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Kofererhof Riesling 2008
Servie with fish and seafood dishes, rice and pasta dishes with vegetables.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Kofererhof is located in Valle Isarco, one of the most privileged spots in Alto Adige for intensely focused, mineral-driven whites. Proprietor Gunther Kerschbaumer began estate-bottling his own wines with the 1995 vintage, and since then Kofererhof has emerged as one of Italy's most exciting properties. Unfortunately only a few of the 2008s were in bottle as we went to press, but I hope to be able to taste the rest of the estate's current releases in the near future.
Acquired and managed by the Kerschbaumer family since 1940, the Kofererhof estate has existed in southern Tyrol, a region that is as Austrian in spirit as it is Italian, for over 850 years. In 1995, the winery started to bottle its own wines after having sold its fruit to local wineries for years. Kofererhof’s tiny 5 hectares of vines are located at the base of the Dolomite mountains between 700 and 800 meters above sea level. At this high altitude, the variation in temperatures from day to night is ideal, and the carefully tended, high-density vineyards yield intensely fragrant, concentrated and well-balanced wines. All grapes are harvested by hand, and attention to detail is paramount in this limited production winery. Farming practices are currently of low environmental impact but will become fully organic in the near future. Indigenous yeasts are used, except in the rare instance of a particularly challenging vintage. All wines are fermented and aged in temperature-controlled tanks with the exception of the Pinot Grigio, which is partially aged in large casks of Acacia wood. Total production for the estate is only around 3,500 cases of wine per year! The quality of these wines raises the bar for all whites from Alto Adige.
Kofererhof is a practicing organic winery. Integrated insect and disease control is followed. The Alto Adige region supports the growers with consultants and technical staff for the monitoring of insects and diseases. The region frowns on the use of harmful products as the vineyards are located near villages and towns. To curb fungus, growers use sulfur and copper-based products. Only organic fertilizers and manure are used and cover crops between the rows of vines add additional nutrients (in the new vineyards low growing crops are sown). When needed, the soil is tilled with manure and cut up plant substance. Very low doses of added SO2 in the wines help preserve them.
A mountainous northern Italian region heavily influenced by German culture, Trentino-Alto Adige is actually made up of two separate but similar regions: Alto Adige and Trentino. Trentino, the southern half, is primarily Italian-speaking and largely responsible for the production of large volumes of wine made from non-native grapes. There is a significant quantity of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio produced here, and Merlot is common as well.
The rugged terrain of German-speaking Alto Adige (also referred to as Südtirol) is more focused on smaller-scale viticulture, and greater value is placed on local varieties, though international varieties are widely planted as well. Sheltered by the Alps from harsh northerly winds, many of the best vineyards are planted at extreme altitude on steep slopes to increase sunlight exposure. Dominant red varieties include the bold, herbaceous Lagrein and delicate, strawberry-kissed Schiava, in addition to some Pinot Nero. The primary white grapes are Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc, as well as smaller plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Müller Thurgau, and others. 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.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling, and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes in New York.
In the Glass
Riesling is low in alcohol, with high acidity, steely minerality, and stone fruit, spice, citrus, and floral notes. At its ripest it leans towards juicy peach and nectarine, and pineapple, while in cooler climes it is more redolent of meyer lemon, lime, and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of gasoline.
Riesling is very versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice), and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.