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Tasting and Touring the Wine Roads of Alto-Adige

Alto_Adige Vineyards photoIn his grand opera Wolfgang Mozart’s character Don Giovanni sings while raising his wine glass “Versa il vino, eccellente Marzemino!” (Pour me wine, excellent Marzemino). The wine he was praising was the Marzemino of the Trentino region of Northern Italy where the terraced grape vines cling to the hill slopes below the shear cliffs of the Dolomites south of the Alps. Marzemino was historically one of the favorite red wines of the Hapsburg royal court and it was in Rovereto, in the heart of the Adige valley that Mozart gave his first concert in Italy.

Castello Toblino photoFor wines touring and tastings, other parts of Italy are perhaps far more well known, but the north of Italy where rivers from the Alps flow down to the plains of the Po offer a variety of vineyards, nestled among magnificent mountain cliffs. The north end of the Upper Adige Valley near Bolzano also known as South Tyrol (Sud Tirol) was at one time part of the Hapsburg dynasty Austrian empire and the German influence and flavors are prominent. In the south end of the Adige Valley centered around Trento, the Vallagarina, Italian is the dominant culture. The Via Maestra, the ancient road to the Alps, now follows the primary autoroute across the Alps from Italy to Austria and Germany and the rail tracks, from where the vines rush past the windows. The region is laced by wine routes, following the narrow valleys of the rivers flowing through the white stone cliffs, with vineyards in the shadows of ancient towns and medieval castles. The area is perfect for exploring Italy from the north or from Venice or Verona.

Castle Wine Touring Italy photoBeyond the classic Marzemino, the region produces a number of fine wines, with a nod to the exotic. Nosiola is the oldest variety of grape grown in the area from which the Santa Trentino wine is produced, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and the heady rich sweetness of Grappa. The area is also known for it cheeses, Chestnuts (Marone), plums and apples. The rural wine tourism of bed and breakfasts and wine tasting is fairly new to the Trentino Vallagarina, at least compared to the much more famous regions like Tuscany. The local tourism bureau has established seven wine roads known as the Roads of Wine and Flavors to ensure the qualities of the regions products.

The Road of Apples and Flavors passes through the Non and Sole Valleys, where apple fields compliment the food highlighted by cheeses such as Trentingrana and Casolet. The Wine Road of the Vallagarina is a 200 kilometer route of art and history where the Marzemino of Mozart fame is the best known wine product. The road through in the Avisiane Hills and Cembra Valley explores a landscape of wild beauty, tamed by terraced farms, where the dry salami (lucanica secca) teases the palate. The Road of Cheese of the Dolomites passes through beautiful countryside where cheeses like the Nostrano di Fassa and the Spretz Tsaorì called “Stinky Moena” (Puzzone di Moena) and the rich Nostrano di Fassa are produced.

Cantina Toblino Valle Laghi photoThe road which follows the Sarca Valley from Trento to Lake Garda through the Brenta Dolomites is the largest of the routes and passes some great castles and churches of the region, also known for hiking in the warm months and winter sports high in the Dolomites. The route offers some easy and elegant spots to enjoy the flavors of the country. The main road passes the romantic Castle Toblino in the Valle de Laghi with a gourmet restaurant in a Renaissance setting on the edge of a misty mountain lake (see Castle Toblino). The Hosteria Toblino along the road to Lake Garda provides a tasting room, restaurant and selling point for the areas wines, with over 300 wine varieties represented. Stop in the Sarca Valley Village of Arco for a visit to the castle which stands perched high on the cliffs (see Castle d’Arco) and visit the old churches of this lovely little town. In Riva Del Garda a new restaurant and wine bar has opened in the historic old town rail station, named cleverly Binario (rails). Riva Del Garda is at the northern end italy’s largest lake (see Riva Del Garda). You can head over to Rovereto where Mozart first discovered the wines of Vallagarina, for more great castles (see Castles of Trentino) and vineyards.

Castle Arco on Wine Road Tour photoFood Festivals of Trentino Alto Adige are held three times a year. In Trento the La Casolara (Cheese Sunday) is held on the first Sunday of Lent in February. Meat was not allowed during lent so the refrain, let them eat cheese comes to mine. The festival offers guided cheese tasting along the the best wines from the Trentino area. In September in Trento is the Strudel, Muscat and Vin Santo Wine Festival where the sweet pasty and sweet wines can be sampled in the cafes, bars and shops throughout town. In April at the Castle Toblino the Nosiola Fair celebrates the celebrated wine grape which must ferment for 5 to 6 years to become the Santo Trentino.

This mountainous region of Italy is best explored by car. If traveling by rail over the Alps from Germany or Austria into Italy, make a stop in Bolzano or Trento, rent a car to explore for a few days then return the car and get back on the train to head for Rome or wherever else you might be going. For organized wine travel tours of the Trentino wine region from Venice or Verona Italian Ways, a tour company based in Riva Del Garda provides wine and gastronomic tours as well as sports and other themes. © Bargain Travel Europe

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