Nals Margreid Penon Pinot Bianco 2009
The new cellar under construction seems to have not distracted the very young kellermeister Harald Schraffl. The Cantina Nals Margreid has by now established itself among the Olympus of Alto Adige winemaking. Wines, above all whites, ever more representative of the territory, ever more stylistically defined and technically impeccable, are the result of severe selection in the vineyards. The Pinot Bianco Sirmian, the Sauvignon Mantele and the Pinot Grigio Punggl are the pearls of the whites, which are flanked by the reds of the Baron Salvadori line and the Schiava Galea, must-haves for the appellation.” Gambero Rosso Guida Vini d’Italia 2011.
Nals Margreid is a cooperative of about 100 small growers located in the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. The cooperative was formed in 1985 by the merging of The Cellars Nalles (established in 1932) and Magre-Niclara (established in 1954) – two well-respected entities, both steeped in tradition. While cooperatives are typical in the Alto Adige (where parcels are often small and at high altitudes in mountainous terrain) their goal in joining forces was to unite some of the best wine growers from the Strada del Vino (wine road) of Alto Adige into something of a “dream team”. Today, 140 growers cultivate a wide range of local varieties in over150 hectares of vineyards for the Nals Margreid Cellar.
The vineyards of Nals Margreid are positioned between 200 and 900 meters above sea level, stretching from Nalles in the north to Magrè in the south. These locations benefit from both the climactic-barrier protection of the Alps to the North, and the warmth of the Mediterranean influences from the South. Soils are made up of gravel subsoil on the slopes of the mountains, and alluvial soil on the valley floor. Fold in primitive rock such as granite, slate, limestone, gneiss and porphyry and you’ve got ideal conditions for the growing of premium grapes, and ultimately the production of world-class wines.
The growers of Nals Margreid use natural methods wherever possible. Parasites and diseases are avoided through ecological means. Vines are trained using the classic pergola trellis, or by using the more modern, lower-yielding Guyot method.
Winemaker Harald Schraffl oversees the seamless blending of the fruits of a wide variety of vineyards, soils, vines and microclimates in their small winery. Schraffl’s vinification philosophy is dominated by the importance of preserving the characteristics that the soils and grape varieties impart to the wines. In addition to the blends, Nals Margreid bottles a handful of vineyard-designate wines from tiny, yet exceptional parcels. Earnest and genuine, these wines reflect the character and attributes of the various Alto Adige sub-zones. This is the first time Nals Margreid wines have been imported into the US.
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.