Just as northwestern Italy’s Piedmont area revels in its reds, northwestern Italy’s Alto Adige or Südtirol is a place that loves its whites.
One of my favorite winemakers in the region is the charismatic Alois Lageder, who finds a way to include art, music, architecture in his winemaking and who was green before green was more than just a color. In addition to be quite good, his wines are incredible bargains.
If you aren’t familiar with Lageder and his eponymous label, sample from these five. If you are familiar with Lageder, you will probably want to try all of these new releases.
The 2010 Alois Lageder "Dolomiti" Pinot Grigio ($15). A very good, very smooth, almost creamy wine with quite pleasant apple and kiwi flavors, moderate acidity, and hints of white pepper at the edges. Try it with poached fresh-water fish.
The 2011 Tenutae Lageder "Porer" Pinot Grigio ($24). "Tentutae" is Lageder’s brand for estate-farmed wines, in this case a Demeter-certified biodynamic bottle that has more depth of flavor and greater minerality than the Dolomiti, but which also seems a tad sweeter. It is fresh, full, toward the savory side with lots of dried-herbs flavors. I would love this with a whole lobster.
The 2011 Alois Lageder "Dolomiti" Müller-Thurgau ($15). Muller Thurgau was created 150 years ago by a Swiss and was widely planted in Germany but has never (to my mind) fully blossomed there, nor has it received much critical acclaim. But it seems to flourish in the sub-Alps of Alto Adige, and here is it displays lactic notes, the wine equivalent of crème fraîche flavors. But it also has fresh and dried herbal notes, good acidity to clean the palate, and just a hint of tannins. It would match well with a thin-cut grilled pork chop with a sprinkling of sage.
The 2011 Alois Lageder "Dolomiti" Pinot Bianco ($14). A good quaffing or bar wine. Lean, light, green flavors with chalky minerality, it has notes of ripe apples with a refreshing touch of bitters.
The 2010 Alois Lageder Alto Adige Lagrein ($24). Lagrein is Alto Adige’s homeboy red, an indigenous wine that has an edge that people either rave about or go "uhhh." This one falls at the lighter and simpler edge of Lagreain’s range — very minerally with lots of berry flavors. Not much in the way of tannic muscles. It would go well with chunky, tomato-laced, winter vegetable soups with crusty bread.