When one thinks of Italian sparkling wine, Trentodoc isn’t usually the first bubbly to come to mind. These relatively unsung “bollicine di montagna” (sparkling wines of the mountains), which earned DOC status in 1993, formidably hold their own alongside Italy’s more prominent sparklers. Trentino-Alto Adige, a German-speaking region in Northeast Italy near the Austrian border, is home to Trentodoc, a denomination of 53 vineyards that produce upwards of 9 million bottles per year, nearly half of which are embossed with a Ferrari label.
It’s impossible to speak of Trentodoc without mentioning Giulio Ferrari, a spumante pioneer in his own right. Following his graduation from a prestigious German wine-making institute, Ferrari apprenticed in Champagne, where he noticed some territorial similarities between France’s most prestigious sparkling wine region and his native Trento, a majestic alpine province nestled into the foothills of the Dolomites. He returned home with some of Champagne’s very own chardonnay vines in tote and got to work, aiming to create an Italian sparkler on par with France’s finest. Sparkling wine had been produced in the region since the 19th century, but in 1902, Ferrari made history, presenting the country’s very first “méthode champenoise”/”metodo classico” from chardonnay. Just four years later, he won a gold medal at the 1906 International Exhibition in Milan, catapulting Italy into a new era of sparkling wine.
Location and Climate
Located in Trentino, Trentodoc wines are primarily comprised of chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot blanc and pinot meunier grapes. Aging regulations require a minimum of 15 months for a Brut, 24 for Millesimato and 36 for Riserva. Grapes are harvested mostly via the pergola method at various altitudes, some of which reach close to 900 meters, and 74 wine communes span the following zones: Valle dell’Adige, Valle di Cembra, Vallagarina, Valle del Sarca, Valsugana and Valli Giudicarie. Though Trentodoc sits at a higher altitude than Champagne, its elevation tempers the latitudinal difference. The rugged terrain’s climate couples the brisk cold from the Dolomite mountains with the mild Mediterranean-like temperatures of Lake Garda, an atmosphere in which the grapes flourish. The soil, rich in calcareous debris, also has a high siliceous component, mostly from limestone, giving the wines their signature minerality.
Wineries to Visit
The Ferrari cantina is living history, and today the third generation of the Lunelli family run the show. Giulio Ferrari had no children of his own, and in 1952, he personally selected Bruno Lunelli, a local wine shop owner, to carry his torch. The impressive operation in Valle dell’Adige shares the brand’s inspiring story through a curated exhibit that includes a display of some old-school winemaking gadgets. Each Ferrari wine has its own flair, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed. The sparklers have not only received dozens of coveted accolades, but they have also been poured at high profile extravaganzas like the Emmy Awards. Ferrari Brut NV is a splendid embodiment of the Trentodoc region with traces of brioche, acid, minerality and a hint of citrus, and the rosè from the classic line is elegant, with strawberry and brioche flavors infused with a touch of almond.
Established in 1974, Cesarina Sforza harvests grapes in both Lavis, part of Valle dell’Adige, as well as in Valle di Cembra, and the vineyard is of particular note for its natural biodiversity. Myriad wild flowers grow freely, contributing to the production cycle and preventing erosion. Each sip of the Aquila Reale Riserva, made from Chardonnay grapes that age on the racks for 90 months, packs a mouthful of personality. From flavors of candied fruit to mineral to yeasty bread crust to florals, the wine is balanced by solid structure, creaminess and a long finish.
Legendary cyclist Francesco Moser founded his eponymous winery in 1979, and his sons tend to the vines today. Perched on a hill in Gardolo (Valle d’Adige) in the direct path of an afternoon breeze that sweeps in from Lake Garda, the winery features a bicycle museum dedicated to the cyclist’s illustrious career. The signature label is 51,151, a Brut made from Chardonnay named after the 1984 world record Francesco set in Mexico City. Also, the Rosé Extra Brut, made solely from pinot noir, is quite pleasant, with a crisp bright strawberry enhanced by a subtle toastiness.
Established in 1982, this small producer in the Valle dell’Adige makes a refreshing Dosaggio Zero millesimato from chardonnay and pinot noir. The result is nuanced acidity and minerality as well as some citrus and light floral notes that all fuse together harmoniously on the palate. The name Revì is an homage to the territory, which, according to legend, once cultivated a vine so exquisite, its fruit was used for royal wine (“re vin” means “king vine”).
One of the newest arrivals on the Trentodoc scene, brothers Giorgio and Andrea Romanese established their micro-cantina in 2010. The Lagorai Dosaggio Zero is made from chardonnay grapes harvested on the slopes of the wine’s namesake mountain chain, then aged under the waters of Lake Levico in Valsugana for 500 days. Currently, 2,000 bottles lay 20 meters deep at a consistent temperature of 8° C, and they will be fished out in October 2020. The wine is quite distinct with refreshing acidity and herbal notes as well as a long mineraly finish.
While I didn’t make it to Letrari’s winery in Vallagarina, I did get to sample the +4 Rosè, a 28-month-aged cuvèe comprised of chardonnay and pinot noir that has undergone a brief maceration on its skin. The result: an elegant kaleidoscope of red fruits, round creaminess and tinges of spice. Feminine down to its gold mesh sheath, +4 Rosè is a nod to the new (all female) generation of the family business.
Where to Stay
Set up shop in Trentino’s capital Trento, a charming Alpine city that while, unmistakably Italian, boasts some alluring Austrian influences from the architecture to the food to everywhere in between. Piazza del Duomo is flanked by a spectacular 13th century Romanesque-Gothic Church as well as frescoed Renaissance-era facades. As you stroll the enchanting streets, keep an eye out for Roman ruins.
Book a room at the NH Trento in the Le Albere, an eco-sustainable district inaugurated in 2012 designed by esteemed Italian architect Renzo Piano. Le Albere is also home to MUSE (Museum of Science), a five-floor funhouse that tells the history of the Dolomites and features several interactive media displays.
Where to Eat
Ferrari’s two-star Michelin restaurant is set in a contemporary country house among the winery’s sprawling vines. As of July, Edoardo Fumagalli, a young chef who honed his talent at Daniel in New York and Taillevent in Paris, helms the kitchen, crafting refined dishes that showcase the local bounty and pair exquisitely with Trentodoc sparklers. Those in search of a less formal repast can book a table in the Veranda bistro – same chef, different fare.
Jutting out from a hill over the emerald Valsugana landscapes, the 10th-century Castel Pergine is both a hotel and restaurant with sweeping panoramas of the gorgeous surroundings. The dining room feels both regal and cozy, and the cuisine demonstrates a thoughtful take on classic Trentino fare such as tender squid-ink crusted turbot with saffron mustard and creamy risotto with Salmerino and asparagus.
Scrigno del Duomo
Located footsteps from Trento’s spectacular cathedral, Scrigno del Duomo features a wine bar and bistro on the ground floor and an enchanting restaurant on the subterranean level that juxtaposes Roman ruins with 10th-century frescos. The fusilli with tuna ragu is a must.
Side Trip: Val di Fassa
It would be blasphemous to be so close to the UNESCO-protected Dolomites and not venture into the heart of these mountains. While this branch of the Southern Alps is a skier’s paradise come winter, these striking pale limestone peaks provide an idyll backdrop for a splendid summer sojourn.
Head to Val di Fassa, check in the rustic-chic Hotel Cesa Tyrol in Canazei and then take your pick from an array of summer sports: trekking, climbing, horse trekking, paragliding, cycling and more. Book “Chef per aria” dinner in a funivia, or a ski gondola, that takes you up to the slopes for some live entertainment, crowd-pleasing local fare and astounding views.
To relax, unwind in the natural spring waters of the QC Terme, or, if you really could use a pampering, book a spa treatment. Round it all out with a stop at Caseificio Sociale, a cheesemaker using local Fassa milk to produce a number of delights, like Cuor di Fassa, a semi-hard fragrant cheese. Here, you can also pick up some excellent edible souvenirs and gifts such as salume, jams, juices, sweets and more.
Jaclyn DeGiorgio is a Milan-based food, wine and travel journalist as well as a local food tour guide, and she holds WSET Level Three certification. Follow her adventures in Milan and beyond on her blog, A Signorina in Milan, or on Instagram at @jaclyndegiorgio.