Dynamic and Terroir-Driven: Trentino, Italy is the Wine Region of the Year | Wine Enthusiast's 2020 Wine Star Awards | Wine Enthusiast
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Dynamic and Terroir-Driven: Trentino, Italy is the Wine Region of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Wine Star Awards

Making up the southern half of the Trentino-Alto Adige region in northern Italy, the Trentino province makes world-class wines. About an hour’s drive from Verona and surrounded by the majestic Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s one of the most beautiful areas in the country.

Celebrated for its pristine ski slopes, breathtaking hiking trails, cycling routes and dramatic scenery, Trentino is also one of the most dynamic, multifaceted wine-producing areas in Italy. It makes quality, terroir-driven wines from both international and regional grapes, as well as one of the country’s most renowned bottle-fermented sparklers.

Counting 25,232 acres of vines, the province accounts for 1.6% of the nation’s vineyard area. Despite its relatively small size, the U.S. is Trentino’s number one export market, representing 51% of the territory’s exports in terms of value.

White grapes dominate its wine scene. Pinot Grigio is the leader, comprising 34% of overall grape production followed by Chardonnay at 26% and Müller-Thurgau at 10%. Other white varieties include Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco and Nosiola. For red wine production, Teroldego, Merlot, Marzemino and Pinot Nero are the main grapes followed by Schiava, Lagrein and Cabernet Sauvignon.

These varieties form the backbone of the region’s principal denomination, Trentino Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). Thanks to the influence of the nearby mountains, Trentino’s still wines boast freshness and finesse.

The province is also home to Trento DOC, a denomination entirely devoted to the production of bottle-fermented sparklers. Fragrant, savory and loaded with elegance, these wines are credited as Italy’s first metodo classico bottlings. Its roots date back to the early 1900s when pioneer Giulio Ferrari realized the area’s extraordinary potential for sparkling wine production and began cultivating Chardonnay.

Toasting glasses in Trentino
Photo courtesy Istituto Trento DOC

Today, the main grapes in this mountain sparkler are Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, although Pinot Bianco and Pinot Meunier can also be used. Chardonnay lends fragrance and longevity while Pinot Nero provides structure and finesse.

A DOC-regulated wine since 1993, 57 metodo classico producers are part of the Istituto Trento DOC and use the collective Trentodoc trademark. These wines are defined, in part, by their unique growing area.

On midmountain slopes 656–2,952 feet above sea level, the pure mountain air, high-altitude vineyards and plenty of sunlight generates hot days and cool nights during the growing season that encourage optimum grape ripening.

This ideal maturation generates enticing aromas, pronounced flavors and bright acidity. Even though mandatory aging on the lees ranges from 15 months for Brut, 24 months for Millesimato and 36 months for Riserva, nearly all producers age their wines for far longer, even up to 10 years.

Currently, 12% of Trentino’s vineyards are certified organic. The area has recently become one of the leaders in Italy when it comes to using integrated farming methods. To protect the environment, farmers and consumers, most of Trentino’s growers and wineries have adopted this approach and limit the use of chemical treatments in the vineyards as much as possible. In 2016, the Consorzio Vini del Trentino embarked on the certification process for integrated grape production regulated under the Integrated Production National Quality System (SQNPI). In 2019, over 90% of Trentino’s grape production was certified.

For its long history of quality wines, recent achievements and commitment to sustainability, Wine Enthusiast is proud to recognize Trentino as its Wine Region of the Year. —Kerin O’Keefe