Trentodoc MW trip
Organised by the excellent team at the Istituto Trento DOC, led by Sabrina Schench, seven MWs from various parts of the world; Singapore, Australia, the USA, France and the UK, and accompanied by Kara Tonitto the marketing and communications officer at the IMW, took part in the most informative five-day visit.
For most if not all those attending Trentodoc was known only from its reasonably well known and distributed sparkling wine from Ferrari. So it was incredibly valuable to be able to understand and visit the various climatic and altitudinal diverse areas of the region, to meet a great cross section of producers from the long established Co-Ops to the various family owned and controlled wine producers. We were also exposed to some of the fascinating and seminal academic studies at the Fondazione Edmund Mach University.
The group’s overall impression was of a passionate wine region making, almost without exception, fine sparkling wines, with variety and interest. The three most interesting factors differentiating these wines from other fine sparking wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and occasionally Pinot Bianco including Champagne and Franciacorta, was the effect of altitude from the Lake Garda sites at around 200 metres above sea level, right up to the highest vineyards at 700 metres. These high-altitude wines whilst in no way unripe have a freshness and precision due to wide diurnal temperatures.
The second point of unique interest centred around the blends, where at first the impression was that 100% chardonnay gave the most classy results, but as we visited other producers the use of Pinot Noir and Meunier showed what could be achieved.
Thirdly, there was much discussion around ‘dosage’, which ranged from zero, fashionable amongst many producers, with most around the 4 to 5 grams per litre residual, and up to 8 gms/lt. Of interest was the use of old reserve wines as a base for the liqueur.
Day one of the visit started at one of the biggest of the ten Co-Operatives in Trentino, Cavit, whose brand is Altemasi. Started in the 1970s when Method Classico began they now control 5,000 hectares and 4,500 growers. With such small average vineyard holdings, it is unsurprising that the Co-Ops are a most important feature of the region’s production.
Following a tasting of wines from the sub-regions of Trentino broadly defined by altitude and then their own wines, they gave a most informative overview of Cavit’s integrated vineyard tracking project called PICA. Essentially this is a technological platform to measure weather, with 258 weather stations, detailed soil analyses, daylight hours and sun exposure. They went on to demonstrate how the data informed their agronomic practices and production chain.
That evening followed with a fascinating tasting with Cesarini Sforza demonstrating the use of old reserve wines in producing the cuvee de tirage and liqueur d’expedition, and how this use varies depending upon the site of production.
Day two started at 8am with a walk around tasting of 110 Trentodoc wines from most of the region’s producers. Whilst we had nearly three hours to taste everything, inevitably it was interesting (and polite) to be able to speak with some of the producers who were there. Some of the team, including myself, fell short by a few wines, of tasting everything before our next appointment.
This was a most valuable exercise in our being able to get a real overview of the region and the differences in vineyard sites, production styles and methods, and to meet a lot of wine makers and owners.
That afternoon we drove up to the high Cembra Valley to visit the vineyards and discuss the efficacy of high pergola training versus the now more fashionable Guyot, and also vine density and yields.
Then down into the Adige Valley to the most impressive Edmund Mach Wine School, where Professor Fulvio Mattivi gave a very clear and succinct explanation of a major study to comprehensively map the volatile compounds in Trentodoc sparkling wines. Of 969 traceable aromatic compounds, when compared to other sparkling wines there are 196 unique biomarkers more than other wines. He identifies this as being a factor of some of the most high altitude vineyards. This research in tracking and identifying flavour compounds was shown to have considerable value to the wine world as a whole. He is still to do the comparison exercise with a range of top Champagnes but promised that it was on his agenda.
The visit to the University concluded with a fascinating tasting of mature vintages from different Houses, from 2006 back to 1998, which showed well the good ageing potential for Trentodoc sparkling wines.
Day three started with an early morning tasting at the impressive Moser winery, who specialise in 100% chardonnay wines, starting with the 2019 base wines from tank from each of the main areas from where they own vineyards or source grapes. There was some distraction before the tasting started, from the incredible collection of some 30 racing bicycles owned by Francesco Moser who achieved a world speed cycling record in 1984. Following the valuable base wine tasting, we then tasted three vintages of their top cuvee 51,151 Brut, disgorged in 2019, 2014 and 2011, to demonstrate the final blend and how it ages over time.
The morning continued with a visit to the stylish Endrizzi family, higher up the Adige valley, with vineyards at 300 to 420 metres on calcareous and Dolomic soils. A tasting of the Riserva wines from their two prime vineyards Piancastello and Massetto both planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, from the 2014, 2009 and 2008 vintages gave a valuable overview of their wines, the use of yeast selection for secondary fermentation and their relatively high levels of dosage which was balance by the good acidity.
The morning ended at the largest and very impressive Co-Op, Rotari, where we were entertained by the effusive head winemaker Lucio Matricardi and tasted a range of sparkling wines from different sites. His aim is to retain good ripe fruit in his wines so that they have sound commercial appeal. There was a good discussion about zero dosage, and he eventually produced a bottle that he makes which was very respectable. He also showed us, at our insistence, an example of his Pinot Grigio, where they are one of the biggest producers under many well know brand names, and which he slightly admitted that the huge volume paid most of the bills!
That evening we visited the Ferrari Lunelli wine cellars just south of Trento. This large family owned producer was impressive for its ability to produce a good quantity of wine (some 20 million bottles on lees in their cellars) and maintain a seem-less high quality of well-balanced interesting fine sparkling wines. To a large degree the group all felt that Ferrari had been around long enough to have found a level of perfection, and that they form something of a ‘benchmark’ for the whole region. In addition to the excellent tour, tasting, visit to the historic 16th century palazzo Villa Margo and the excellent Michelin starred restaurant Locanda Margon which the Lunelli family also own, this was certainly a highlight of the visit, and particularly the memorable magnum of 1991 Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore, which was remarkable for its youth, complexity and sheer class.
Day four morning took us into the hills behind Trento to the family business of Maso Martis. After an interesting vineyard tour, we tasted their 2019 base wines from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay fermented in oak and stainless steel, followed by their finished blends from 2008 and 2009. A delightful view over the valley below from their tasting room together with the charm of our hosts and their nice dog, made it a delightful tasting.
On the last day we were treated to a journey up into the Dolomites, to the wonderful QC Terme spa, and an overnight stay in the mountains at delightful Refugio Fuciade with excellent cooking and a great selection to drink of Trentodoc sparkling wines, to see how at 2000 metres altitude did it make tasting different?!
The trip was extremely professionally organised with great care to be highly informative and also meet or surpass everyone’s expectations. The people we met were charming and hospitable and prepared to answer numerous questions and accept comments and observations in good spirit as they were meant. Trentodoc deserves to progress and be acclaimed as one of the world’s top sparkling wines, and I hope our visit and ambassadorship will go someway to help.
Christopher Burr MW