Northeastern Italy is widely seen as white wine country. From the fertile plains of coastal Venezie to the alpine peaks of Alto Adige, the zone is best known to Americans for its refreshing pinot grigios and piquant proseccos. However, every region of Italy makes red wines, even those snuggled up along its northern border with Austria, in a region known in English as the South Tyrol and in Italian as the Alto Adige, for the upper reaches of the Adige River valley. There is little flat land here for agriculture, and vineyards dot the lower flanks of ski-worthy slopes. Though e many vintners have grown French grapes there for centuries, like pinot noir and merlot, there are a handful of unusual red grapes native to the region that are well worth exploring, too. Descendants of pinot noir, they have obscure names, like teroldego rotaliano, lagrein, marzemino, and refosco dal penuncolo rosso. What makes them so exciting for adventurous wine drinkers is that, like pinot noir, they make lighter red wines that are quite flexible with food but with deeper color and less aggressive astringency. It’s rare to find them at affordable prices, but this teroldego/lagrein blend from the Dolomites makes a great introduction: dry and midweight, packed with sappy sour cherry and blueberry flavors.
Mezzacorona “Cliffhanger” Red Blend, Dolomiti, Italy. $10.99 (Regularly $13.99; sale price through Feb. 25.) PLCB Item #2047.