Wine cooperatives in Italy are often considered to be synonymous with low quality wines. While this is true of some cooperatives, it is an inaccurate perception of the quality of the wines from some of the best known ones. Nonetheless, many people shy away from these cooperatives and it’s a real shame. There are two or three stand-out examples that come to mind that are the exceptions to the rule and many people luckily know of their existence: Cantina San Michele Appiano, Cantina Produttori di Termeno, and the Sardinian winery called Santadi are a few that come to mind.
Each of these cooperatives is strongly linked to the success of their particular region. San Michele Appiano, a cooperative in the Alto Adige region of Italy, just celebrated its 100 year birthday in 2007. It was created in June 1907 and now has 355 members with 350 hectares of vineyards.
The long standing enologist is Hans Terzer, a Germanic type who I met recently at Vinitaly and who is credited by many with making the right choices-to produce quality wines and not bulk wine early on. Cooperative wineries have a long history in this small region of Italy. San Michele can guarantee a consistency that would be difficult for a small wine maker to match because of their more limited resources. In terms of its production, San Michele produces 2.6 million bottles. The winery has three lines: Classic Line, Cru Line and Sanct Valentin.
Last night I drank the 2007 Pinot Grigio with a delicious plate of pasta with shrimp and tomatoes at the home of some Italian friends in New York.
The wine was dry with citrus notes and hints of minerality. It had crisp acidity and worked well with both the light pasta we were eating and the more robust cheese that followed.
Earlier this month, I tried the Sanct Valentin 2006 Chardonnay at a restaurant in my neighborhood, Picnic. It was full bodied with lemon, buttery and nutty flavors on the nose and the palate. The use of oak was evident but not disturbing albeit not 100% integrated either. The wine had a long and round finish. I paired it with a delicious Alsatian tart on the menu that I would highly recommend.
Wines from San Michele always catch my eye both for their quality and their prices. I am never disappointed. Check out San Michele’s website, http://www.stmichel.it.