Cantina Kurtatsch

Cortaccia | Alto Adige

There are mountain wines, and then there are wines from wind-swept peaks so high they seem to be born from the sky. This is the glory of Alto Adige, a dramatic wine region in northeastern Italy, and the home to the century-old cantina of Kurtatsch.

Here on the border with Austria it is white grapes that reign supreme, grown at altitudes that top 3,000 feet. The village of Kurtatsch (Cortaccia in Italian) is particularly blessed when it comes to terroir, with a wide range of soils that suit perfectly both native and international grapes.

Kurtatsch since the early 1900s has been the representative of the area’s best growers and the source of its finest, most expressive wines. Over the decades, growers have diligently researched which vineyards and soils would give the best expression of each grape.

This exploration has resulted in an unparalleled collection of distinctive wines that capture the true spirit of this wine region that just now is finally being recognized for its exciting variety of wines as well as consistently high quality.

 

“For a white wine drinker who’s looking for something different, there’s probably no better place to experiment than the Alto Adige.”—Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch, Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy

FARMING & WINEMAKING

The province of Alto Adige is located in Italy’s northeastern corner, on the border with Austria. Alto Adige—also called Südtirol, or southern Tyrol—is a mountainous region with vineyard plantings that range from 900 to 3,000 feet above sea level. Most of the region’s fertile area is located in a dramatic valley created by the confluence of two rivers, the Adige (Etsch) and the Iscaro (Eisach).

Culturally, the region is both Germanic and Italian (both languages are official) thus you will see two languages on wine labels: for example, native red grape Schiava Grigia (ski-YA-va GREE-zhe-ya, Italian) is also known as Grauvernatsch (grau-fer-NASCH, German).

Cantina Kurtatsch partners with some 190 small, family growers in and around the village of Cortaccia (Kurtatsch). Most vineyards are located on the steep, mountainous slopes surrounding the village, ranging in altitude from 660 to 2,700 feet, and facing southeast. Individual plots have always been planted with an eye toward ensuring the particular terroir and altitude are suitable for each grape type.

Vineyards are cared for sustainably, and harvests are performed by hand.

In general, white grapes are pressed and fermented on selected yeasts in temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks. Wines are aged on fine lees for a minimum of five months. Red grapes are also fermented on selected yeasts and aged in large, neutral casks (either Slavonian or French oak).

WHITE WINES

Sauvignon

Sauvignon Blanc finds a renewed voice (dare we say yodel-ready?) on the steep slopes of Alto Adige. Warmer temperatures during the days yet chilly winds at night give Sauvignon a broader, fruitier profile while retaining its characteristic acidity that makes this grape so wonderfully thirst-quenching.

 

 

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Sauvignon 'Kofl'

A deeper, more complex yet still stunningly fresh Sauvignon from some serious high-altitude vineyards. (Kofl means “brow,” or “hill top.”) The cooling winds from these heights help to preserve grapes’ acidity.

 

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Pinot Grigio

While Friuli has long claimed Pinot Grigio as its primary grape, here in Alto Adige, with more altitude and more just about everything, this riveting white grape reaches its true potential. Bold aromas of lime, gooseberry and acacia, with balanced alcohol and thirst-quenching acid. A deliciously serious Pinot Grigio that deserves a second look.

 

 

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Pinot Grigio ‘Penóner’

High up in the village of Penon (‘Penóner’ means “of Penon”) you’ll find some of Kurtatsch’s most dazzling vineyards, and indeed Italy’s highest Pinot Grigio vineyard, topping 2,200 feet above sea level. This racy, fresh and lively white is pure sunshine.

 

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Müller-Thurgau

The moment you put your nose to the glass you are instantly transported to the verdant meadows and breathtaking vistas above the village of Cortaccia, Alto Adige. Muller-Thurgau is a spicy, lively white wine, with fresh herbs and a touch of nutmeg in its aromas. Peachy, fresh, a wonderful aperitif or companion to fresh river fish.

 

 

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Müller-Thurgau 'Graun'

Hold on to your hats — the winds here at nearly 3,000 feet in altitude are no joke. At the upper limit of winegrowing in Alto Adige, you’ll find the ‘Graun’ vineyard, dedicated to Müller-Thurgau. At this height, days are very warm and nights extremely cool (temperature differences of 60 degrees Fahrenheit are common), which helps grapes retain acidity. Bold, edgy, full of energy!

 

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Pinot Bianco

It is long time that Pinot Bianco be recognized for the gem of a dry white that it is — we adore this pure mountain wine and can say honestly that Alto Adige makes some of the finest Pinot Bianco around. Juicy fruit, nervous acidity, depth and length. Simply gorgeous!

 

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Pinot Bianco 'Hofstatt'

A selection of fruit from steep vineyards in the hamlet of Hofstatt, slopes more suitable for mountain goats than winemakers. But what a gorgeous wine (and worth the effort to make it happen!) Very warm days and super-cool evenings result in a dry white that takes a page from white Burgundy then gives it an unmistakable Italian flair. Not shy, this wine!

 

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Kerner

A special selection bottled exclusively for North Berkeley, this pure Kerner wine is a unique white infused with the Alpine freshness and lift that Alto Adige wines are best known for. A cross of red grape Schiava (Vernatsch) and Riesling, Kerner offers a delicious floral perfume, redolent of lilac and honeysuckle, with peachy fruit and a kiss of white pepper at the finish. (Kerner was named after German poet Justinus Andreas Christian Kerner (1786-1862), who in addition to his many works on medicine and the supernatural, wrote a couple of bouncy drinking songs.)

 

 

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Alto Adige Bianco 'Amos'

A love song to Alto Adige’s stunning white grapes. This blend — Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Kerner, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Müller-Thurgau — is a selection of top fruit from the winery’s oldest and highest-altitude vineyards. Want to know why Alto Adige whites are second to none? Start right here.

 

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RED WINES

Pinot Nero

Burgundy’s native red grape takes on a juicier, suaver character when grown at such dizzying heights. A deliciously silky, red-fruited Pinot Noir (or Nero, or Blauburgunder as those in Alto Adige call it) that’s tailor-made for homemade burgers and sweet potato fries.

 

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Schiava Grigia (Grauvernatsch) 'Sonntaler'

The German name “Vernatsch” comes from the Latin “vernaculus,” which means native. When the ancient Romans made their way toward Bolzano around 15 BCE, they discovered a wine-growing culture that was already nearly a half-century old—and the grapes the locals were growing, among others, was believed to be Vernatsch.

So little Schiava Grigia makes it out of the region, and that’s a pity; but locals know if they let the secret out there won’t be enough to go around for their own drinking pleasure! A light ruby in the glass, Grauvernatsch is redolent of red summer fruit—cherries, wild strawberries, red currants—with fine grained tannins and a light, tangy body. It is an incredibly versatile wine, easily paired with dishes usually reserved for white wines, and drinks as easily and as pleasurably as a cru Beaujolais or even a Peleverga from Verduno.

 

 

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Established: 1900
Winemaker: Othmar Doná
Region: Italy • Alto Adige • Cortaccia
Vineyard size: 470 acres

PRACTICING SUSTAINABLE FARMING

At their best, these [Alto Adige] wines taste like they bubbled up from a mountain stream.

—Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch, Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy

Domaine Vincent Dureuil Janthial Burgundy France