A single-site Pinot Bianco, this comes from the Plattenriegl vineyard that sits at an elevation of 550 metres above sea level, in the gravelly, mineral-rich soils of the Appiano Monte.
The Appiano Monte area is considered to be one of the premier terroirs of the Alto Adige, and the Plattenriegl is one of its finest vineyards. Here, in the lee of the snow-capped Mendola mountain, the sun-drenched, rocky soils and elevation make a considerable contribution to the style of the wine, as do the old vines, hand harvesting, partial malo and partial vinification in large oak (50% in 50-hecto large format). These influences result in a far more textural, satiny and mineral wine than you typically get from this variety.
The 2016 is a standout; a pulpy, textured white shot through with crystalline, racy, mountain-stream freshness. Expect crunchy stone fruits and citrus pith aromas and flavours.
Wines from isolated, mountainous pockets of the world can be exhilarating discoveries for those seeking new drinking experiences. The Alto Adige in Italy’s remote, mountainous north is perhaps the quirkiest high-altitude region going. Yes, you are technically in Italy, but forget about pasta, tanned youths on Vespas and your high school Italian. This is the Südtirol, a stone’s throw from the Austrian and Swiss borders and encircled by the saw-toothed Dolomite Mountains. Südtirol is the German name (South Tyrol in English), as the region borders Austria’s Tyrol state to the north. In fact, this area was part of Austria until WW1 and so the Germanic influence runs deep: here the restaurants serve hearty dumplings, smoked pork and sauerkraut, you drive a snow plough in winter and the locals speak German as often as Italian, or even Ladin, a local dialect spoken only in this part of the world. Alto Adige’s wines are as singular as its setting. This is isolated, high-altitude viticulture at its most extreme. Here an endless variety of stony, well drained, south facing slopes look down on the Adige River from highs varying from 750-3250 feet. A wide range of grape varieties have long been grown here and intense aromatics, fresh acidity, spiciness, etc run through all the best wines. Common varieties include Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc in France and possibly Alto Adige’s best white grape), Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Traminer and Riesling (amongst others). Alto Adige produces some fascinating white blends as well which, in some cases, can be the most interesting wines at a given address. The most intriguing local reds are from the indigenous Lagrein grape variety while progress is being made with Pinot Noir & Schiava. The reds reflect the stony soils and are fresh, minerally, bright, sometimes grippy, and utterly unique. While the Alto Adige style may not be for everyone, they offer a great counterpoint to Riesling, Chenin or Pinot Noir for those who fancy aromatic, high-grown whites and reds. Girlan is one of the region’s finest ‘grower collectives’ producing exemplary Alto Adige whites and reds. They have long encouraged their growers to focus on those varieties that best suit their soils, aspects and altitudes and they have led the way in single ‘commune’ and single vineyard wines. Girlan was also one of the first collectives in Alto Adige to pay its growers according to the quality of their fruit and apply strict controls on yields. It is important to understand the central role that collective wine growing has had in Alto Adige. For a multitude of reasons including: geographic isolation, mountainous topography and tiny average holdings, local growers have historically banded together to form co-operatives. Over 70% of the region’s wines are produced by such co-ops and a number, including Girlan, control a wonderful array of the region’s finest sites. This is not a new phenomenon and has nothing to do with the co-ops that you typically find in France or other parts of the wine world. Over the last 10 years Girlan has been busy establishing itself as one of the most interesting names of Alto Adige. It was the arrival of new cellarmaster Gehard Kofler in 2006, however, that really kicked things up a gear. By 2008, Girlan had five wines competing for Gambero Rosso’s ‘Tre Bicchieri’ (‘Three Glasses’) with one 2008 wine eventually winning this top designation. Girlan and Kofler control some great sites in Alto Adige’s Uberetsch-Unterland subregion. When we visited this producer for the first time, we were struck by the freshness, delicacy and aromatic complexity of the wines, a sure reflection of great sites, low yields and the rigour that Kofler brings to Girlan’s spotlessly clean cellar.
Delicate but alluring scents of bread crust, orchard fruit and citrus take shape in the glass. On the palate, bright acidity frames mature yellow apple, lemon, and bitter almond.