The Vibrant Wines of Elena Walch

Winemaker Elena Walch is a lot like her wines — lively, interesting, complex, but never over the top
Elena Walch

Examples of the beauty of Northern Italian wines.

In person, winemaker Elena Walch is a lot like her wines — lively, interesting, complex, but never over the top. She is also one of the most-respected producers in Alto Adige. Her winery and her prized vineyards — Castel Ringberg and Kastelaz — are located south of Bolzano near the Lake of Caldaro.

Here are nine of her recent releases:

2012 Elena Walch Alto Adige pinot grigio ($17) Fruity and minerally in profile with dominant tastes of citrus and apple skins. Nice and basic.

2012 Elena Walch “Castel Ringberg” Alto Adige pinot grigio ($23) A fruity wine with a crisp finish of green gooseberries, notes of creaminess, and a good mouth feel.2012 Elena Walch Alto Adige pinot bianco ($15) Juicy and pleasantly tangy — a little gamy even — and quite complex for a young wine. Think of whey or light cheddar notes to add complexity to its crisp, green fruitiness.

2012 Elena Walch “Kastelaz”Alto Adige pinot bianco ($20) A mildly assertive white – full and spicy with nice apple skin tannins. This is a versatile food wine.

2012 Elena Walch “Kastelaz” Alto Adige gewürztraminer ($32) My pick of the litter. This wine shows the seductive side of Walch’s palate, with creamy, fragrant, rounded, spicy fruit, and hints of candied creaminess. Yet the finish of black pepper and acidity keeps the wine from being flabby. Very enjoyable and long on the palate. 

2011 Elena Walch “Beyond the Clouds” Alto Adige bianco ($55) A special cuvée blend, it is primarily from chardonnay grapes, but a dominating spiciness comes through, most likely from gewürz. The result is a very juicy, rich, lively wine with lots of lemon, minerality, and skin tastes. Add to that some earthiness and green stemminess in the finish. Depending on your palate, you will either think this is a very delicious, complex wine or a wine whose elements are competing too much with each other. When drinking it, I admit that I went back and forth.

2010 Elena Walch “Kastelaz” Alto Adige merlot riserva ($45) On the purple fruit side, this is a merlot that is at once opulently fruity and earthy with nice textures and moderate tannins.

2012 Elena Walch Alto Adige lagrein ($17) Americans are getting used to the taste of lagrein, a grape of northeast Italy which has a very pleasant, red-fruit spiciness on the nose and palate. This one has good structure, a fresh fruitiness but with a finish that has pleasant barrel notes to add complexity.

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2009 Elena Walch “Castel Ringberg” Alto Adige lagrein riserva ($32) Castle Ringberg is a typical lagrein with red fruits and acidity but with an added concentrated richness of fruit, mainly red and black raspberry with warming barrel notes. It is at the same time a mouthful and an elegant wine that is even better if decanted a few hours before serving.