If you are a curious wine drinker who is willing to challenge assumptions made about certain varietal wines and curious about lesser-know wine regions, then we have two interesting wines from Peter Zemmer for your consideration. We have tasted prior vintages of one of these wines, the other is new to us. We received both as tasting samples.
Alto Adige is the northern portion of the Italian wine region of Trentino-Alto Adige. It is the northernmost Italian wine region and is characterized by Alpine valleys in the Dolomites, which are part of the Alps. The extremely northern latitude is mitigated by the warmer (relatively) southern exposure of the mountains ensuring mountain valleys are warm enough to ripen grapes. Summertime temperatures may reach 90º F, but nighttime temperatures are always cool. Soil types are variable and include limestone, clay, sand and gravel.
Alto Adige takes its name from the Adige River that runs through it. But you will also see Südtirol (South Tyrol) on wine labels in this DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata) owing to the fact that the region was once part of Austria, which is just across the border. German is still commonly spoken in the region.
White, rosato, red, sparkling and dessert wines are made in the region. A long, and interesting, list of white and red grapes is approved for winemaking in this Alpine region.
It is in this region of hyphens and blended cultures (an astonishingly beautiful views) that Peter Zemmer makes wine in the small village of Cortina. The family winery was founded by Peter’s grandfather in 1928. Farming practices are described as sustainable and herbicide-free. Only organic fertilizers are used.
2017 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige-Südtirol — pale golden in the glass with generous aromas of oat hay and ripe melon. Ripe melon flavors predominate along with ripe pears, gravelly minerality and juicy acidity. The wine has a bit of roundness as well. 13.5% abv. SRP $18
Pinot Grigio is sourced from low-yielding vineyards located both on the mountain valley floor and the surrounding hillsides. Only ambient yeast was used for fermentation, which took place in stainless steel. Aging for several months on the lees also took place in stainless steel.
This is our third taste of Pinot Grigio from Peter Zemmer. I have the same opinion as when I first tasted it. Once again it is no insipid, boring Pinot Grigio. This wine has flavor and lively acidity. It has been consistently delicious, and complex, over the three vintages we have tasted.
The Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio is a pleasure to sip and will challenge your notion of what you might think Pinot Grigio tastes like. Don’t reserve this lively white wine for summer sipping. Pair it with a meal regardless of the season.
2017 Peter Zemmer Rolhüt Pinot Noir, Alto Adige-Südtirol — translucent ruby in the glass with generous aromas of ripe raspberries and dried alfalfa. Flavors of dried cranberries and blackberries with hints of cedar and peppery spice are supported by smooth tannins in a relatively light body. 13% abv. SRP $18
Pinot Noir is sourced exclusively from Zemmer’s Rolhüt site at 1400 feet above sea level. The vineyard site gets its name from a mountain plateau that was created centuries ago when a portion of the mountain broke away. Rolhüt means rolling hut and relates back to prior quarrying in the area that could result in the movement of houses. Yikes! Soils here are mainly limestone with small amounts of porphyry (igneous rock with large crystals in a fine-grained matrix).
The Pinot Noir is de-stemmed and fermented over approximately seven days. After gentle racking 70% of the wine is aged in large oak barrels with the balance aged in second and third-use French oak barriques. After blending the wine rests for six months in the bottle before release.
If you are a fan of light, but flavorful, Pinot Noir then this wine will suit you perfectly. I love the savory notes that wind through the red fruit character of this wine. We also discovered this wine is lovely chilled. The tannins come forward a bit without loosing the fruit flavors of the wine.
For a breathtakingly beautiful and insightful look at the Alto Adige-Südtirol wine region, watch The Miracle of Alto Adige, a documentary by James and Jack Suckling and James Orr. In just 24 minutes you will come away with an appreciation for the difficulty of winemaking in this region and the dedication of its winemakers. Then you will want to book a vacation to this gorgeous part of Italy.
Thanks to the ladies of Creative Palate Communications for sending a taste of Alto Adige-Südtirol our way.
Reference: MacNeil, K. (2015). The Wine Bible. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Co.