There’s a huge difference between being a wine geek and a wine snob. A wine snob is a particularly posh type of creature and most certainly not to be confused with a wine geek.
Geeks are wine lovers who seek out obscure grapes, unknown regions, and unconventional winemaking methods. Geeks geek out over acidity, grip and balance… and nailing a wine correctly in a blind tasting.
Then there’s the other type of oenophile: pretentious, insufferable, and as concerned with what’s on the bottle as what’s inside. Wine snobs usually say things like, “I don’t drink white wine,” or, “I only drink 90+ point wines.”
I recently tasted through a ridiculous lineup of five anti-snob Italian white wines with Brian Growney who brings Frank’s Wine a lot of great juice. I’m guessing that three of them you’ve never had before: Kerner, Müller Thurgau and Gruner Veltliner. Those three are about as geeky as you’ll get.
The other two are likely the best in their category that I’ve tasted in quite a while: Pinot Grigio (yes, Pinot Grigio!) and Sauvignon… the fact that they come from Alto Adige’s Valle Isarco – Italy’s northernmost wine growing region – has everything to do with it.
The special micro-climate of this region with hot summer days and cool fresh nights makes sure that the grapes reach maturity with a high sugar content. The light and gravelly soils containing lots of minerals provide these wines with strong character and incomparable distinctiveness and elegance.
This is why Eisacktaler Kellerei of the Cantina Valle Isarco has specialized in the cultivation of white grapes.
Cool Wine-Geek notation here: Unlike with red wine vinification – where the skins are left to ferment together with the must – during white wine vinification, only the must is allowed to ferment in order to transform the sugar into alcohol.
Here’s a run-down of the three nerdy wines you’ve probably never tasted, plus the Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio: (As with all five of these whites there is delicate processing and crushing with controlled-temperature fermentation and aging on the lees in stainless steel tanks with no malolactic fermentation.)
Isarco 2014 Kerner
One hundred percent Kerner, which is a hybrid (not a blend) of Riesling and Schiava, which was created in Weinsberg, Germany. The color is straw yellow with greenish hues. On the nose are fresh, intense and spiced aromatics with a light muscat note, peach and apricot scents. On the palate it’s nicely balanced with ripe summer fruit and bright acidity. It can easily age 3-5 years. Serve it with light appetizers, charcuterie, egg or mushroom dishes, freshwater fish and shellfish, excellent as an aperitif. 1,450 cases produced.
Isarco 2014 Müller Thurgau
The Müller Thurgau variety is a Riesling and Gutedel hybrid created in Geisenheim, Germany.
The color shines from greenish to straw yellow. The nose is explosive with a bouquet of muscat and elderflower… think St. Germain Liqueur. It’s a full-bodied with ample weight and acidity to stand up to grilled shellfish, velvety soups or beautiful just on its own. Here’s another that will age up to 5 years, but you’ll wanna drink bottle after bottle because it’s so delicious! 980 cases produced.
Isarco 2014 Gruner Veltliner
In South Tyrol the Veltliner variety of Austrian origin is grown almost exclusively in the Valle Isarco. Considering the practically total disappearance of the original Frühroter Veltliner stock, today mostly the Veltliner Verde is cultivated.
A bright pale yellow color fills the glass! It’s fresh, fruity and bone-dry with a hint of green apple and pleasantly spiced. Crisp and bright with clean acidity and minerality. It goes great with soft cheeses, fish-based appetizers, white meat fricassées, or grilled fish. 775 cases produced.
Isarco 2014 Sauvignon
Originally from France, this grape variety was brought to South Tyrol about 100 years ago but only much more recently to the Valle Isarco.
Greenish-yellow color with a Sancerre-like bouquet. Fresh cut grass and lemon-lime aromatics abound… love this wine! The acidity in this bright beauty makes your palate salivate for more. It’s so good with asparagus, escargot, grilled fish, or a perfect aperitif. 1,588 cases produced.
Isarco 2014 Pinot Grigio
This one is starbright golden yellow in the glass. It’s elegant with a subtle bitter almond note. Full-bodied (yes, a full-bodied PG!) with perfect balance of acidity with its pear and melon fruit. I’ve gotta admit.. I don’t drink much Italian Pinot Grigio, but I’m changing things up. I’ll put this next to the great Willamette Pinot Gris’s out there and a handful from Alsace as well. Crazy to say it, but feel free to tuck some of this in your cellar over the next 4 years! It goes really well with light appetizers, pasta dishes, mushroom-based dishes, freshwater fish and shellfish, excellent as an aperitif. 1,790 cases produced… Santa Margarita spills that much in a day!