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Trentino & Dorigati
Thursday, 01 December 2016 00:00

Like tall sailing ships arising from a calm sea, the mountains of the Piana Rotaliana are part of a small section in the Dolomites that hug the sides of verdant green valley in Alto Adige.

[This article appeared in the December 2016 issue of Italianicious Magazine.]

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The valley floor, a well-worn pathway carved by geologic processes, ice and water, is a patchwork of small towns, historical sites, and of course, viticulture. What makes the Piana Rotaliana so special is not only its staggering natural beauty, but how viticulturists have created world-class wines with very little land.

A modest 27% of Trentino’s land is arable, making it a drop in the ocean of Italian wine production, producing only 1.5% of what is sold commercially. In Mezzocorona, the Dorigati family makes wine from about 5.5 hectares of vineyards they tend themselves by hand; in addition to about 15 hectares managed by local farmers. Cooperative farming in Trentino is widespread and accounts for about 80% of all agricultural practice in the region. The organisation of these agricultural cooperatives plays a major role in the economic health of Trentino, shedding a positive light on oft-vilified large grower entities.

Another advantage of the cooperative system in Trentino is that the bar is set higher for production standards. For example, while tradition and expertise are of the utmost importance, land stewardship and sustainability are at the forefront of growers’ priorities. Most small vineyard owners choose to grow organically and use ecologically beneficial techniques for fertilisation, water management and pest control. Healthier land means healthier vines, and in turn, better quality wines get made by more producers.

Throughout this flat plain you’ll find Teroldego, a local grape variety that makes deep garnet, almost inky purple wines with characteristics difficult to find in other wines made in the area. The mineral composition of the well-drained soils, the Pergola vine training systems, and the northern latitude-valley-floor climate all play a role in how Teroldego makes a big impression with its multilayered dark berry fruit, earthiness and refreshingly touch-of-bitter finish. As any preacher of the terroir doctrine will conclude (me included); Teroldego grown outside of the Piana Rotaliana does not exhibit the same vitality or curious allure as the Teroldego from Trentino.

Food matching to Teroldego is interesting because secondary aromas and flavours vary by producer based on how they decide to proceed once the grapes reach the winery. Some Teroldego wines are lighter and more refreshing, while others are plush, full-bodied and display herbaceous aromas or notes of liquorice. Dorigati’s Teroldego Rotaliana strikes an enticing balance between its own velvety dark fruit, sturdy tannic backbone, and bright cassis flavour and refreshing acidity.  The wine is refreshing enough to serve at a summer barbeque with sausages, grilled steaks or spiced meats. On cooler nights, Teroldego shines poured alongside slow-roasted lamb, mushroom risotto, or osso buco with polenta.

The lesson here is not to avoid it because you can’t pronounce it or have never heard of it. I recall hosting a small wine tasting for the after-work crowd at a popular retail food shop. I poured Teroldego alongside four or five other more well-known varietals, and the star of the show? You guessed it; Teroldego was the dark horse because it supplied what a lot of people seek out in a wine. It’s a charmer with complexity, the right amount of fruitiness, great structure, and all the while pleasantly refreshing. Get some.

Last Updated on Monday, 30 January 2017 06:20