Posted by: tomciocco | April 17, 2011

SCHIAVA – SLAVE TO NO ONE

Dancing just barely south of the German (Austrian), into the Italian language area in the region of Trentino Alto-Adige in northeastern Italy is the tiny and geographically fragmented Lago di Caldaro/Kalterersee appellation. This next door neighbor to Teroldego Rotaliano  – the subject of the previous post – like its paesano,  is fundamentally based on one and only one grape variety, and in the case of Lago di Caldaro/Kalterersee, this grape is Schiava  (SKYA-va).

In Italian the word “schiava” means “slave” (the Austrian name of the grape is “Vernatsch”), which lead some scholars to (perhaps tenuously) speculate that the vine is Slavic in origin, but its exclusive concentration in Italy, Austria, and Germany (where it is known as “Trollinger”) in the present day casts serious doubt on this theory.

In any case, one might expect a grape with such a name to be a little rough around the edges, and one branch of the family tree is just that, but the smaller-berried Schiava Gentile (Kleinvernatsch) is much finer, and careful clonal selection over the years has further refined the fruit that this mysterious vine yields. This particular wine, in terms of its classification, represents, at least in Italy, the pinnacle of Schiava wine: It is a Classico Superiore and also carries the further distinction “Auslese” (“Scelto” in Italian) which requires the achievement of a minimum of 11.5% alcohol, which for a pale and delicate wine like Schiava is no mean feat…

I served up this very charming light red wine with a Tyrolean-inspired menu of Speckknoedelsuppen (Beef broth with bread/egg/speck/herb dumplings) and a beef schnitzel with peas and carrots.

Pharrhof Kalterersee Auslese Classico Superiore 2009

Pale but vibrant translucent pinkish ruby color. Coherent and pretty nose of light red berries, cherry, pine sap, minerals, fresh-cut herbs and toasted Indian spices. In the mouth the wine is soft, broad, and smooth – light, but still velvety plush with superbly balanced sweet and sour strawberry and black cherry fruit, and elegant flavors of mocha and spice. Tart but still supremely smooth finish. A very pretty, slightly exotic wine.

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