Tag Archives: Lagrein

Wine Review: Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein "Abtei Muri" Riserva 2007 DOC

Today’s review is about a northern Italian red wine that I particularly love (Muri-GriesAlto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva DOC 2007 – $38) which is made from an Italian indigenous grape variety that in my view undeservedly gets too little attention in the wine world: Lagrein.

Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein "Abtei Muri" Riserva DOC

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Abtei Muri was an extremely good, marvelously smooth, fruit-forward wine with supple tannins and good structure, an ideal companion to a red meat dinner. I think that with a couple more years of evolution under its belt, this wine may become truly spectacular: I will have to look for one more bottle from the 2007 vintage, if I can find one!

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended, given its great QPR Outstanding – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

The earliest mention of Lagrein is contained in a 1318 document found (of all places!) in Gries, near Bolzano, and surprisingly it refers to a white wine, that researchers have not been able to identify yet. Instead, the first reference to the red Lagrein that we know dates back to 1526.

Recent DNA analysis proved that Lagrein is a variety that is indigenous to the Alto Adige region of Italy, that it originated as a natural cross between Teroldego and an unknown variety and that, among other cool facts, it is a sibling of Marzemino and a cousin of Syrah!

In Italy, Lagrein is mostly grown in the northern regions of Alto Adige and Trentino. Outside of Italy, Lagrein can be found in California (Paso Robles) and Australia.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Appellation

A few words about the appellation. Alto Adige is a portion of the northern, mountainous region of Italy known as Trentino Alto Adige that is close to Austria and produces several wines of excellent quality, including indigenous Lagrein and very good Schiava and Pinot Noir among the reds and excellent whites ranging from Riesling and Sylvaner to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Given the great quality of the wines from this area of Italy, it is somewhat sad to notice that they all come from one single appellation that encompasses the entire Alto Adige area, known as Alto Adige DOC. It is true that this macro-appellation includes a few subzones (among which St. MagdalenerTerlaner and Valle Isarco) but still, one appellation with over 20 permitted grape varieties??? Talk about the importance of terroir… 🙁  So, as of today one can mostly rely on the seriousness and commitment to quality of many Alto Adige producers. Personally, I hope that at some point at least certain of those subzones may be upgraded to self-standing appellations, focusing only on the grapes that are best suited for that specific subregion.

About the Estate

Muri-Gries is currently a Benedictine monastery in the village known as Gries near the town of Bolzano (Bozen), in the northeastern Italian region of Alto Adige. The original building was erected in the XI century as a fortress and kept that purpose until 1407, when it was gifted to Augustinian canons who had lost their monastery due to a flood and it was converted into a monastery. Grapevine growing and winemaking started in 1845, when the monastery passed on to Benedictine friars, who had been ousted from their monastery in Muri, Switzerland, and who eventually settled in the Gries monastery, which changed its name to the current Muri-Gries. As of today, the Benedectine friars still take care of the monastery and its vineyards.

The monastery owns nearly 30 HA (75 acres) of vineyards (80% of which are Lagrein) and 52 HA (131 acres) of orchards, beside some 45 cattle, which make the monastery essentially self-sufficient. Even part of the wine made in the monastery is earmarked for the friars’ own consumption.

Our Detailed Review

Let’s now move on to the actual review of the Muri-GriesAlto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva DOC 2007 that I recently tasted.

For starters, “Abtei Muri” is the flagship line of the monastery wine production. This premium lineup comprises four wines: the Lagrein that we are about to review, a Pinot Noir, a white blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Grigio, and a sweet Moscato Rosa.

Our Abtei Muri Lagrein was made from 100% Lagrein grapes and was fermented in steel vats and then aged for 16 months in barrique oak casks. It is 13.5% ABV and it retails in the US for about $38, which (as you will soon find out if you keep reading) is great value for this wine.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured ruby red with purple hints and thick when swirled

On the nose, its bouquet was intensecomplex and fine, with aromas of blueberry, blackberry, black pepper, tobacco and licorice.

In the mouth, it was drywarmsmoothquite fresh, with deliciously supple tannins, and tasty. The wine was full-bodied and perfectly balanced. The mouth flavors were intense and fine, with nice correspondence to the aromatic palette and hints of blueberry, blackberry and black pepper. It had a quite long finish and its evolutionary state was ready (that is, perfectly good to enjoy now, but will probably evolve even more with two or three years of additional aging).

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana – Recommended Wine Pairing

To complement Francesca’s yummy spaghetti all’amatriciana, I suggest that you pick a medium-bodied red wine with good smoothness, acidity and tannins. My ideas are either a Rosso Piceno from Central Italy or a Lagrein from the North East of Italy. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Rosso Piceno is one of the 15 (as at November 2012) DOC appellations of the Marche region in Italy. The regulations of this DOC require that the wine be made out of 35-70% Montepulciano grapes and 30-50% Sangiovese grapes, provided that the use of other black-berried grapes is permitted up to a maximum of 15%. The regulations also prescribe that it be produced in an area surrounding the towns of Ascoli Piceno, Pesaro-Urbino and Ancona, while the territory for the variant “Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC” is a much smaller area near Ascoli Piceno.

As to the main black-berried grapes that make Rosso Piceno, Montepulciano is a grape that is indigenous to Central Italy and that is extensively cultivated in several Central Italy regions, such as Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria and Lazio to name a few. Due to the ample supply of Montepulciano grapes, the quality levels of the wines that are made out of it unfortunately vary significantly, so buyer beware: you have to do your homework first and pick the best producers if you don’t want to be disappointed.

As to Sangiovese, well, everybody knows Sangiovese, right? It is one of the most renowned Italian grape varieties which is used in the making of several signature Italian wines, from Brunello di Montalcino to Chianti and from Vino Nobile di Montepulciano to Morellino di Scansano. It is also indigenous to Central Italy and is one of the most widely cultivated grape varieties in Italy, especially in the regions of Toscana, Umbria and Emilia Romagna. Varietal wines made out of Sangiovese grapes tend to have fairly aggressive tannins when they are still “young” and are generally best enjoyed after a few years of aging, when time takes care of taming them. Even in this case, given the massive quantities of Sangiovese that are produced, quality levels of the wines made out of such grape variety tend to be inconsistent and knowledge of the various appellations that allow its use and of the specific wineries is important to avoid unsatisfactory experiences.

Moving on to the actual recommendations, in my view these are some of the best Rosso Piceno out there in terms of price/quality ratio: Velenosi, Rosso Piceno Superiore “Brecciarolo Gold” DOC (70% Montepulciano, 30% Sangiovese;  with aromas of wild berries, vanilla, pepper, tobacco and nutmeg – as we are used to doing, kudos to the owners of this estate who invested resources and energy to achieve a commendable density of 5,000 vines/HA); De Angelis, Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC (70% Montepulciano, 30% Sangiovese; with scents of cherries, blackberries, plums, blueberries, soil); Bucci, Rosso Piceno “Tenuta Pongelli” DOC (50% Montepulciano, 50% Sangiovese; with aromas of rose, blackberries, raspberries, plums, tobacco and minerals); Le Caniette, Rosso Piceno “Rosso Bello” DOC (45% Montepulciano, 45% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; with scents of blueberries, redcurrant and minerals – even in this case, we would like to praise the owners for a very good density of 4,500 vines/HA); and Cantine di Castignano, Rosso Piceno Superiore “Destriero” DOC (70% Montepulciano, 30% Sangiovese;  with aromas of dried flowers, cherries and minerals).

Now, a few words about Lagrein: this is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the Trentino Alto Adige region of Northeastern Italy. Its use is permitted in several of the eight DOC appellations of the region, among which the appellation “Alto Adige DOC”, whose territory encompasses an area surrounding the town of Bolzano and which requires that Lagrein-based wines be made 85% or more out of Lagrein grapes.

Among the best Lagrein’s for their quality and price point are Manincor, Alto Adige Lagrein “Rubatsch” DOC (with scents of wild cherries, plums, licorice, slightly oaky); Erste + Neue, Alto Adige Lagrein “Puntay” Riserva DOC (with aromas of blueberries, cherries, coffee, slightly toasty); Cantina Bolzano, Alto Adige Lagrein “Perl” DOC (with scents of violets, wild berries, ink); Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein DOC (with aromas of violet, blackberries, blueberries, chocolate, ink); and Kellerei Kaltern Caldaro, Alto Adige Lagrein “Spigel” DOC (with scents of violets, blueberries, blackberries, wild cherries, cocoa). Note that all the above wines are made out of 100% Lagrein grapes.

As always, if you happen to try out any of these wines or would like to suggest a different pairing, feel free to share it with us by leaving a comment below!