Sunday, June 2, 2013

Guild of Sommeliers Alto Adige Master Class: The white wines

On Thursday, May 16th, Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth led a Guild of Sommeliers Master Class on wines from the Alto Adige (Südtirol) region. I described the wine region component of the Master Class in a prior post. The tasting component was divided into white and red flights of five wines each. I cover the white-wine tasting herein.

The tasting was held at Khong River House in Miami Beach and was open to Guild members who had registered to attend the event. I am very familiar with the Miami Beach area but was unfamiliar with the establishment where the event was being held. The tasting was scheduled to begin at 11:00 am and I arrived at around 10:45 am. The restaurant is located at the corner of Meridian Avenue and 16th Lane North and when I checked in at the Hostess stand I was directed to a stair at the back of the restaurant which took me to the second floor room in which the tasting was to be held. The low-ceilinged room was furnished with white-tablecloth-clad tables separating inward facing chairs all fronted by a large screen and projection equipment. Each seating position was equipped with glasses, spittoons, and sundry event documents. The wines to be tasted were resident on a bar to the right side of the room as you entered. As an early arrival, I was invited to take a seat wherever I desired.

Geoff Kruth was joined in this endeavor by Andrew McNamara MS, the freshly minted Director of Fine Wine, Premier Beverage and Augustan Wine Imports.


The first white tasted was the 2011 Erste + Neue Pinot Grigio. Ernst + Neue is the wine cooperative resulting from the 1986 merger of Erste (first) wine cooperative -- founded in 1900 -- and Neue (new) wine cooperative -- founded in 1925. The wine is from the Oltradige region and the appellation is Alto Adige DOC. The grapes for the wine were grown in limestone-endowed moraine deposits on Pergola-trained vines. Yield was 85 hl/ha. The wine was fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks and was kept in close contact with the fine lees for an extended period.

Notes: This wine had a lemon rind character on the nose and tart fruit, waxiness, and a "kiss of lees" on the palate. It was light and delicious with more apparent acidity and less grey color than is characteristic for Pinot Grigio. The finish was thin and short. Suggested retail price for this wine is $15.

The second wine tasted was the 2011 Peter Zemmer Pinot Bianco. Peter Zemmer was established in 1928 in Cortina s.s.d.v in Alto Adige and has been making wine from grapes sourced from the best vineyards on the valley floor and steep slopes near the estate since then. Vineyard soils are stony, sandy, and chalky and yields -- at 60 hl/ha -- are tightly controlled. Grapes are hand-picked and brought into the cellar where they are pressed and then clarified through natural settling of the sediments. Alcoholic fermentation is conducted in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks using pure yeast strains. The wine is subjected to extended lees contact and mature in both large and small barriques.

Notes: This wine had a hint of sweet white flowers and green apples on the nose. Exploded on the palate with vibrant acidity and nectarine notes. Great texture and weight. This wine retails for $16.99.

The next wine up was the 2010 Cantina Terlano Sauvignon Blanc Quarz. Cantina Terlano (located in the municipality of the same name) is a Cooperative (143 growers, 165 ha of vines, 1.2 million bottles/year production) that is noted for long-lived wines holding, as it does, 20,000 bottles with vintages ranging from 1955 to the present. Grapes are sourced from seven different sites and the resulting wines (70% red, 30% white; all DOC) are marketed in three different Quality lines (Selections, Vineyards, Classics) and an annual Rarity (must mature in cellar for 10 years prior to release). Quarz is grown in Terlano at altitudes ranging between 250 and 500 meters on slopes with SSE exposures and gradients of between 5 and 35%. Yields are 42 hl/ha. The grapes are manually harvested and those selected are subjected to whole cluster fermentation. After naturally settling, the juice is fermented slowly in temperature controlled containers and are aged on the lees for 9 months (50% stainless steel tanks, 50% large wooden barrels). Blending occurs 3 months prior to bottling.

Notes: The wine was intensely aromatic with citrus, green papaya, papaya skin, sweet basil, and a rusticity on the nose. Weighty on the palate with vibrant fruit and mineral notes. A long, gritty finish. An excellent wine. Retails for $60.

The 2011 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner Praepositus is produced by an Augustinian Order of monks whose Abbey was founded in 1142 and whose reigning Abbot has responsibility for all aspects of life on the property. The Abbey is located in Alto Adige's Isarco Valley and is Italy's northernmost winery. The Abbey has three major wine production areas: one in the surrounding valley and the remaining two in southern Alto Adige. The soil around the Abbey is granitic schist. Wines are produced as either Classic or Premium (Praepositus). The Kerner (a cross of Schiava and Riesling) is produced from grapes grown at elevations of 600 meters in the municipalities of Bressanone and Varna on SSW exposures and 25 - 40% gradients. The vines are Guyot-trained with planting densities of 6000 vines/ha and yields of 50 hl/ha. The wines were fermented in stainless steel containers using natural yeasts and spend 3 months in bottle prior to release.

Notes: Citrus, apricot, and peach with some oiliness on the nose. Andrew id'd some Gruner and Riesling elements. Sweet citrus on the palate. Weighty with a long finish. Retails for $30.

The final white wine tasted was a 2011 Tenuta Klaus Lentsch Gewürztraminer Fuchslan. The Hemberg Farm, with a pedigree that stretches back to its first mention in a 12th-century document, is located at the beginning of Alto Adige's Isarco Valley. This 27-ha farm was purchased by Klaus Lentz and he has dedicated the 3 ha of plantable land to single-vineyard offerings: Eichberg for Veltliner; Fuchstan for Gewürztraminer; and Bachgart for Pinot Noir.  Vineyard soils are clay-gravel at elevations ranging between 400 and 600 meters. Vines are trained both Pergola and Guyot. After harvesting, the wines are cold-macerated and then gently pressed and fermented. The wine is racked off the lees after two weeks and placed in steel barrels for maturation on the fine lies. Bottling occurs in June of the year following harvest.

Notes: Complex aromatics. Rose and lychee, floral palette. On the palate, fruit complex, weightiness, elevated alcohol, and phenolic bitterness. Fermented completely dry. The MSs felt that the complexity of fruit would work well with strong cheeses and complex dishes. This wine retails for $30.

I will cover the red wines in a future post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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