Monday, October 28, 2013
The mountains of Alto Adige around Bolzano produce some of the prettiest scenery and best wines in the world. Cortaccia winery, a top-quality co-op, invited me to participate in one of its programs that makes the best of both. One day each month, they invite customers from near and far to take a somewhat scary ride to the top of a prominent escarpment and drink their way down, guided through vineyards and on trails to drink four different wines beside the vineyards where the grapes for each wine were grown. They are accompanied by someone from the winery who carries the bottles in his backpack, in my case wine expert Michael Anrather. "Where we are starting, at about 850 meters in the village of Graun, we had snow last week," Anrather tells me as we drive up mountain tracks. As with most wine trails in Alto Adige - also called the Sud Tirol, there are stations of the cross leading the faithful through the mountains to ancient churches in the highland villages. In our case, I think, we are enjoying stations of the glass - the first one a Muller-Thurgau grown at Graun. Anrather pauses for a view from above the filtering clouds. By the time we get to the second station of the glass, we have descended through a cleft in the cliffs and are at the small village of Hofstatt, where Anrather tests the wine - a 2012 Hofstatt Weissburgunder or Pinot Bianco - while we read the sign that tells its origin. It is delicious, with lots of chalk and acidity to balance the floral and creamy notes and the crisp-apple fruitiness. It is by far the best wine I have ever tasted while taking a arduous, if downhill, hike. Anrather recorks the bottle, and we are ready to move on - still high above the valley floor and two more stations to go.