino-Alto Adige produces less than 1% of the national wine production, but approx 10% of grappa production - yes, it was a must have after dinner.
As you drive through this region one thing you will notice are the vines frequently still trained on the pergola trellis system on both the flat and steep areas used since historical times.
Depending upon many factors that we don’t have time to discuss here - the pergolas or overhead trellises, allow air to circulate beneath the leaf mass, designed to delay the ripening of some varieties and allowing pickers to stand beneath to harvest. More recently, producers have begun training some vines closer to the ground using a variety of techniques.
There are three indigenous grapes in this region, one is the white Nosiola and the other two are the red Teroldego Rotoliano and the Marzemino. In addition to the native grapes, well known international varieties such as Chardonnay, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Müller-Thurgau, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Nero are grown throughout the region.
One main distinction between Trentino and Alto Adige production is the fact that in the northern area the wines are produced typically by small family-owned wineries that sell their wines locally with limited exports to Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Trentino on the other hand counts on a large number of growers who join large cooperatives.
Generally the wines produced here are of an excellent quality, but like many Italian phrases that can lost in translation, the local wines are at their best with local dishes and cuisine – if you are tempted and you should be, remember to match these wines with fresh flavours, salads with quality virgin olive oil and cured cold meats (e.g. speck) when enjoying these wines.