David had already spent a day in Trento, visiting the sparkling wines makers of the region before spending three days practising blind tasting with largely Italian MW students in Verona. I flew to join him, first passing the previous night in what felt like a luxurious padded cell on the seventh floor of a sort of motel built within Gatwick South called BLOC.
Would I recommend it? Well, if planned train disruptions prevent your Sunday travel, then probably yes… It was a relief to get up in the morning knowing that a three minute ride in the Gatwick shuttle was all that was needed to reach security and a departure lounge. The claustrophobic do need to brace themselves. Ubiquitous grunge – dark greys, browns and sepia – dominates, making the corridors, lifts and rooms dingy and oppressive. My room had a window. Not all do.
David and I met on the busy concourse of Verona station, just in time to purchase Trenitalia tickets and achieve platform 4 when the Bolzano train pulled in. We were in Trento’s Hotel Buon Consiglio in no time, and headed through the fine old city centre to the Piazza del Duomo and supper nearby at the Scrigno del Duomo.
Tap on the arrows below to see some of Trento’s beautifully preserved and finely lit architectural treasures:
It was cold, yes; but the low humidity creates a freshness in contrast to the rawness of the cold snap the UK was experiencing. The following day the light was as clear, and the views of the mountains surrounding the wine regions of Trentino were stunning. Amongst the complex geology, dolomite limestone shone in the sun.
The valley floors were once marshy and malarial, awash with myriad meandering streams fed by alpine torrents. Muche – cows – used to be a big part of the subsistence agriculture, (and of course, transhumance) but now the flat spaces are efficiently drained, and support thousands of acres of fruit trees and vines.
Cantina Cavit at Mezzocorona is a huge producer of sparkling and still wines. comprisong 10 wineries in all. Cooperative working has transformed the region, moving it from hundreds of small inefficient impoverished livestock and subsistence holdings to thousands of hectares of wine and fruit production generating a good livelihood for the many smallholders.
The architecture and the views were stunning. And according to our passionate host, these sparkling wines not only rival Champagne – the limestone sees to this; but the clear mountain light, the day-night temperature variation and the warm air drawn up the valley from Lake Garda make them superior. They were very compelling….
We were kindly entertained for lunch by this generation’s Endrizzi ‘fratelli’ – sister Lisa and brother Daniele at La Cacciatora on the Mezzocorona side of the Adige, just opposite Masetto, before visiting their vineyards and winery in San Michele all’Adige; a long- established, beautifully managed estate high up on the slopes of the mountains.
As darkness fell, we were fortunate also to visit the Fondazione Edmund Mach in nearby San Michele, to meet one of the staff of this prestigious eneology school. Important work being conducted in a very impressive building!
The consorzio for Trentino had arranged our visits, accommodation and local transport, so for once we were free of a car. As Monday is ‘il giorno del reposo’ for Mezzocorona’s ristoranti we walked to a local pizzeria a mile or so down river via a section of the cycle path which runs the length of the Adige from the Brenner Pass to Lake Garda and beyond. (No prizes for guessing which direction is the better for cycling..) It matched any of London cycle superhighways!
The following morning we were collected by Matteo of Pojer and Sandri who took us to perhaps the most innovative local winery whose family had chosen not to be part of the consorzio in order to maintain greater freedom of expression within their wines. Not only wines – fruit vinegars and any amount of distillations. At every turn within the winery and in the vineyards was evidence of experimentation and lateral thinking. I’d never seen a grape washer before! Nor had I ever seen their copies of Dürer prints, dating from the 1500s when Albrecht travelled through the Adige valley, recording the rural life and wine-making of his time. They certainly make interesting wine labels.
At this point we passed into the care of Thomas Augschöll of Sud Tyrol. He collected us from Pojer and Sandri, and drove us to Bolzano, or rather Bolzen (we were moving into the most northerly part of Italy where German is the predominant language, the area having been part of Austria until the post-1WW settlement with Italy). The weather was changing from bright clear sunshine to a prospect of the first winter snow on the last day of November.
We stayed – and ate lunch – at the Hotel Laurin; Thomas then wisked us away to meet a representative of the Alto Adige consortium, and then on to meet Wolfgang at Cantina Tramin, and later supper at an increasingly snowy roadside restaurant, before returning us to Hotel Laurin in Bolzen.
The next morning we drove south once more to Magreid, a beautiful village dominated by the Alois Lageder estate, where we treated to a tour by Paolo Tetzerey, of the exquisite medieval site through cellars and rooms and passages, and its very elegant restaurant. Clemens Lageder kindly joined us for lunch, as preparations for a weeekend celebration for two family birthdays were finalised. Meanwhile the estate’s kitchens also provide lunch for the whole village work force, as well as passing tourists. Lageder is Magreid.
Later in the day we drove to Caldaro, to Kellerei Kaltern, which was not especially photogenic – though the wine labels are! See http://www.winefriend.org for details.
And finally we turned north once more, heading for Bolzen and the train to Verona, where we were booked into the Hotel Sole, which couldn’t be closer to the main station. Its directions include passing along platform 1. Slightly Harry Potterish…
A great location for the traveller – but not for the gourmet grown accustomed to fine food, good company and excellent wine. No matter; we eventually found an indifferent pizzeria nearby – which served to remind us how lucky we are that David’s work involves such enjoyable research!
I returned home via Gatwick the next day while David moved into the fourth phase of his sojourn – an MW outing to the Marche…arriving there by train, of course…