We return to Italy this month for a close look into two highly regarded wineries in Italy’s Northeast: Alois Lageder and Speri Viticoltori. Lageder is a family estate located in Alto Adige best known for their work with Pinot and is making huge waves by promoting biodynamic viticulture both in their estates and contracted vineyards. The Speri family resides north of Verona in the classic Valpolicella region. Speri vinifies wines exclusively from their estate vineyards which, as of 2015, are 100% organically farmed.
Wine Snapshot: Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Pinot Bianco 2017
Winemaker: Georg Meißner, Paola Tenaglia, and Jo Pfisterer
Region: Italy, Alto Adige, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT
Grape Varietal(s): 100% Pinot Bianco
Viticulture: limestone and porphyry
working towards 100% organic and biodynamic
Method: low temperature fermentation in closed stainless steel; aged 4 months on fine lees for added mid-palate body
Serving Suggestions: 44-48° F with light appetizers, fish, roasted chicken, or paté
Age: Drink now through 2021
Pale yellow with a metallic hue. Sliced yellow apple and pear, lemon zest, white flowers, and hints of spice and yeast. The body is round with lively acidity and a crisp, lingering finish with a slight watercress heat.
About the Alto Adige Winegrowing Region
Alto Adige, also called Sudtirol, is the northernmost wine region of Italy and is considered to be a “cultural melting pot.” Nestled under the Alpine foothills, it is no surprise that the most common language is German, as producers by the names of Franz Haas, Elena Walch, and Alois Lageder suggest. Also, similar to Germany, the wines of this region tend to be labeled by the varietal and explore a wide range of Teutonic varietals, such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, and Gewurztraminer. However, this is also home to several interesting reds such as Schiava and the local Lagrein. In recent year, Pinot Noir has become more popular in the warmer microclimates, and a particularly exceptional example is produced by Alois Lageder.
The vineyards primarily lie within the Adige Valley towards the center of the region where vineyards extend from 200 meters (650 feet) to almost 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), however most fruit achieves ripeness between 350-550 meters (1,148-1,804 feet). Most sites sit on limestone, but throughout much of the Adige Valley is red porphyry, an igneous rock with crystals encased in more fine silicate.
About Alois Lageder
“Cultivating Nature as a habitat of life.”
- Alois Lageder Winery
The Lageder family began their venture in the wine world as merchants under the leadership of Johann Lageder in 1823. It was his great-grandson, Alois Lageder III, that pushed the family into wine production with the purchase of their Lowengang estate in 1934. Over the years the business grew, and Alois III began purchasing grapes from other local growers. When his son, Alois IV, took over in the mid 1970s, the focus shifted towards quality and modern improvements, particularly in the cellar and vineyards. While Alois IV continues his involvement, much of the work is now being done by Alois Clemens and Helena Lageder.
Lageder’s philosophy, “Cultivating Nature as a habitat of life,” has propelled them into position as one of the leaders in biodynamics in Alto Adige. This mindset not only oversees their estate vineyards but also directs their collaboration with grape partners. As part of their new Terra Alpina label, they aim to help other growers shift towards more nurturing farming methods such as organic or biodynamics in the near future. Lageder is not only sharing their vast experience with their partners but also offer financial incentives to make this leap.
Wine Snapshot: speri Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC “La roverina” 2017
Winemaker: Alberto Speri
Region: Italy, Verona, Valpolicella
Grape Varietal(s): 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 5% Molinara, 5% Oseleta
Viticulture: 100% organically farmed; single vineyard (La Roverina) high-density vines at 410 feet above sea level; southern exposure; alluvial soils; pergola training
Method: 10 day maceration; fermentation and MLF in cement tanks; 10-12 months in large 50-hl oak barrels
Serving Suggestions: 60-65° F with meat-based pasta, barbecue, or a wide range of options
Age: Drink now through 2022
Ruby red. Strong notes of dried red and black fruits, tobacco, spice, and almond. Lush body with a rich fruit and sharp finish. Elevated acidity lends well to a wide range of dishes.
About Speri viticoltori
“…If Valpolicella has achieved worldwide success this is due in part to wineries like Speri, that decades ago were able to impose very high quality standards and that have never succumbed to the siren calls of the market, remaining faithful both to the style of their wines and to that of their vineyards, where we will only find native grapevines with pergola training….”
”Vini d’Italia” Gambero Rosso 2015.
When I visited Speri Viticoltori in the fall of 2016, I was greeted and given a tour by Laura Speri. I was already familiar with the wines, and I knew it was a family-owned winery, but I was amazed that even the tasting room and tour was led by a member of the family. Even though Speri may be larger producer with over 60 hectares of vineyard, the operation is conducted from grape to glass by the hands of the family. After leaving my tour of the historic cellar (which still holds the original 1874 oak tanks used), I had the chance to meet Giuseppe, the youngest addition to the team, operating a forklift and getting ready to filter. He was just a few years younger than I.
The Speri family has been producing wine in Verona since 1874, as evident by those beautiful original casks; however, the first vineyards were not purchased until 1885 by Carlo Speri. Over the years, the Speri family added several vineyard sites to their holdings, yet they always had the foresight to focus on quality. They were among the first to produce the now widely highly-regarded Amarone. Their first vintage was 1958. In 1962, Giuseppe, Benedetto, Carlo, and Eliseo, Carlo Speri’s great-grandson’s, invested in building the current cellar. This new cellar would be used to house their Amarone, a wine that requires years of aging, yet, at the time, was not warmly received. Today, all the wine released under the Speri label is 100% estate farmed and organic.