September 25, 2019

Trentino Alto Adige: High on the Dolomites

Words: Michèle Shah

The majestic range of Alpine mountains, situated in northeastern Italy, reachable from above the city of Bolzano in the region of Trentino Alto Adige, are among those wonders of the world, not to be missed.  The Dolomites, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites is mountain range of 18 peaks which rise to above 3,000 metres, featuring breathtaking vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys.  This is where you will find some outstanding mountain viticulture.

As a travel destination, Trentino-Alto Adige’s proximity to the Dolomites provides one with a choice of top ski resorts with alpine trekking in summers.  It also boasts the highest density of excellent eating in Italy, including three starred Michelin restaurants, all within a radius of 15km and each annexed to traditional ‘gemutlich’ hotels.   Spectacular vineyards producing fine wines make it one of the few regions to provide such a wide choice of hedonist pleasures.

Trentino (the province of Trento) and Alto Adige (the more northerly province of Bolzano, also known as the South Tyrol or Südtirol, bordering Austria, unified to Italy in 1919, after World War I, share a range of fragrant white wines and German-accented syllables. Both Trentino and the Alto Adige produce notable amounts of the popular Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon, as well as Pinot Bianco, and Riesling.  While the more aromatic Müller-Thurgau,  Moscato, Sylvaner and Gewürztraminer, which is said to take its name from Alto Adige village of Tramin, can be enticingly perfumed and unexpectedly ageworthy.

Winemaking in Alto Adige (Florian Andergassen)

One main distinction between Trentino and Alto Adige is that production in Alto Adige comes mainly from small family-owned estates that sell their wines locally with limited exports to Germany and Austria. Trentino on the other hand counts on a large number of growers, members of large cooperatives, such as Cavit and Mezzacorona. These popular wines have found their niche, both in Italy and abroad, among wine drinkers who look for reasonably good and affordable wines for daily enjoyment.

Alto Adige is divided by its waterways, the Adige River and the Isarco River, thus creating two valleys. The vineyards are dotted around the banks of the rivers rising from an altitude of 200 to 1,000 metres into the hills. Bolzano to Trento is an easy 60km and indications are well sign posted with good restaurants, hotels and excellent wineries on the way.

If you are a keen skier take a few days off to ski in the Dolomites at San Cassiano, a picturesque 70 km drive northeast of Bolzano.  In this way descending from the Dolomites make your first stop at Abbazia di Novacella, one of the most northern vineyards in Italy.  This 1142 Augustinian Abbey is a fascinating intrigue of vineyards and monastery, producing classy Sylvaner, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and Riesling with zesty acidity due to the altitude of the vines at 870 metres.

Cooperatives in Trentino-Alto Adige, go as far back as the Hapsburg Empire and are quite common representing the lion’s share of production. Cooperative farming in Trentino-Alto Adige played a fundamental role, its success stems from the necessity to create an effective economic system for the region’s fragmented farming industry, including that of viticulture, the average grape grower owns little more than 1ha, and most vineyards rise up the mountainsides as spectacular steep terraced vineyards, some still using the ‘pergola’ system.

Alto Adige delights (Marion Lafogler)

Cantina Terlano, a cooperative founded in 1893, just above Bolzano at Terlano is one of the best expressions of ‘heroic vineyards’ in Alto Adige producing exquisite white wines, in particular its Pinot Blanc from the terraced Vorberg vineyards. Well worth the drive to visit the vineyards above Terlan.  Cantina Caldaro another model cooperative with vineyards overlooking Lake Caldaro, the perfect area to samples the region’s local red varieties such as Lagrein, a deep garnet red, with round soft tannins and a lighter Schiava or St Maddalena which is 90% Schiava and 10% Lagrein.

In the area of Lake Caldaro it is certainly worth visiting Count Michael Graf Goéss-Enzenberg  ‘eco-sensitive’ Manincor winery producing excellent Pinot Noir, Moscato Giallo and Moscato Rosa.  Travelling a short journey further south to the village of Magré, Alois Lageder’s picturesque Löwengang winery, built in 1995 in accordance with strict environmental and ecological criteria is definitely worth a visit, where you can relax at Vineria Paradeis on the old village square and enjoy anything form a good glass of wine to light meal.
Il ARUNDA Talento Metodo Classico Extra Brut

Between Caldaro and Magré be sure to visit Martin Foradori’s Hostätter, one of Alto Adige’s historic estates established in 1907 in Termeno (Tramin), especially to experience the zesty aromatic Gewurtztraminer of Tramin, his majestic single vineyard Pinot Noir Barthenau, Vinga S. Urbano and local Lagrein.  Bolzano is one of Alto Adige’s top areas for red wines.  The surrounding chain of mountains creates a perfect microclimate characterized by warm summers protecting the vines, giving good ripeness.

As we reach Trentino the wineries Endrizzi at San Michele all’Adige and Elisabetta Foradori’s biodynamic estate at Mezzolombardo, close to each other are a very good introduction to the area’s distinctive red indigenous Teroldego, characterized by it’s deep granite hue and soft tannins. Suggest you call before visiting.

Trentino, which pioneered sparkling wine making by the classic method early in the century, has retained its leading position and these sparklers are now grouped under Trentodoc appellation. They are predominantly Chardonnay based, and the extensive amounts of Chardonnay in Trentino’s vineyards reflects the importance of this production.  A visit to Ferrari, one of the oldest sparkling estates is a real eye-opener to premium Italian sparkling wines.

South of Trento two distinctively different estates show up for the quality of their wines.  The first near Volano is home to Eugenio Rosi, a controversial, yet authentic production of the indigenous Marzemino wine and slightly further south near Avis is the San Leonardo estate, home to one of Italy’s premium Bordeaux style blends. Suggest you call before visiting.

My perfect day in the Dolomites


Stay and Breakfast at Hotel Pacherhof in Novacella. Visit the Abby of Novacella and enjoy a wine tasting of winemaker Urban von Klebelsberg’s mineral whites the Abbey’s Enoteca. Drive south 65 km to Cantina Terlano in Terlano, especially good for mineral white wines from their Praepositus range characterized by depth and minerality. Ask for Judith Unterholtzner marketing assistant. They also have a good shop where you can purchase wines of current vintages and backdated vintages. Take a drive above Terlano to the Vorberg vineyards.


Drive 10km south to Appiano and have a light lunch at Enoteca Pillhof. If the weather is good they have a wonderful courtyard for al fresco eating. The wine list is extensive and you can choose from a good range of local wines even by the glass. The cuisine is local and changes according to the season and local ingredients.


Drive a short 8km to Lake Caldaro and visit the vineyards around the lake. Visit Manincor estate, or if you wish to stock up on wines take a visit to Cantina Caldaro’s ‘Winecenter’, a large shop and tasting room on several floors. Here you can explore their entire range of wines. Especially good for red wines: Lagrain, Pinot Noir and the lighter Schiava – a light and versatile wine. 25km further south visit Hofstatter in Termeno, one of Alto Adige’s premium wineries but also with a good range of entry-level wines. Be sure to taste the Gewurtztraminer, which is said to originate from Termeno. Excellent Pinot Noir Barthenau and Mazzon.


Drive 5km from Termeno to Cortaccia and stay at the Turmhotel Schwarz Adler and soak in the South Tyrolian atmosphere and hospitality. Also has a spa and gourmet restaurant. If you wish to dine out try Gasthaus “Zur Rose”, serving gourmet and seasonal traditional dishes cooked in a modern and light twist with good local wine list.

Where to stay, eat and shop


Hotel Rosalpina, San Cassiano (BZ)

Relais & Chateaux hotel and spa and individually styled rooms some with fireplaces, lots of use of light pinewood, balconies with views of dolomites, great place for relaxing and skiing. Excellent food at the Wine Bar & Grill or the two starred Michelin restaurant St Hubertus.

Annual gourmet ski safari and wine ski safari organized on skis at an altitude of over 2000 metres by

Schwarz Adler Turmhotel, Cortaccia (BZ)

Cozy Tyrolean style hotel with 24 rooms well situated with nice views over the vineyards and mountains. Good for a stop over and has a spa and gourmet restaurant.

PacherHof, Novacella (BZ)

Friendly Tyrolean style hotel with an excellent spa and an outside infinity pool with great views over vineyards, Novacella Abbey and the dolomites. Comfortable place for a stop-over with the possibility of dining in the old ‘stube’ where they also serve an excellent breakfast. Pacherhof also has its own winery and wines.

Hotel America, Trento (TN)

Centrally located, clean and functional hotel in Trento with good parking possibilities. The historical centre of Trento is full of character, in particular the main Cathedral square. Trento is also a good place for shopping.


St Hubertus, Hotel Rosalpina, San Cassiano (BZ)

Superb gourmet 2 star Michelin restaurant with Chef Norbert Niederkofler at the helm and head sommelier Christian Rainer who has a magnificent wine list of 1900 labels. Norbert’ research and culinary style, is deeply rooted in the use of local seasonal quality products sourced from local organic farmers who farm according to Norbert’s specifications. His essence, as he likes to put it, is ‘back to roots and pure flavours’.

La Siriola, Hotel Ciasa Solares, San Cassiano (BZ)

La Siriola, one star Michelin Restaurant, just two kilometers outside San Cassiano is housed in the Ciasa Salares Hotel. Chef Matteo Metullio, age 25 is Italy’s youngest star-studded chef. La Siriola offers four tasting menus, each one themed to local traditional fare or to a more daring intermingling of flavours and ingredients. Matteo’s creative streak is well balanced in texture and flavors and is what makes his cuisine tantalizingly appealing.

Gasthaus “Zur Rose”, Cortaccia (BZ)

Cozy wood paneled two room restaurant takes one back to another era, where one can relax and dine by candlelight, savouring some of Alto Adige’s traditional dishes, today prepared in a lighter fashion. Good wine list and romantic atmosphere. Good value.

Enoteca Pillhof, Appiano (BZ)

Pleasant atmosphere, whether eating outside al fresco or in the inviting wine bar which has some smaller areas for more intimate dining. Impressive selection of wines and very tasty dishes, excellent selection of cheeses and local cured meats. Good value.

Ristorante La Cacciatora, Mezzocorona (TN)

This very local restaurant is always busy. The food and the service are good even on the busiest of Sunday’s. Main dishes are the local cured meats, followed by risotto or pasta, hearty meat dishes and home made desserts. Menus change regularly. Good value.

Ristorante Scrigno del Duomo (TN)

Fantastic location on the main Piazza del Duomo in Trento. Creative gourmet food prepared with fresh seasonal ingredients. Good place to stop for a light lunch or a romantic dinner. Good value for lunch.


Vinum Alto Adige in the centre of Bolzano, has a great assortment of wines that they will on request ship to a number of countries.

Enoteca Grado 12, Largo G. Carducci, 12 Trento in the centre of Trento a well-reputed wine shop with a selection of 1500 lables and good selection of olive oils. (no website)

Fact file (based on Federdoc 2013 stats)

Planted area

The region vineyards cover 13,137.00 hectares

Grape varieties

Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Bianco, Riesling. Müller-Thurgau, Moscato, Sylvaner Riesling, Gewürztraminer. Lagrein, Teroldego, Marzemino, Schiava, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc.


Yearly wine production is 958,000 hectoliters - 45% white, 55% red


Either fly to Verona and rent a car and drive up to Trento then Bolzano. It is 150km from Verona to Bolzano and about 97km from Verona to Trento. Or fly direct to Bolzano. There are plenty of flights from London to Verona, fewer to Bolzano. Ryanair flies to Treviso (near Venice) which is 134km

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