Cantina Terlan Chardonnay 2016

Tropical, lively and clean. Translucent straw yellow colour, intense, fresh aromas of tropical fruit such as banana, passion fruit and mango with hints of lemon and fresh flowers, light and fresh on the palate with high acidity and a clean finish with reoccurring notes of banana and passion fruit.

Food pairings: with a light structure and intense acidity this wine is best paired with light seafood, vegetable or pasta dishes. Some examples include: lobster linguini, quiche, fried zucchini flower stuffed with ricotta cheese.

The wine-making village of Cantina Terlan in South Tyrol, Alto Adige
The wine-making village of Cantina Terlan in South Tyrol, Alto Adige

Cantina Terlan is the leading wine growers’ cooperative in South Tyrol with 143 growers, 170 hectares and 1.5 million bottles a year. South Tyrol is found in Alto Adige, Italy’s most northern region and one of its smallest. Sharing a border with Austria and Switzerland, this region is characterised by the high tops of the Alps and the Dolomiti mountain ranges, which reach over 3,000 meters above sea level and drop into lush valleys where the river Adige flows through. The Terlano vineyards range between 250-900 meters above sea level with mountainous soils of red porphyry rock and a cool, continental climate, perfect conditions for the regions light and expressive white wines which are gaining attention in international markets.

The facilities at Cantina Terlan

While evidence has been found of wine making in the region even before the Roman Empire, this cooperative wasn’t formed until 1893. Before the wines in this region were heavily influenced by the German region of Rheingau, and many grape varietals from Germany and France where brought over to be cultivated. When a group of farmers decided to break away and make wines on their own terms, the cooperative was formed. Today they produce a range of wines from autochthonous grape varietals as well as international including: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, Muller Thurgau, Gewürztraminer, Lagrein and Pinot Noir. They have two lines divided by quality, Traditional and Selections, and when the year is exceptional, an additional line, Rarities.

This Chardonnay is from the Traditional line. The grapes are handpicked and selected for quality before a gentle, whole cluster pressing to protect the quality of the grapes. The must is clarified with natural sedimentation, and fermented slowly at low temperatures to safeguard the fruit forward profile of the wine. It then ages on lees in steel for 5-7 months.

Glasses of Chardonnay

I must admit that I tend to overlook Chardonnay, and I’m starting to think I underestimate it. There must be a reason why it is the most diffused grape in the world besides its ability to adapt to a range of climates.

For answers I turned to Luigi Moio and his book, Il Respiro del Vino (The Breath of Wine), a book I’ve referred to many times before and will likely do in the future. It has illuminated a world of aromas and the logic behind them for me. He points out that in addition to its adaptability in different climates, it also shows versatility in style from varying wine-making techniques.

Info graphic from Wine Folly showing the variety of Chardonnay by region
Info graphic by Wine Folly showing the variety in Chardonnay by region

While the grapes are odourless, and the must only characterised by grassy notes found in the most wines, the wine acquires its complexity and elegance through the fermentation process. In cool climates, or when the grapes have been harvested a bit before full maturation, the wine takes on aromas of fresh, white fruits such as apple, pear, banana and lemon. In warm climates, or when the grapes have been harvested in full maturation, the wine takes on more floral aromas, as well as aromas of honey and yellow fruit such as apricot and peach. Cold temperatures help preserve delicate fruit aromas derived from esters, which also tend to diminish with time. In addition, Chardonnay is one of few wines which can withstand an ageing period in oak barrels, which confers toasted and spicy notes to the wine such as vanilla, toasted bread, fresh butter, and toasted nuts.

An info graphic by Social Vignerons showing different wine-making techniques of Chardonnay and their typical aromas.
An info graphic by Social Vignerons showing the variety of wine-making techniques for Chardonnay and their typical aromas.

This is a brilliant example that no two wines are the same, and inspiration to appreciate the intricacies and complexities of each individual glass of wine.

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