Where Müller Thurgau meets pasta: Trentino
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
7 November 2015
As the early autumn sun set, Massimo Tarter, general director of Cantina d’Isera at Via al Ponte, 1 in Isera (Trento), served tasty local charcuterie and cheeses. Following a tour of his vineyard, visiting wine writers washed them down easily with some of the best Marzemino enjoyed over a three-day guided press trip to Trentino. Casual elegance, charming owners, delicious food and wine all fit into that positive image any #winelover would have of Italy – as you can see in the video.
Yet Trentino reflects a blend of Germanic and Italian. Nearly 75% of planted vines in this northeastern Italian wine region are of white grapes, increasingly featuring the Müller Thurgau variety.
By the same token, most menus include Germanic foods from Knödel – similar to gnocchi – to Apple Strudel, made from the region’s ubiquitous apples. Such was the discovery of a group of wine writers on a press tour to the region in late September 2015.
Take for example beer, also big in Trentino. One common feature here is the brewery restaurant with comfort foods like hearty pizza. One evening part of our group left an official dinner that turned out to be a rather strange vegetarian affair, with breakfast-like polenta as a starter to purple-coloured (and bland) risotto. We instead ate dinner at Antica Birreria Pedavena, a brewery and pizza joint whose central European décor resembled a Munich Hofbrauhaus.
One afternoon, after a long tasting of Müller-Thurgau a few of us went to the Munich like Forst Brewery and restaurant and tasted a variety of excellent lagers and pilsners – with yummy pretzels.
This cultural blend of cuisine exists as well with more “high brow” dining. Such was exemplified at our first group dinner, at the lovely La Locanda del Passator, where we enjoyed one of the best Müller Thurgau wines of the entire trip: the 2014 vintage made by the cooperative Zanotelli.
While pronounced aromatics do not come to mind when thinking Müller Thurgau, this wine exuded appealing notes of pear, iodine and floral. It was enjoyed with delectable Mezzemaniche con formaggio caprino: firm and tasty short sleeve pasta, with goat cheese and basil and tomato. This crisp Germanic varietal white matched the Italian pasta very well.
That same evening, we enjoyed what may well have been my favourite Spumante of all that we tried that trip – Doss24 Cantina La-Vis e Valle di Cembra – a smooth and fresh blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
It paired very well with a savoury and elegantly presented – in cube form – mix of stewed potatoes and smoked beef from quality producer Salumificio di Casa Largher in Cembra.
La Locanda del Passator has a charming but none too showy interior. Indeed, its website calls it a “minimalist New York style” but the overall impression was one of cosy elegance, with courteous and quick service.
A tasty main course of pork tenderloin roasted with a Calvados based sauce also was well accompanied with the Villa Corniole Cimbro Rosso 2011, a blend of the local grape varieties Teroldego and Lagrein with Merlot.
Another memorable dining experience was lunch at the Osteria a “Le Due Spade” in Trento. Apparently records for this Two Swords restaurant date back to the mid-14th century when it offered hospitality to pilgrims, travellers and dignitaries attending the Council of Trent.
Today the Peterlana family carry on the tradition of hospitality with excellent service and cuisine such as homemade gnocchi with creamy cheese from Trentino, even if the Rotari 28+ sparkler was not as vivacious as others we had sampled in the region during our trip.
The main course of pheasant with lard, chestnut purée with grape sauce of Marzemino went very well with a finely textured and medium bodied Marco Donati Nosiola 2014.
Hearty … and fine
As almost anywhere in Italy, you can find more simple and just as appetizing concoctions in Trentino. Before joining our group of fellow wine writers, as I came rather early, I lunched on my own at Ristorante Antica Trattoria Duo Mori, a charming restaurant that served a typical Italian dish of mushroom-stuffed ravioli with fresh tomatoes. Yes, it tasted as good as it looks – and I want more. Now.
Even though you can find fine handmade pasta anywhere in the world, this hearty dish was so flavourful, the pasta so pleasingly textured and the mushrooms so fresh. A copious salad proved excellent accompaniment, so let’s put it this way: Carb free in Italy is not done easily. Topped off with a super smooth and flavourful cappuccino, the total price was friendly at €21 (about £15).
We went back to more high brow eating for our final dinner on Saturday 26 September, at the gorgeous Casa del Vino restaurant in the charming village of Isera, just after the exemplary wine tasting at the Cantina d’Isera.
One highlight of that dinner was a contentious discussion about the merits of an expensive wine called San Leonardo, a Bordeaux blend made in nearby Avio. While some participants, like myself, were not impressed, others said it was amazing: read about that here.
At this final dinner, we enjoyed a delicately delicious starter of chanterelle mushrooms and beef Carpaccio, which had as fine a texture as excellent flavour, marinated in herbs. It was matched well by a local sparkler. Another part of the meal included yet more sumptuous homemade pasta, in this case ravioli stuffed with … polenta.
All in all, culinary delights made our Trentino trip very pleasurable: from “low brow” hearty pizzas and delicious and varied beers, to more “high brow” fine wine and cuisine.
Many thanks to the people of Trentino and to Michèle Shah who managed the trip.
As evoked in the video: Why yes, we will come back to Trentino!