Teroldego Rotaliano: A Red DOC In A Land Of Whites
Finding a remarkable red wine in a “land of whites” is nothing but difficult. Trentino-Alto Adige’s reputation is for sure higher for its Traditional Method sparkling wines and its fresh whites. Along with Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige is the wine region that every Italian white wine lover looks for when it comes to great whites.
This northerly region counts 9 DOCs and 4 IGTs. The most famous one is Trento DOC, which devotes to sparkling wines. We are sure every wine enthusiast has heard about Ferrari produced by Tenuta Lunelli at least ones. Many consider it the best Italian sparkling wine. So if you didn’t taste it yet, we strongly recommend tasting their products. Especially its flagship product, Giulio Ferrari, that lets everyone speechless. Don’t you believe us yet? Well, you would be pleased to know that this product won the gold medal at “The Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championship” in 2019.
You can understand that with a “tough” competitor such as Ferrari it is already quite hard to shine. Especially if you were red wine, you would feel a fish out of the water…However, local winemakers are able to delight red wine drinkers with an indigenous grape variety particularly suitable to the continental climate: Teroldego.
Without any further ado, let’s discover all together this interesting grape variety and the appealing reds that it can renders.
The Grape: Teroldego
Teroldego is a very old variety from Trentino, in north-east Italy. Its wine was first mentioned on 18 January 1480 in Cognola, in a sales contract written in Latin: “Duarum brentarum vini Teroldigi buliti, boni et sufficientis”. The sentence liretally means “two brente (an old measure) of fermented, good, and abundant Teroldego wines”.
Teroldego is very likely to be the Rotaliano plane between Trento and Mezzolombardo, where it has been cultivated for centuries. Indeed, according to Rocador 2006, vineyards were mentioned as far back as the 15th century in a place called “Alle Teroldege”.
Studies based on DNA profiling proved that Teroldego spontaneously crossed at least twice with an extint variety to give birth to Marzemino in Trentino or Lombardia, and to Lagrein in Trentino or Alto Adige (Vouillamoz and Grando, 2006).
Even more surprising, DNA pedigree reconstruction showed that Dureza from the Ardèche, a parent of Syrah, is a “direct sibling” of Teroldego and that both are “grandchildren” of Pinot. This won’t surprise Teroldego drinkers who are familiar with its high acidity levels, very common and distinctive in every Pinot as well.
Therefore, Teroldego is an “uncle/aunt” of Syrah as well as a “grandparent” of Refosco dal Penducolo Rosso.
Nowadays, Teroldego is present also in further south in the Veneto, and west, in Valtellina (under the name Merlina). The Italian Agricultural Census of 2000 recorded total planting of 690 ha. However, the area is decreasing.
These are Teroldego’s viticultural characteristics:
- Mid to late-ripening;
- Vigorous clusters;
- Medium to high tannin levels;
- High acidity levels;
- High alcohol content;
- Slightly sensitive to downy and powdery mildews;
- Highly susceptible to desiccation of the stems;
For those who aren’t familiar with this indigenous grape variety, we would say that its wines can be enjoyed at a young stage as well as after several years of bottle aging. When young, Teroldego wines must be appreciated for its fruity-driven character in which flavors of red wild strawberry swing back and forth laving space for cherry, currant, and blackberry ones. After a decade, fruit flavors are still predominant in the mouth. However, they won’t be young and fresh anymore. Dry plum will be the main driver on the palate. But the nose will develop more complex aromas of tobacco leaves, clove, and black spices.
We recommend buying ten bottles and forget them on the wine cellar for at least five years.
The DOC, Its Styles, And The Best Producers
The wine got the DOC in 1971. As you can see we are talking about a very old wine that can be considered an Italian heritage. They have been able to keep high standard levels since then, as the DOC has never been declassified. Traditionally was trained on a T-shaped double Pergola to take advantage of the vines high hills. But in the last few decades, vine growers have switched to guyot so that they can focus more on the quality, controlling the yields.
By law, Teroldego Rotaliano DOC must come entirely from Teroldego grape. A pure expression of the unique northerly Italian Terroir. The possible styles are Rosso, Rosso Superiore, Rosso Superiore Riserva, and Rosato (Kretzer). The rosè style can surprise for its dark pink color that tends to be almost garnet after some bottle aging. Honestly, we couldn’t spot the differences between this style and a Castel del Monte Bombino Nero Rosato DOCG from Puglia.
The wine jokers’ recommendations:
Teroldego Rotaliano DOC is only one of the countless wines that are underestimated by reviewers and, more often than not, famous wine critics as well. You never have to trust anyone when it comes to wine, or at least don’t let their opinions influence you in a negative way before tasting the wine. The biggest mistake would be to only rely on what someone else says. This could jeopardize your personal development and preclude you the chance to taste excellent products for more affordable prices.
The thing we like the most about wine is that finding new products is as exciting as a treasure hunting. Your personal knowledge might give you the hints you need to find the treasure before everyone else. At least, it should work this way. But sometimes you just visit a region to taste its flagship wines and you end up discovering new interesting ones.
Recently, we went to Piedmont for a wine trip to taste the famous Barolo and Barbaresco. We didn’t expect we could learn something new about this well-known wine region. But we were wrong! Novello gave us a gift called Nas-cëtta. We tasted it, we loved it, we visited all the wineries that make it (only 8…), and we bought as many bottles as possible.
So you guys can see our point now. When it comes to wine, you can find hidden treasures everywhere you go. You just need to be open-minded and embrace the huge diversity of products you can find out there. They are just waiting for you…