HEAD SOMMELIER AND MANAGER OF LUTYENS RESTAURANT
BEING from the New World, I’m accustomed to thinking of grape growing as a specialised activity but, in fact, in parts of Europe it is the norm to grow grapes as part of a pattern of mixed agriculture, combining it with fruit or nut trees, perhaps a cow or two. Wine-making equipment represents a significant investment and is only used for part of the year, so a group of farmers will sometimes band together to purchase the necessary equipment and share its use, in what is known as a co-operative winery.
Historically, these have not been a source of wines of the highest quality but advances both in technology and in mindset have led to vast improvements and co-operative wineries often now compete with the best, while some co-ops have been producing wine at the very highest level for generations.
There are exciting wines being made by co-operatives in many places in, for example, the South of France or Sardinia but today I want to focus on a particular winery in the north of Italy which takes its name from the village of Terlan in which it is based, Cantina Terlano. This area of Italy, the Alto-Adige or Südtirol, was a part of the Austrian empire until the First World War and still retains an alpine feel in terms of food and architecture – the language spoken locally is German. There is a precision and elegance to the wines produced here that could even be described as Germanic.
The Cantina, founded in 1893 and with over 100 members, makes wine from a number of grape varieties; among others Pinot Bianco (Weissburgunder in German, labels are in both languages), Pinot Nero (Blauburgunder), Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and the local speciality Lagrein (an intense and smoky red wine or a deeply coloured rosé) but an ideal introduction is the local blend Terlaner Classico, from a mixture of Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Despite being inexpensive, this is a wine that will age gracefully (a characteristic of this winery, they intermittently release wines that have been aging in the cellars for decades which are wonderfully fresh) but this in no way diminishes its immediate charms.
The Pinot Bianco provides a floral aroma which meshes seamlessly with the Sauvignon, drawing out that grape’s own floral nature and subtle herbaceousness while the Chardonnay provides body and texture.
If I could I would put a case of this wine away every year and watch it evolve. Alas I don’t have the self-control, it doesn’t last long in my house.
Cantina Terlano wines are imported by Astrum Wine Cellars,
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