Winemakers in Alto Adige are championing native varieties after years of planting international varieties. Walter Speller chooses nine top Alto Adige buys.

  • Scroll down to see Walter Speller’s best wines from Alto Adige

At regional standard-bearer Alois Lageder, one of the first wineries in Alto Adige to introduce organics and biodynamics, sustainability and climate change are at the forefront of everything done by father and son team, Alois and Clemens. Clemens tells me that 30 years ago, out of curiosity, his father planted many international varieties, which were, ‘undrinkable’ in Clemens’ own words, because the grapes wouldn’t ripen.

That has changed over the years, and Clemens is now custodian of many experimental barriques, filled with Assyrtiko, Petit Manseng and Chenin Blanc, as well as the almost extinct local white Blatterle. All these whites show great minerality and freshness and it is easy to see their potential future role.

An important source of inspiration for this new generation is doubtlessly Heinrich and Elda Mayr’s estate, Nusserhof. Once situated on the outskirts of Bolzano, real estate has relentlessly encroached on it, but Nusserhof remains a treasure trove of local varieties. Its jewel-like, organic vineyards supply the raw material for Mayr’s beautiful, lithe yet complex white Blatterle.

Mayr, a pioneer in organics and biodynamics, has saved Blatterle from extinction. Still so rare that it has yet to be officially registered, it is illegal to use the name of the grape on the label. Nusserhof circumvents the law by labelling the wine as ‘B….’, which, if anything, shows the absurdity of Italian wine law.

Mayr’s range includes Elda, a beautiful, firm and ageworthy Vernatsch made from 80-year old vines; and a stunning rosé, Lagrein Kretzer. This was once a traditional wine style in Alto Adige, but has since long been given up. It was Nusserhof which, again, gave it a new lease of life.

Best wines from Alto Adige – Nine to try