Words and Photos by Brett Jones
May is a lovely month to visit vineyards. The vines are burgeoning with life with fresh green foliage and the promise of this year’s harvest as the nascent grapes flower. A visit to Trentino in North East Italy is no exception: to the south of Alto Adige and to the north of the Veneto, it’s easy to reach from Verona and from Austria or southern Germany.
May is the month when the annual wine exhibition takes place in Trento, the capital city of the region. The streets are festooned with bunting and and the balconies sport cheerful wine drinkers, enticing tasters to attend this event which runs for three days in the middle of the month. In two venues, the Teatro Sociale and Palazzo Roccabruna, 60 producers present over 240 wines and grappas.
When we visited this year we found the Palazzo was regal and the Teatro, well, theatrical with the auditorium and the stage taken up with wine laden tables and a great variety of local wines to taste and discuss. Many of the producers or their representatives spoke English, and were delighted to answer questions and listen to comments. This event is a great opportunity to discover Trentino wines and learn more about them.
Whilst in Trento we had the chance to visit Cantina Ferrari as well as Cantina La Vis. Founded as a winery in 1858 and developed into a cooperative in 1948 it is one of the largest producers in the area. It now has 1300 members and 1400 hectares of vineyards which are at an altitude of between 250 and 800 metres above sea level, with 80% of vines being on hillside or mountain slopes.
Its star vineyards must be those between 800 and 1000 metres altitude, around the limit of vine growing in Trentino. This spectacular area, to the east of Trento, is approached up through hillsides carpeted with vineyards with great views over the Rotaliana Plain.
Once over the brow of the hill into the hidden Valle di Cembra you are greeted by a totally different view with vineyards tumbling to the left and right below, most of which are planted on the right bank of the river Cembra. Here the soil is very stony, full of porphyry, which is neither deep nor fertile. Müller Thurgau and Pinot Noir grow here where the manual work is very hard and difficult, but the wines produced have a fine purity.
There is another reason to visit this special region. In the heart of the Valle di Cembra is the Maso Franch.
An old farmhouse set amongst the dramatic vineyards of Valle di Cembra it was stylishly renovated by the new owners, Cantina la Vis, into a 12 bedroom-Relais hotel with what is now a one Michelin starred restaurant, run by the locally celebrated chef Markus Baumgartner and his family.
The rooms at Maso Franch are very comfortable, the restaurant is a gastronomic treat with fine food matched by an excellent wine list. The lovely city of Trento is down the hill and you can explore the region by travelling on the Trentino Wine Roads; for some relaxation, Lake Garda is 45 minutes to the south.
May is an ideal time of the year to visit this beautiful area, not least because it is quieter than in the height of the summer, with the added bonus that the weather can be sunny, but not too hot.