The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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Page 19 of 108

{ italy } ARE WE STILL IN ITALY? A FEW MINUTES AGO WE WERE IN VERONA. ROMEO, Juliet, an ancient Roman amphitheater, still in use today. But now heading up the road toward the Brenner Pass, all the signs are in Italian and German and the buildings look like chalets, not castles. Welcome to Alto Adige, or as my German friends call it, Südtirol. Alto Adige has a past woven with the thread of several cultures. Today it belongs to Italy, but culturally it leans towards the Teutonic. Driving here in the winter, one would never know this place gets hot as Sicily in the summertime. With the high altitude and thinner air, the heat rises and doesn't smother. And it's great for grapes. Founded in 1919, just a few years after Alto Adige's annexation to Italy and right after the end of a devastating world war which ravaged the area, founder Giuseppe Kettmeir sought to revive the area with winegrowing and 20th-century technology. It was a big dream in a troubled but hopeful time. And it paid off. My first exposure to the wines of Kettmeir was in the 1980s, before Pinot Grigio had become a household name. It was Kettmeir's Müller-Thurgau, a spicy, herbal, salve of a white wine, high acid, fresh fruit, like a crisp apple. Absolutely refreshing. Over the years I came to know their other wines. Kettmeir Pinot Bianco is a standard bearer for the area, with a mellow personal - ity. Acidity is restrained in this offering, as Pinot Bianco (also called Weissburgunder in the zone) can be a softer wine for sipping or for lighter pasta dished with cream and soft cheeses. But it is Pinot Grigio that made it big in the world. Kettmeir success caught the attention of the Santa Margherita Wine Group, which made Pinot Grigio a household name. In 1986 SMG partnered up with Kettmeir, sharing best practices and economies of scale. Their enter - prise thrives on 30 years later. While Kettmeir makes a full range of still and sparkling, red and white dry and sweet wines, the keep-it-simple approach is taken here. They import three white wines: Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. Fastidious attention to their land, respect for the territorial qualities and an intense love for making fresh clean, technologically flawless wine are the hallmarks of Kettmeir. Who could have known, in the ashes of destruction and at the crossroads of "the war to end all wars," that such a beautiful flower would grow up? Kettmeir is imported by Santa Margherita USA Glacial soils, combined with the crisp Alpine climate of the Alto Adige and long, sunny days provide the ideal environment for Kettmeir to grow Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Müller-Thurgau grape varieties. KETTMEIR'S DISTINCTIONS Founded in 1919. 16,000 cases produced; 4,200 imported to the U.S. Grapes are sourced both from Kettmeir's own estate vineyards (the Ebnicher vineyard/farm) and from approximately 40 carefully chosen small estates/farms that the winery has had long-term purchase contracts with and has been working with for years. Winery has an established history and respect in the region (its wines were exported/ introduced to the U.S. in 1930's). Considered one of the region's pioneers, it was one of the first wineries to export its wines internationally. An early adopter of modern winemaking methods such as low-temperature skin contact during fermentation. One of the first wineries to introduce and promote bottled wine sales over cask. Grapes are grown in three key areas: Pochi di Salorno, at the left bank of the Adige River (Maso Reiner vineyards); Caldaro, a unique microclimate within the shores of Lake Caldaro; and the high elevation slopes of Soprabolzano (Maso Ebnicher vineyards). In the Heart of the Alto Adige PHOTOS COURTESY OF KETTMEIR { }  19 Kettmeir Pinot Grigio is one of the winery's major successes. KETTMEIR IS ONE OF THE REGION'S PIONEERS by Alfonso Cevola

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