Autochtonous grapes and hidden places: Nosiola and Valle dei Laghi


Almost every week I find articles or blogs from the United States informing about high expectations about Italian autochthonous vines. They are about a thousand and it is almost impossible to know them all. Then I read the sales data and find that the wines spread across the ocean are always the same. For this reason, I have tried to connect native grapes and wines to their origins, which are often destinations, too. Let’s try to place them on the map and give a profile of what to look for and where to find it.

Enchanting places and unknown grapes

In this blog, I talk about Nosiola and “The Valley of the lakes”: a beautiful place, located in eastern northern Italy between two so important neighbors, to obscure its potential: Lake Garda in the south and the Dolomites in the north. In people’s minds, the Valley of the Lakes is the journey, not the destination. It is the place where you go through, but you do not stop because you discover it by chance and because nobody has ever told you that it is worthwhile. The most evocative image of the “Valle dei Laghi” is the Toblino Castle (pictured above). A medieval manor overlooking the lake and evoking the tales of our childhood, those with princesses and fairies. At present, it has been converted into a nice restaurant.

In this Valley, almost ignored by national itineraries, you can discover original wines. They have strange names, sometimes difficult to pronounce and have an extraordinary common characteristic: they do not want to please everyone. They are technically perfect, faithfully reflect the vines they come from and even when they fit important refinements, they remain faithful to their minimalist style: take it or leave it. The queen of the territory is called Nosiola and is the only native white variety in Trentino. The Valle dei Laghi is its habitat. I insist on the queen because the Italian noun is feminine “la nosiola”. It seems to be the dialectal form of the Italian word “nocciola” = hazelnut, which vaguely remembers its scent.

How is the wine made from the grape variety Nosiola?

Nosiola grape wine is produced in 2 types:
Dry – the winemaker decides style and aging. It is a very pleasant white, fruity and clear “alpine” style.
Passito – named Vino Santo, a luscious elegant dessert wine, excellent balanced. It surprises how the simple young Nosiola can move to such complexity and evolution. A very fine bouquet of candied fruit, honey, apricot,  best paired with important “gourmandize” such as paté de Foie Gras or the more local Gorgonzola.
Do not confuse Vino Santo Trentino with the dessert wine produced in Tuscany. The first one ends with “o” = vino and they are two completely different wines, starting from the grapes. The Vino Santo del Trentino is made only with Nosiola grapes, dried on racks thanks to the warm wind that blows from Lake Garda in the afternoon. It is pressed in the week before Easter in the following spring. The “Holy Week” which offers its name to the wine.

Denominations: the unknown planet

It is never an easy experience to go into  Italian appellations of origin. The Nosiola grape can be found in many of them, namely Trentino Nosiola doc, Vallagarina Igt and the evocative important  Vigneti delle Dolomiti Igt/ Weinberg Dolomiten Igt in German. This appellation belongs to both provinces of Trento and Bolzano, therefore the appellation must be translated.
If you want who want to enjoy a wine experience with Nosiola, the Trentino region organizes an event called DivinNosiola  in spring. It is an opportunity to get to know and enjoy territories unknown to most, here is  “event”:

And finally? A grappa for everyone

Our ancestors wasted nothing and from grape skins, they obtained grappa through distillation. This territory has another jewel in the crown, the grappas to be discovered in the local distilleries. Grappa is a “winter” drink and in the magical “Notte degli alambicchi accesi (The night of working alembics) you can try several ones. From 6 to 8 December 2019 in Santa Massenza, The Valley of Lakes. Save the date:

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