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).

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About Stefano

I am a photographer and an ISA certified sommelier. I contribute to two blogs, Flora's Table (the fine cooking and wine blog - www.florastable.com) and Clicks & Corks (my photography and wine blog - www.clicksandcorks.com). My photography Web site is at www.LightQuill.com
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18 Responses to Wine Review: Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva 2007 DOC

  1. Dina says:

    Great post, Stefano. I don’t think I have ever tasted a Lagrein, I’ll keep my eyes open now!
    Thanks for all your advice and help with the camera, I just picked it up with the 14-24 and the 70-200 2.8!
    Happy greetings from sunny Norway
    Dina

    • Stefano says:

      Hi dearest Dina,
      And once again apologies for the late reply…
      CONGRATULATIONS!!! I tell you, I feel excited for you! It is a great camera and you pulled together a sweet set of lenses! I promise you will be blown away by the results, the clarity, the detail, the “smoothness” of those files!
      Way to go – can’t wait to hear more from you how you like the whole thing and of course to see the photographs! 🙂
      A big hug to you,
      Stefano

  2. Twenty grape varieties in one appellation is, as you say Stefano, rather a lot!

  3. Nice review, Stefano! Langrein is a grape I only recently became familiar (maybe half a year ago or so). It was quite interesting.
    I love your tasting notes! They make me want to try the wine 🙂 Maybe someday I’ll stumble over it 🙂

    • Stefano says:

      Tank you, Frank! Glad you enjoyed the read and got inspired to give Lagrein a shot!
      Bear in mind you can also order it online if you want to try it out. In the US I buy most of my wine online and the whole process has so far worked liked a charm. It gives you much more flexibility to buy what you actually want as opposed to what’s available at the local wine store.
      Take care

  4. Every time Alto Adige comes up, I tune in. I went on ski vacations there (in Livigno), which makes the wine from that region, somehow, more interesting and meaningful.

    I’m not at all familiar with the reds from that region. I’d try this one (if I can find it!)

    I generally have a very clear impression of exactly what you mean, but I’m having trouble pinning this down. When you describe a wine in the mouth as “fine,” what do you mean exactly (I’m showing my lack of expertise here…)

    • Stefano says:

      Thank you, Tracy!
      Regarding your question, it is absolutely not a question of lack of expertise on your end! The ISA wine tasting criteria utilize a specific, codified list of terms and sometimes it is just difficult to be able to convey an entire concept in just one word. 🙂
      In the ISA wine tasting vocabulary, the term “fine” indicates a judgment of overall quality that applies to the assessments of both the bouquet and the mouth flavors of the wine. In essence, it sums up the perceived quality of the aromas and the perceived quality of the flavors based on the descriptors and the scent/taste perception of the wine.
      Hope this explains it a little better 🙂

      • That does help, thank you. I do understand “fine” now.

        Is there an ISA code-word that means “don’t waste your money?” How about “mediocre but not awful?”

        And “grand?”

        I love to collect code-words. It’s like being a member of a club. And the best clubs have secret handshake to identify members. 🙂

      • Stefano says:

        Ha! Yes there are: as a matter of fact, the ISA codified wine tasting vocabulary comprises 116 terms altogether. I did not want to include them all in my post because it would have been overwhelming.
        Basically, every step in each of the three phases of the tasting process is assessed based on a 5 or sometimes 3 word scale. The quality step (which is applicable to both the scent phase and the taste-scent phase) comprises 5 words, which from worst to best are: ordinary, scarcely fine, quite fine, fine, excellent.
        Of course I can only teach you the secret handshake when we meet in person! 😉

  5. vinoinlove says:

    I agree with you that 20 grapes in one appellation are too much. But it’s even worse when you look at the Valle d’Aosta DOC appellation – one appellation for an entire region.. And then we have regions like the Piedmont and Apulia which in my opinion have way too many DOCs and DOCGs..

    The wine sounds pretty interesting. I’m not familiar with Abtei Muri though.

    • Stefano says:

      Yes, unfortunately there seems to be no limit in finding worse situations 😉
      Even in VdA, however, it all boils down to the various producers: there’s a few wines from that region that I really love.
      And trust me, if you have a chance taste the Abtei Muri – it is way better than pretty interesting! 😉

  6. And when you teach me the secret sommelier handshake, I’ll tell you the hilarious story of how Ken convinced me that the “club of world-class chefs” has a secret order for arranging spices (and we’ll teach you that handshake, too).

  7. $38 for a marvelous wine?! Oh, Stefano, wines in the US are much cheaper than in Australia.

    • Stefano says:

      Hehe, although I have most unfortunately never set foot on your beautiful continent, I understand that prices of certain items (including wine and camera equipment) Down Under are much higher than in the US… Is that true also for quality Australian/NZ wines or is that the case only for imported wines? Just curious…

      • In fact, its only for Aust/Nz wines. I had some fabulous ones, like the farnese, from Italy cost less than the same quality Aussie wines. Dont know why. Maybe our tax on wines are too high 12% or higher. lol

      • Stefano says:

        Thanks for the swift reply: that’s really quite unbelievable! I wonder why that is too!!!

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