Nostalgia, Muller Thurgau from Colterenzio and Great Passito

I used to be long on nostalgia but as I get older, I actually find it kind of a drag. The past is the past and wallowing in it makes the present go by that much quicker. This, however, does not apply for wines that I have tried. I will never forget certain wine moments and love to go back over them incessantly. Cleaning through my files, I found my first serious wine note ever from 1997 about a Muller Thurgau from Colterenzio that I tasted as part of my first Italian wine class in 1997. My classes at the Istituto di Cultura del Vino were given by Umberto Lucio Amore. I had never seen anyone quite like him and his approach to wine. I remember blushing in class as he described his passion for wine in terms usually used for people. He had a long handle-bar mustache which made the experience somewhat surreal. I decided to try to find this wine at Vinitaly last month and lo and behold I did.


Colterenzio is a cooperative that was created in 1960 by 28 farmers looking to work together to cultivate their vines and sell their wines. Today, there are 290 growers working 300 hectares. The winery is located in a town called Cornaiano, just south of Bolzano. The terroir in this area is a mix of schist left over from the glaciers and clay. Alto Adige is blessed with some wonderfully warm microclimes thanks to many hours of sunlight and constant protection from the wind thanks to the nearby mountains. The vines at Colterenzio grow anywhere from 250 to 600 meters above sea level.


I tried the Muller Thurgau 2008 out of a sense of duty. Nice acidity and white fruit but it wasn’t anything truly special. It didn’t speak to me. Instead, I found two of their products which really caught my interest, a Moscato Rosa Passito 2006 and a Gewurztraminer Passito 2006. Wow. The Moscato was charming and perfumy with rose and strawberry notes, perfect for chocolate. Made from 100% Moscato Rosa grown at 450 meters, this wine goes through a short cold maceration and fermentation. Part of the grapes used in this wine are allowed to raisin naturally. The two separate lots are eventually blended together after fermentation. The yields are very low, just 12 hl/ha. A really interesting find in my book. The Gewurtraminer passito, on the other hand, blew me away. I think it may have been one of the best sweet wines that I tried at Vinitaly, which is saying something because I tried over 50. I am a true sweet wine fanatic. This wine called Canthus 2006 was rich, full-bodied and elegant with spicy notes typical of this variety as well as exotic fruit. The wine is made from 100% Gewurtraminer grapes which are harvested in late September and then dried in small wooden crates until January. From January to March, the grapes are pressed by hand. Part of the juice ferments in stainless steel while the other portion ferments in large wooden barrels. The lots remain separate for six months and are then blended together before bottling. A truly striking find and it made my trip down memory lane quite worthwhile. Colterenzio wines are imported by Vintage, a division of Empire Merchants.

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