Alto Adige Unveiled: The Top 24 Red Wines of 2023 You Can’t Afford to Miss
What are the best value South Tyrolean red wines? What are the South Tyrolean bottles that every wine lover should taste at least once in their life?
These are fascinating questions that give us excellent ideas and allow us to talk about outstanding wines, even if they fly under the radar.
Often when it comes to South Tyrolean wine, it is assumed that they are white wines such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Bianco, Müller Thurgau, and Sauvignon Blanc, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the reds of this historic region.
And do you know why?
Because the altitude, the temperature range, and the stony soils of the Dolomites are all elements that contribute to making the wines fragrant, elegant, nuanced, and subtle.
Apart from the red wines from the Bolzano basin, which are characterized by more clayey and heavier soils and are pretty fat and full-bodied, the red wines of South Tyrol are famous for their lean charm and great drinkability.
Let’s not forget that the production of white wines only exploded after the mid-1900s, before South Tyrol was the hottest vineyard in the Habsburgs, the southernmost one, and the only one capable of producing full-bodied reds (Lagrein and Schiava ).
But before setting off to uncork bottles, let’s see which are the most exciting vines and types of the area. Then we will talk about single labels.
We have the Schiava, subtle and nervous, with good acidity and an almond finish. Pinot Noir is the quintessence of elegance, with fine tannins and underbrush aromas. Lagrein is the other great native red wine of South Tyrol, but unlike the Schiava, it is dense, with intense color, rich in extract, very fruity, and has exuberant tannins.
Not to mention the Moscato Rosa, a local favorite that is available in both a dry and sweet version, where it shines. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, two classic Bordeaux grapes that grow well in these hills, are the last ones we’ll talk about.
The most widespread red grape variety is undoubtedly Schiava, a fundamental cornerstone of South Tyrolean wine, either for its widespread diffusion or because it is rooted in the peasant culture of the region.
Schiava is in great shape in recent years: the years of feeble and washed-out wines and recovered rosé wines are over. Thank goodness the South Tyrolean winemakers have launched into thick productions, endowed with elegance and typically.
It is not as pulpy as Cabernet Sauvignon or as aristocratic as Pinot Noir, but it is a pleasant, fragrant wine with excellent drinkability.
Three areas are particularly exciting. The DOC Santa Maddalena, where we find the most substantial and full-bodied wines. Beautiful landscapes and high-quality wines characterize the DOC Lago di Caldaro. And we end up with the generic name “Schiava from the Alto Adige,” where the production is more diverse and scattered.
Let’s start with the most beloved wine in South Tyrol. Here are the unmissable bottles, the ones that, over the years, have shown consistency and impeccable quality.
Lake Caldaro Scelto, Ignaz Niederist winery
An attractive, gritty, never banal Schiava, with juicy fruit and a certain rural roughness that doesn’t mind. Under 10 euros.
Alto Adige Kalterersee Classico Superiore DOC Pfarrhof 2018
Full-bodied and bold, not the usual shy Schiava. Evolved tannins, slightly rounder and more developed fruit, and good savory momentum. Classic finish with lavender, roses, and almonds.
Santa Maddalena winery Mayr
Nice savory boost, pulp with berries, clean mouth, good persistence, and excellent drinkability. Under 10 euros.
Santa Maddalena Rondell, Fanz Gojer winery
Even though it only costs 10 euros, this Schiava wine is so good and full-bodied that it has no trouble becoming one of the best in its category. Elegant nose of rose, raspberry, and musk, with a superb finish of almonds and lavender. Tense mouth, but slightly velvety. Good.
Santa Maddalena Antheos 2019, Waldgries winery
Without a doubt, Christian Plattner is one of the most daring and brave Schiava interpreters, and it is also thanks to him that we are seeing the grape’s style come back to life. The base wine is sharp, subtle, and overpowering in how fresh and easy it is to drink, but the tannins are mild. The jewel in the cellar is the Santa Maddalena Antheos, of a completely different fabric. It is a mature, dense, and sometimes ethereal wine with strong tannins that give it licorice and rhubarb flavors, making it complex and very interesting for the category.
Elda, Schiava of the Nusserhof winery
The unexpected Schiava: body, velvet, a dizzying array of perfumes, and plenty of pulp. It is a wine with monstrous juiciness, ambitious tannins that are not afraid of being rough, especially in this 2019 vintage, which is still young, even for a type of wine that is not long-lived. Endless lavender and flowers lost in the undergrowth; fleshy fruit that outperforms typical forest fruits; all framed by a remarkable spicy arabesque.
On the tongue, it’s salty, and the transitions between freshness, minerality, and tannins are smooth. For a Schiava, it’s a very stimulating and complex wine, but it has a very light feel when you sip it. Biodynamic wine with great texture. Don’t be surprised if it costs three times as much as a standard Schiava: nobody puts in the same amount of effort and resources.
In practice, it is ubiquitous. Everyone does it, if only to carry on the tradition. Kretzer is a tasty, simple, straightforward, and always pleasant rosé.
But the big change came with the improvement of the more serious and ambitious bottles, which was made possible by aging them less quickly, more slowly, and with more thought. La Schiava represents the past. It is an interesting wine, but most of the hopes for the future of winemaking in South Tyrol are in Lagrein.
Generally, the quality of Lagrein is decent. It is difficult to find scandalous wines, and even the most prominent social wineries focus a lot on this wine. The rosé passes with flying colors. The reds are okay. Here are the best bottles we have tasted.
Lagrein Taber Riserva 2019 Cantina di Bolzano
Let’s start with the flagship of the cooperative winery in Bolzano. After all, we are in South Tyrol. Here, the cooperative wineries are in a whole other world. The wine is closed, still young and rough, but not rude at all. The stuff is there, as is the personality. Like all thick reds, it needs 5–6 years to evolve. For now, it is too woody, nevertheless, the fruit is enveloping, rich, and spicy, and the phrasing between freshness, warmth, and tannins bodes well. An impressive structure, despite the years spent in barrique. Among the most ambitious.
Lagrein Quirein 2019, Pranzegg winery
A fruity and sumptuous bomb of red wine, rich but with a biting acidity. It is full of extract and personality. It offers a beautiful insight with a thousand ideas. Everything is enhanced to the nth degree: plums and cherries in alcohol; spicy notes that take you like a whirlwind; powerful tannins that whip you with licorice and rhubarb; and then pepper and chocolate. There are no smudges on it, and it has a lot of extract. Despite this, it has a personality and is easy to drink. The most charismatic of all we tasted.
Lagrein Riserva 2019 Fliederhof
The 2016 base is fragrant, woody, and peppery, and has a body well balanced by acidity and savory momentum. The 2015 reserve is dense and compact, still closed, but already well set up. The pulp and tannins are both very good, but the fruit is round, already ripe, and has a beautiful tertiary. Overall, they are two good bottles. The Riserva needs a few years to dispose of some oak and find balance, but it is a robust wine.
Lagrein 2019 Glohhlof
We talked about Schiava before, but Lagrein also deserves it for his prowess. It is classic and clean, with a clear and unmarked varietal from the wood. A slashing acidity goes well with structure, tannins, and enveloping fruit. Good drinkability.
Lagrein 2019 Griesbauerhof
Fruit that is ripe but not jammy To be such a full-bodied wine, it moves with an agile rhythm. The structure is large but well designed. The extract is not pure ink; on the contrary, it leaves room for drinkability and a tickling pace. While being powerful, it plays with lightness. A palatable red wine, excellent if you consider the price below 15 euros.
Gran Larey, Lagrein Riserva 2019
Not immediately accessible, it has a wild look with tar and tannins that hit hard. Still, on the whole, it shows typicality and has aromas that make you immerse yourself in a rose garden, then in a forest, and finally in a jar of cherries in alcohol. It has a lot to give: fruit, smoke, earthy aromas, and a body that indulges in pleasure in the glass. But it is still broken. The acidity paws at and does not help the development of tannins. They are defects of youth; with a few years of refinement, it will become a beautiful swan. For now, it’s stimulating but not perfect. It does not lack courage; it is a wine without a parachute, but it needs time like all wines without veils. It will be outstanding.
Lagrein 2019 Messnerhof
An austere and compact tannin creates a clear, well-designed wine. It moves gracefully despite the massive extract. Firm tannin but well integrated into the splendid notes of wild berries.
Lagrein 2019 Riserva 2017 Untermoserhof
The base wine is classic, well-balanced, and peppery. The reserve has a good structure, a lot of ripe pulp, and a spicy flavor that goes well with it. Vigorous but elegant tannic texture, created to challenge the years. Overall, it does its duty. It is straightforward, even if the spicy and peppery tones are decisive.
Lagrein Linticlarus Reserve, Tiefenbrunner
A great myth of South Tyrolean enology. A rocky and broad wine where structure, tannins, and good acidity give rise to an engaging wine, shaped by intensive aging, but which manages to tame all this extract. The profile is classic, with a well-defined varietal and a discreet general finesse. Stylistically static, but its charisma is contagious. At the edge of overripeness.
Let’s move on to the third round of tastings with Pinot Noir, a real jewel of South Tyrol. Its favorite area is the Mazzon plateau, near Egna, to the right of the Adige river.
Pinot Nero 2019 Gottardi
To tell the truth, in recent years, the style of this Pinot Noir has gradually crystallized more and more. However, it always remains an elegant and subtle wine. Berries, currants, mint, classic aromatic profile, a little woody, but it will improve over time. On the palate, it is not rude. It is fresh but well-drawn by silky but not trivial tannins.
Pinot Nero Rows of Mazzon 2019 Carlotto
Mazzon’s bottle was the most lively and distinctive of the ones we tried. This is thanks to the fashion sense of Michela Carlotto, who is the best Italian interpreter of Pinot Noir. Thank goodness it doesn’t cover the varietal, which is ready to explode in an undergrowth full of leaves, truffles, moss, ferns, and small fruits. On the palate, it is subtle, pungent, and elegant, as Pinot should be, and played with a thrilling sapid-acid dynamism. Young, but with a bright future. Discreet: full-bodied, acidic, typical, pleasant.
Pino Nero 2019 Pfitscherhof
simple, but with that surly tenacity typical of Pinot. Rocky, with good aromatic expansion, does its duty without high notes. Good savory grit, fresh, final with mint and earth. Not too complicated, but with good drinkability.
Pinot Nero 2019 Sanct Valentin
Fresh and woody, with good depth and not overpowering concentration. The nose is well drawn. On the palate, it is rightly bitter, fresh, a little too spicy, but overall discreet. Not the best of expressiveness, but ok.
Pinot Noir 2019 Riserva 2018 Brunnenhof
The base is clear, clean, and immediate, and plays on a good balance between warmth and freshness. Rhubarb and currant finish. The reserve is bolder, rounder, never heavy, but beautifully full for a mountain Pinot Noir. The tertiary notes are already developing, ethereal, elegant—fine-grained tannins.
Pinot Nero 2019 Pigeno Riserva 2018 Stroblhof
Pigeno has elegance with notes of bitter oranges and currants, a slender body, and a mentholated finish, but is still weighed down by the wood. The Riserva is richer. It paves the way for a movement that knows how to combine elegance, decision, and remarkable precision. Classic variety, wood added in the right amount, and a moderate amount of acidity. It’s missing a thread of reactivity, but it’s more about opulence than grace.
Pinot Nero 2019 Riserva Schweizer, Haas
Whenever we talk about South Tyrolean Pinot Noir, we have to deal with Franz Haas, the wizard of Pinot, the winemaker who first believed in it and did a lot to make it grow. Haas’ style is distinct and direct: the nervous Pinot must be tamed but not coerced. The difference is subtle, but try to taste this very young 2016, and you will understand that the stylistic direction of Haas favors finesse and good concentration. It is not a thin or light wine but relatively warm, with explosive fruit that is sharp as a scythe. In the mouth, the freshness, earthy tannins, and dried flowers really stand out. superb minty finish. The entry level wine is more immediate but less imaginative—a great performer.
Pinot Nero 2019 Linticlarus Tiefenbrunner
Again, the Tiefenbrunner winery. But seriously, their Pinot deserves a taste: the audacity and boldness of this wine are legendary. It does not want to be ephebic or subtle. On the contrary, it hits you with all of its rich aromas in a very strong way. It remains fresh, very tannic, and never expires in jams and the excess of overcooked fruit.