Two weeks ago I had the chance to visit the region of Trentino-Alto Adige as a guest of the only winery in the Terlano village, Cantina Terlano. As soon as we landed in Verona, an assigned driver was expecting a group of Londoners to bring them up to the Dolomites. One hour and a half drive and the old Sud-Tirolese started narrating the history of this region, the reasons that led to the unification with Italy and not Austria. Quite fascinated by his knowledge, I could tell that his fluent Italian was strongly influenced by the German language, or the local ‘Ladino’. He was the perfect tourist guide, as quite often he would stop to explain the history of the castles we were leaving behind and how the Adige River finds its way to the Adriatic Sea.
Upon arrival Martina from Cantina Terlano was waiting for us for a big lunch with the Terlano wines flowing, and soon after we found ourselves walking towards the winery which is situated literally in the middle of the village. We were surrounded by apple orchards and vineyards, all perfectly pruned and looked after. The harvest was almost reaching its end, but the cellar was still very busy. Once we entered the Terlano offices, the smell of the ferments was immediately noticeable and it was then that Klaus Gasser, the Sales & Marketing Director came to greet us, leaving Philipp his assistant to show us around and promising he would be our guide tomorrow in the vineyards.
The winery is simple in style, well structured, and in-keeping with the village’s architecture. Even during this hectic harvest period, it was meticulously tidy. Soon I found myself surrounded by hoses, tanks and barrels and finally on my way down to the room where 100.000 bottles are kept as a library that date back to the 1955 vintage (some bottles are even older). A tasting was set up for the whole group at the winery’s big tasting room, from the huge window of which one can only see Terlano’s famed Neuhaus castle (Nova Domus), which is also depicted on the winery’s logo.
The tasting started with the core range of Cantina Andrian and Terlano (including the fantastic Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio), side by side, moved to the Selection wines, such as Terlaner Classico, Vorberg, Quarz, and Porphyr and finished with the exceptionally rare Rarita’ 1991 (100% Pinot Bianco aged on lees for 25 years) and the Terlaner I Grand Cuvee, a blend of Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, which expresses the pure soul and longevity of Terlano’s wines. The grapes of the latter are sourced from the historical vineyards of Vorberg, Kreuth and Winkl.
Our visit to Terlano didn’t finish there, as a dinner was prepared later in the evening, in one of the region’s 23 Michelin starred restaurants. There the local cuisine (speck, canederli, wild boar, pasta) meets the most contemporary gastronomic techniques. And as our first day in Alto Adige finished with the sip of coffee and grappa, the next day started with the whole group wandering and hiking up in the famous vineyards, until we reached the steepest ones at an altitude of 900m. The view from there was utterly stunning and the morning chill and fresh air of the Dolomites reinvigorating, although not advised for ‘vertigo’ sufferers. Beautiful Guyot shaped vines of Pinot Bianco sat next to the old, traditional pergola-trained vines, which have grown here for thousands of years on a red, subvolcanic, quartz soil and complete the scenery of the Terlano area.
Descending from the highest vineyards, we were taken for a visit to Bolzano (Bozen for the locals), the capital of Alto Adige and later in the evening we were back again on the road to Verona, for our return to London. Cantina Terlano offered us this trip to their home and we came back full of knowledge, respect for the growers’ hard work and appreciation for this unique terroir and product.