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Jenny Mackenzie heads to Trentino, northern Italy, and discovers a home for sparkling wine

Published:  17 December, 2012

If there are any sparkling wines to challenge Champagne's crown, it could be those of Trentino in north Italy, established in 1902 by Giulio Ferrari. The 41 producers under the Trentodoc marketing name, formed in 2007, are as historic, diverse and high quality as their counterparts in northern France.

The 'Metodo Classico' production of 8m bottles per annum is mainly from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Dolomite mountain vineyards, comprising ten thousand hectares at up to 800m altitude, along with the Ora del Garda wind blowing from the lake, provide ideal sparkling wine making conditions.

Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol province is a complete mix of Italian and German culture: Italian cuisine, cafés and architecture with German formality and order. The 41 Trentodoc producers range from the longest established Ferrari F.lli Lunelli, through numerous co-operatives to small family artisans. Ninety per cent of Trentodoc sparkling wine is consumed in Italy.

Trentino is an autonomous province, ie self governed with tax revenue re-invested in the region. Tourism is a very important industry with 5m visitors a year, many to ski resorts, Lake Garda and "gastronomic hotels". Trentodoc is 20% financed by the producer members and 80% from the "public purse".

The trip to Trentino was to visit the annual wine event, Bollicine su Trento at Palazzo Roccabruna. Producers visited were Rotari (part of Mezzacorona Estates), Letrari, Ferrari F.lli Lunelli, Cembra (owned by La Vis) and artisan Maso Martis. The first evening was spent with Cavit at their Michelin-starred restaurant Scrigno del Duomo in historic Trento. Two fun additions were a blind tasting of 74 Trentodoc wines and helping Italian food journalists to judge the Trentodoc Dish 2013.

Trentodoc will be re-starting promotion in the UK next year, based around the sparkling wines' compatibility with food. According to Instituto Trento Doc head of communication and marketing, Fabio Piccoli, the campaign focus will be on-trade: wine dinners with food and wine bloggers and specialist trade press. Camilla Lunelli of Ferrari supported the on-trade emphasis. Ferrari's own Michelin-starred restaurant, Locanda Margon, uses their Maximum label wines to pair with dishes using local ingredients. High end Italian restaurants in London form part of the UK target market.

To reinforce the food matching possibilities of Trentodoc wines, one of the events of the trip was an evening helping to judge Emerging Chef and Trentodoc Dish 2013. The training of chefs and sommeliers is "paid by the Trentino Government due to such high income from tourism".

The competition was hosted by Luigi Cremona, the Italian food journalist. The students made four dishes: smoked fish strudel; potato soup with mushrooms and speck; chestnut and chicken soup and freshwater fish soup. The Italians chose the potato soup and the UK judges, the fish soup.

The blind tasting of 74 Trentodoc wines, led by sommelier and restaurateur Roberto Anesi, aimed to showcase the main wine styles: Brut, Riserva, Millesimato, Rosato, Dosaggio Zero and Demi-Sec. Fifteen to thirty six months on lees, depending on category (though often much longer) and high acidity, give the wines a similar structure and flavor profile to Champagne. They are certainly as complex and diverse. The ageability of Trentodoc was another noticeable factor as was the style range between steely and austere to an evolved, honeyed richness.

For independent wine shops, Italian specialists and smart bars, Trentodoc fills a style gap, similar to Champagne, with an interesting story. Roberto Anesi said customers "now ask for Trentodoc" in his restaurant. UK outlets which currently have Franciacorta as their premium Italian sparkling wine offer, should also do well with Trentodoc.

More information at Instituto Trento Doc and Trentino Marketing

You can read more from Jenny Mackenzie at,