J. Hofstatter Alto Adige Barthenau Vigna S. Michele 2009
A Francophile who loved French Burgundies, Ludwig Barth von Barthenau was definitely the first to exclusively grow Pinot Noir on his estate beginning in 1860. Barthenau’s pioneering focus on the Pinot Noir grape continues to animate the estate’s owners to this day. In 1942, Ludwig’s grandson sold the estate to the Foradori family; Paolo Foradori released his first Pinot Noir in 1959. Also in 1959, Paolo married Sieglinde Oberhofer, the only daughter of Konrad Oberhofer, nephew of Josef Hofstätter, who in 1907 founded in the village Tramin the Weingut (estate, or Tenuta in Italian) Hofstätter. With the marriage of Sieglinde and Paolo the vineyard properties of the two families merged together. Since 1987, Paolo Foradori and Weingut Hofstätter have produced the single-vineyard wines of Barthenau Vigna S. Urbano, Pinot Noir and Barthenau Vigna S. Michele, Pinot Blanc. (The Vigna name connotes the wine’s single-vineyard status and is the Alto Adige equivalent to a prestigious Cru designation in Burgundy.) The Mazon plateau located above the village of Neumarkt is particularly renowned for its Pinot sites and their prestigious wines have since attracted a worldwide following. Tenuta Hofstätter is the only family wine estate that owns vineyards on both the west and the east banks of the Adige River. Hofstätter’s Gewürztraminer is made from a selection of grapes grown in the family’s Vigna Kolbenhof estate in the hamlet of Söll overlooking the village of Tramin. Tenuta Hofstätter’s fortuitous combination of its microclimate, the southeastern orientation of the vineyard, and the age of the vines make its Kolbenhof estate one of Alto Adige’s great Crus for Gewürztraminer. The vine itself is named after its origin, the wine village of Tramin.
Trentino, the southern half, is primarily Italian-speaking and largely responsible for the production of non-native, international grapes. There is a significant quantity of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Merlot produced. But Trentino's native and most unique red variety, Teroldego, while still rare, is gaining popularity. It produces a deeply colored red wine rich in wild blackberry, herb, coffee and cocoa.
The rugged terrain of German-speaking Alto Adige (also referred to as Südtirol) focuses on small-scale viticulture, with great value placed on local varieties—though international varieties have been widely planted since the 1800s. Sheltered by the Alps from harsh northerly winds, many of the best vineyards are at extreme altitude but on steep slopes to increase sunlight exposure.
The primary white grapes are Pinot grigio, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot blanc, as well as smaller plantings of Sauvignon blanc, Müller Thurgau. These tend to be bright and refreshing with crisp acidity and just the right amount of texture. Some of the highest quality Pinot grigio in Italy is made here.
Approachable, aromatic and pleasantly plush on the palate, Pinot blanc is a white grape variety born out of a mutation of pink-skinned Pinot gris (which was born out of a mutation of Pinot noir) and is perhaps most associated with the Alsace region of France. The variety is also is quite successful in Germany and Austria, where it is known as Weissburgunder. Although its heritage is Burgundian, today it is rarely found there and instead thrives throughout central Europe, especially in the mountainous Alto Adige region of Italy, where it is called Pinot bianco. Fine examples can also be found in Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Oregon’s Willamette Valley boasts some wonderful examples of Pinot blanc, as do some cooler pockets of California.
In the Glass
Pinot Blanc is typically a full-bodied wine and expresses pleasing aromas of crisp pear, peach, lemon zest, crushed gravel and white flowers. The finest examples can possess a stony minerality and with age can develop intriguing notes of honey, vanilla and almond.
Delicate Pinot Blanc works well with lighter fare such as salads, seafood, chicken or turkey, but is truly at its best with Alsatian pairings like choucrout garnie, onion tarts or the region’s soft cheeses like Munster.
Pinot Blanc’s delicate aromatics, full body, and moderate acidity make it a great alternative to the world’s most popular white wine. Anyone experiencing Chardonnay fatigue and looking to try something new would benefit from giving Pinot blanc a try.