The Dolomites is known for its wonderful skiing but when you're off the slopes, make sure you try the local wines, or others from along the Alpine stretch of northern Italy if you choose a different destination...

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This is an edited version of a feature on Alpine Wines, by Simon Reilly, in the Decanter Italy guide 2017. Edited for Decanter.com by Ellie Douglas, with an added section on suggestions for places to eat.

What wines to try when skiing in the Dolomites

The expanse of Italy’s Alpine region, and the merging of cultures created by its mountain borders with France, Switzerland and Austria, results in a great diversity of wine styles. Yet the dramatic landscape they share brings similarities too.

Italy’s best Alpine wines all offer freshness, minerality, acidity and complexity in abundance. Plus, we recommend the local restaurants to try.

Native grapes

Italy’s Alpine regions are a great source of little-known but interesting native varieties.

Nosiola

Found in Trentino-Alto Adige, this white grape was traditionally seen as a blending variety was almost extinct in the early 1970s, when Giuseppe Fanti decided to start bottling a 100% Nosiola wine in the foothills of the Dolomites.

Neighbouring estate Pojer e Sandri then resuscitated an old Nosiola vineyard and did the same thing. Both continue to make excellent 100% Nosiola wines today.

Dry Nosiola is fresh and acidic, with nutty flavours, such as almonds and walnuts, plus floral aromas.

Erbaluce

Although further west from the Dolomites, the DOCG of Caluso near Turin uses Erbaluce to make dry table wines with taut acidity and great minerality, excellent traditional, Champagne-method sparkling wines, and delicious late-harvest passitos.

Caluso producers of fine Erbaluce (in all three formats) to look out for include: Cella Grande, La Masera, Cieck and Orsolani.



Vespolina

Indigenous reds to look out for include Vespolina and Croatina grown in Piedmont and Lombardy, which are both are used in blends.

Vespolina is particularly evident in Nebbiolo based blends due to its northern Rhône Syrah-style spiciness.

Many of these blends are produced under the Coste della Sesia and Colline Novaresi DOCs. Good examples come from Proprietà Sperino, Tenute Sella, Pietro Cassina and Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo.

Vernatsch

Fans of Gamay from Beaujolais and the Loire should enjoy the light juiciness of Vernatsch, an indigenous red variety found in Alto Adige.

Sometimes called Trollinger, the wines from this grape are light bodied with red fruit flavours.

Lagrein

Lagrein is another interesting variety, indigenous to Alto Adige.

It is a more powerful and potentially serious proposition than Vernatsch, with some well-structured wines on offer, particularly at the riserva level.



Skiing in the Dolomites: Where to eat

Michele Shah recommends heading for lunch at Enoteca Pillhof in her Alto Adige travel guide.

‘Dine al fresco in the courtyard. The wine list is extensive and features a good range of local wines, many by the glass. The cuisine is local and changes according to the season.’

For dinner, she suggests booking a table at Gasthaus Zur Rose, for traditional cooking and a good local wine list.

If it’s Michelin dining you’re after, St Hubertus restaurant at the Rosa Alpina Hotel is described as ‘elegant and majestic’ by Michelin. Also is convenient if you’re skiing at the part of the Alta Badia resort, in the Dolomites.

Extracts taken from the Decanter Italy guide 2017. Edited for Decanter.com by Ellie Douglas. 

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