For a few years now, the Alto Adige wine region in northeastern Italy has been a darling of mine. With a cooler climate than the rest of the heated Italian countrysides, the Pinot Grigios taste crisper, the eclectic reds are more refined and they grow a whole slew of interesting grapes from this rich, historic soil.
Lagrein [LA grin] is one of these varieties. Native to Alto Adige [al-TO ah DEE zhay] with Syrah as a relative, this grape is rare like seeing Charlie Sheen’s good side. And typically as astringent. With naturally high acids (similar to Chianti’s Sangiovese) and deep color, the medium-bodied flavor is reminiscent of plums, black cherry and leathery tannins.
But winemaker Elena Walch doesn’t stand for tannins that take over. Her 2010 LaGrein is elegant, sophisticated and fruity… dry, flavorful and friendly. Think blackberries after a summer rain, ripe cherries at peak season, fresh black pepper from the grinder and a hint of a soft, new leather bag. Drinks magnificently with food but also alone. And at 12.7% alcohol, won’t knock you on your butt. Her website.
Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Occasion: Tried at a restaurant, where I paid $24 for the bottle.
Availability: On restaurant wine lists mostly but you might get lucky at a high-end retailer.
Food pairing: Slow roasted meats like beef or pork, tomato-and-meat based Italian food, salty hard cheeses.