Thu 2 Mar 2017
Never heard of the schiava grape? I’ll confess, dear readers, that I had not either until I was offered some wines made from the grape for review. Schiava grows in the Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy, in the mountainous area where the Italian and German languages intertwine and ancient geographical and familial relationships are more important than political borders. Also known as vernatsch, the grape makes — in my brief acquaintance — light, delicious red wines that are fairly low in tannins and high in acidity, exactly, that is, the sort of wine perfect for drinking with an eclectic variety of foods. Wines fashioned from the schiava grape make excellent transitional quaffs between the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring, and should even serve well into Summer with grilled fare. The grape yields generously, so it must be carefully regulated in the vineyard not to over-produce. It grows well in the mid-range altitudes, about 250 to 500 meters above sea level. When we finished our research on these wines — i.e., drinking — and one night I brought out a different red wine for dinner, LL said, “Don’t you have any more of those schiava wines?” That’s how fresh and appealing they are.
All of these wines bear a Südtirol-Alto Adige designation. The wines were samples for review.
Grapes for the Cantina Merano Graf von Meran Schnickenberg Sciava 2014 grew in vineyards that extend from 400 to 450 meters; the wine aged in a combination of stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. The color is a delicate, transparent ruby-cherry, an aspect somehow reflected in its spectrum of red and black cherry scents and flavors inflected with cherry skin and pit and a mild touch of cloves and violets. It’s quite dry, enlivened by lip-smacking acidity and an almost feral dusty graphite character on the finish. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $17.50.
The Castel Sallegg Bischofsleiten Schiava 2014 offers an absolutely beautiful transparent ruby-garnet hue and pert notes of red cherry, sour melon and raspberry, with a typical briery-brambly core. The wine aged four months in stainless steel tanks and large wooden barrels. On the palate, it’s lithe and wiry, spare but tasty in spicy red fruit elements and animated by brisk acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $19.
We would happily have consumed a case of the Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 2014, a wine of intricately layered delicacy and nuance that unveils a slightly more serious focus than the others examples mentioned here. No technical information was available, so I can’t say anything about the aging process. The company is a co-op of some 140 growers, founded in 1985 by the merger of two other co-op entities. The color is a limpid medium ruby shading to faint garnet; red cherries and raspberries open to hints of cherry skin, violets and intriguing notes of mulberries and woodsy spice and flowers. The aura is light and elegant, yet the texture is silky, almost dense, buoyed by bright acidity and a nod toward slightly dusty, graphite-infused tannins. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018. Excellent. About $20, and definitely Worth a Search.
The Cantina Andriano Bocado Schiava 2014 derives from vineyards lying between 260 and 500 meters above sea level; the wine fermented in stainless steel and aged in large oak casks. The color is a bright, transparent cherry red, while the fruit aspect emphasizes raspberries with their skins and stems, for a slightly astringent, raspy quality, highlighted by plums and violets. Lithe and spare on the palate, the wine is propelled by dynamic acidity and a slight edge of graphite minerality. 13 percent alcohol. Founded in 1893, Andriano was the first cooperative in Alto Adige. Very Good+. About $23.