When it comes to dining well, the last weeks of summer present a bounty while wine drinkers ponder what to serve with it. There is still room in our glasses for rosés and crisp whites, but we find ourselves attracted to ruby-hued wines that can be chilled to be refreshed. All month, we’ve been sipping a class of light juicy reds that hail from Alto Adige, Italy, made from a grape called schiava (pronounced skee-AH-vah).
Also known as vernatsch, schiava is a varietal indigenous to this northernmost part of Italy. Wines made from this grape offer aromas of cranberry and violets, bright acidity, and notes of pomegranate. Schiava is the most widely grown varietal in this area, located on the sunny southern side of the Alps. For a region one-third the size of Napa Valley, and which accounts for just 1 percent of Italy’s total wine production, Alto Adige has more wines that are Denominazione di Origine Controllata (controlled designation of
origin) than any other region in Italy. Producers here (many of whom are co-ops) are serious about maintaining a specific sense of place in these wines.
This semi-autonomous region, called Südtirol (South Tyrol), was part of Austria until it was ceded to Italy in 1919. With Switzerland and Austria just over the border, the culture is more Germanic than Italian. On bottles, wine terminology shows up in two languages. For example, St. Magdalener and Santa Maddalena are the German and Italian names, respectively, written on the labels for the same appellation located around the town of Bolzano. Wines from this appellation are a blend of schiava with a touch of lagrein, a varietal that lends depth and color.
Sipping schiava inspired us to make a plate of Tyrolean-style dumplings studded with speck, Alto Adige’s answer to prosciutto. (A lovely recipe for these dumplings is at www.altoadigewinesusa
.com/speck-dumplings-recipe. Flip them in the simmering water halfway through the cooking time; also try the version with beets.)
On a warm evening, take a bottle of schiava out of the refrigerator and set it on the counter for 15 minutes before pouring. With the dumplings, serve schüttelbrot, a crisp rye flatbread with fennel and caraway seeds, a wedge of stelvio (also known as stilfser, a semisoft cow’s milk cheese from the region), and a bountiful salad. You’ll be delighted with your Alpine-inspired table.
Griesbauerhof St. Magdalener
Classico Südtirol 2010 Bright ruby in hue with ripe strawberry and violet aromas. Pomegranate and blueberry notes in the mouth undergirded by stony minerality, mouthwatering acidity, and a touch of tannic grip. Mostly schiava with lagrein. Around $18. At Streetcar Wine & Beer, Jamaica Plain, 617-522-6416; Panzano Provviste e Vino, Southborough, 508-485-8884.
Elena Walch Schiava Alto Adige 2010 Pale ruby with cranberry and violets on the nose. Juicy and light in body with a palate of tangy cherry, cranberry, and stony minerality. While less fleshy in fruit than the 2009 vintage, a tangy quaffable sip. Around $15. At The Spirited Gourmet, Belmont, 617-489-9463; Bin Ends, Braintree, 781-817-1212.
Nals Margreid “Galea” Schiava
Südtirol Alto Adige 2011 Appealing earthy, forest-floor aromas mingle with high-toned strawberry and lavender. This young wine blooms the next day, integrating earth, fruit, and acidity. Around $23. At The Spirited Gourmet; Causeway Liquors, Gloucester, 978-283-4313.
Gino Pedrotti Schiava Nera 2010 This ever-so-pale brick-red schiava nera, grown in Trentino, south of Alto Adige, offers aromas of wet granite and red berries. Racy acidity supports tart cherry and green plum notes. Around $20. At Panzano Provviste e Vino; Vintages, Belmont, 617-484-4560.
Muri-Gries Santa Maddalena Alto Adige 2010 An elegant expression of schiava and lagrein. Red plum, pomegranate, and black raspberry on the palate balanced by stoney minerality and a subtle grip of tannin. Around $15. At Pairings, Winchester, 781-721-9463; Groton Market, Groton, 978-448-6387.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect phone number for The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont.