Talking about wines matured in clay pot and grapes grown in dual personality regions, we discover some hidden, lesser-known gems of the wine world.
By: Isabelle Kellogg
Posted on: September 8, 2022
Recently, we’ve attended some very interesting and unique wine tastings with the sommelier community, tasting wines from regions that are off-the-beaten path. While discovering these rare, unique wine regions during tastings is exciting and educational, be advised that not all the wines are available at retail, online, or in restaurants and that these recommendations are meant to guide your own wine discoveries.
A picturesque hillside vineyard in Alto Adige.
If your wine preference is Pinot Noir, look to the region of Alto Adige in Italy’s southern Tirol Alps (yes, a little Austrian and Italian), north of Bolzano, for outstanding and exquisite wines made with this grape variety. The region also produces award-winning white wines, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio, so you have options.
Growing conditions are both Alpine and Mediterranean (the region boasts Italy’s hottest temperatures every year!) in this small province and a plethora of grape varieties find a wonderful climate in which to proliferate against a spectacular Alpine landscape. Nearly 100% of all the wines are also DOC certified as superior quality. Oh, and because of the steep hillside vineyards, mostly all grapes are hand-harvested in hundreds of family-owned wineries. Make sure you look for “Alto Adige” on the label!
Wine village of Neustift in Alto Adige.
The Val Venosta Pinot Nero Riserva DOC 2018 Castel Juval Unterorti and Pinot Nero DOC 2017 Barthenau Vigna S. Urbano Tenuta J. Hofstatter were both so enjoyable. Another grape varietal native to the region is Lagrein which is similar to a Pinot Noir. Lagrein Riserva DOC 2018 Taber Cantina Bolzano and Lagrein Reserva DOC 2018 Furggl Peter Zemmer might be difficult to pronounce, but inside the bottle is a wonderful red wine, red fruit forward with a long, elegant finish.
Typical Georgian clay vessels used to mature wines.
On the other side of Europe, sharing its border with Russia, is Georgia, a country which was formerly a Soviet republic and whose capital city is Tbilisi. Considered the “cradle of wine”, archaeologists have traced the world's first known wine creation back to the people of the South Caucasus in 6,000 BC. At that time, early Georgians discovered they could turn grape juice into wine by burying it underground in huge, egg-shaped clay jugs placed below ground level for storage and maturation, a practice which continues today. Be advised that many wines have distinct flavor profiles and run the gamut from dry to semi-sweet and slightly medicinal with the addition of quinine and their maturation in the Qvervi clay vessels, which also render the wines amber color.
There are more than 500 native grape varieties and hundreds of wine growing areas throughout Georgia, and we sampled four. Mukado Mtsvane Qvervi 2014 is an unfiltered, dry amber wine redolent of quince, dry fruits with a hint of beeswax. Rkatsiteli Qvervi Umano 2019 (CGW) is an amber dry white wine made from 100% Rkatsiteli grapes, the most common white wine grape varietal in Georgia. Wine Man Kisi/Khikhvi 2020 is a dry white wine with intense flavors of tropical fruits and quince. Brothers Khutsishvili Saperavi 2016 is a red wine with a more European, international style full of ripe cherry and dried fruit aromas and flavors, with a long and velvety finish.
Georgian clay wine vessels are stored below ground like these to let the wine mature.
For those who are adventurous wine drinkers, there will be hits and misses. Consider how vast the world’s wine growing region is and be curious about wines from other regions and countries. Experiment and continue to have an open mind. Besides, wine tastings are a good excuse to gather together with friends from time to time.
In addition to a career in communications and marketing focused on the luxury lifestyle sector, including co-authoring and lecturing a case study on French heritage jeweler Mauboussin with Harvard Business School, Isabelle continues to share her experiences about fine art, wine, travel, jewelry and culture as a freelance writer for internationally based digital publications.