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Wine Review: German, Italian mix in these selections

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When I first began writing about wine, I was invited with some Italian winemakers to a wine press luncheon sponsored by a wine distributor.

The required translator never showed up and, since I am fluent in Italian, I was asked to translate. During a quiet time between courses, my attention was called to two gentlemen at the far end of the table who were conversing in German, another language that I happen to be fluent in.

I ask them in German, "What the heck were Germans doing at an Italian wine luncheon?” They explained, in Italian, that the province they were from, Alto Adige, once was a part of Austria called Südtirol that, similar to Alsace in France, was ceded to Italy after World War I. Therefore, the guys speaking German were Italian citizens, born in Italy, living in a German-speaking region of northeastern Italy, making Italian wines that were labeled in German.

It also appears that Italian methods of wine making, a task that residents of the country have perfected over centuries, had been adopted by the Germanic-Italian winemakers of Alto Adige and with great success.

Tor di Lupo 2018 Lagrein Riserva ($36)
Let's start with the name. Both languages are represented on the label, which is very typical for Alto Adige. “Tor” is German for door while “di Lupe” in Italian means for the wolves. So, the wine is door for the wolves. If the name isn’t enough to make one wonder, there is even more. The wine has been made from a red grape variety that is found at the southern foothills of the Alps called the Lagrein. Blackberry and plum are the variety’s main aromas and flavors, which follow to the finish to be joined by oak and what seems to be a touch of cedar. While Lagrein is an unfamiliar variety, it adds a sense of mystery to the first sip. I enjoyed this wine, and I hope it is not because of my Germanic ancestry with just that touch of Italian.

Turmhof Tiefenbrunner 2018 Lagrein ($40)
“Turmhof” translates as farm tower, and “tiefenbrunner” means a deep fountain or well. I realize that the name usually has nothing to do with the wine, but it’s good to know because it could have been something unpleasant. Here, the positive plum and dark fruit flavor and aroma shines through, as does a perfect touch of oak. This wine is a very pleasant departure from the old standbys and likely will produce positive comments from all who sample it for the first time.

Elena Walch 2018 Pinot Nero "Ludwig” ($40)
Here we go again. “Pinot nero” is the Italian translation for the French pinot noir, and “Ludwig” is German for … Ludwig. Pinot noir grapes take on a noticeable direction change with this alpine gem by accenting cherries and rose petals in the aroma with oak and vanilla in the background. It is a bright and open wine with a soft fruit flavor and an interesting aftertaste. While this wine is not a rival to the great red burgundies of France, it most certainly is a fine example of a well-made and affordable pinot noir.

Anrar Pinot Noir 2018 Reserva ($42)
I suspect the vintner labeled this wine for sale outside of Alto Adige because it is called pinot noir and not pinot nero. As the great bard William Shakespeare might have put it, “A pinot nero by any other name is still a pinot noir,” and so it is. There are all the flavors and aromas of a fine pinot noir along with that mark of a better pinot noir, a hint of an incense flavor and aroma. The wine also possesses a noticeable softness with none of the flavors and aromas overpowering each other. The wine's finish is soft, full of fruit flavor and long. If you are a pinot noir lover, and open to suggestions, try this excellent wine.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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