I enjoy me a good picnic. I really do. However, I don’t usually initiate these DIY outdoor repasts. As much as I love them, I don’t dig the preparation process (probably why I love restaurants so much!). However, when I’m invited to one, I’m totally there. Which is why I couldn’t say no to the Altemasi Summer Picnic at Maso Saracini near Cortesano in Trentino Alto-Adige.
Altemasi is not your typical Italian sparkling wine. Many always associate Prosecco with Italy while more in-the-know wine enthusiasts will recognize the name Franciacorta. However, another region produces bottle-fermented bubblies worth keeping an eye on: Trentodoc in Trentino Alto-Adige, Italy’s highest altitude sparkling wine. A cooperative formed in 1950 comprised of 11 wineries used by more than 4500 winemakers, Cavit (Cantina Viticoltori del Trentino) produces Altemasi, an elegant Trentodoc.
Trentino Alto-Adige, which borders Austria, is characterized by several valleys nestled between the sprawling Lake Garda and the craggy Dolomite mountains. Metodo Classico wines have been produced in the Trento region since the early 1900s. Its particular location and diverse climate mean extreme temperature variations. Lake Garda with its olive groves and lemon trees provide a Mediterranean-like atmosphere which gives way to a basic continental climate which then subsequently gives way to alpine. This, coupled with blazing hot summer days and cooler nights, results in a delicate and delightful spumante. In addition, the wildly diverse terrain ranges from, say, an alluvial riverbed to calcite hills, so the grapes perfectly exemplify the diverse land.
To make Altemasi, winemakers manually collect pinot noir and chardonnay grapes from all around a particular region south of Trento, yet north of Lake Garda in the Valle dei Lagi and Valle di Cavedine where the altitudes are between 1400 and 1900 feet in altitude. Pinot noir comes from the volcanic soil while the chardonnay terroir is more calcerous. According to the Trentodoc standards, the aging classifications are as follows: Brut (15 months), Millesimato (24 months) and Riserva (36 months).
After an expansive tour of Altemasi’s sprawling territory, we set up shop in at Maso Saracini near Cortesano in Trentino Alto-Adige, an idyllic vineyard in the Valle di Cavedine for the Altemasi summer picnic. The spectacular view comprised verdant hills and the unmistakeable jagged mountains against the backdrop of a blue sky awash with the occasional cloud. We enjoyed sandwiches and small plates prepared with local ingredients while we sipped Altemasi.
Aged for 36 months on the lees, the Altemasi Millesimato 2014 is made with chardonnay from Colline di Trento, Valle dei Laghi and the Brentonico Plateau. The refreshing sparkler had bright traces of stone fruit with citrus and apple notes as well as some nice acid, a mineral aftertaste and of course, brioche. The vintage’s mild winter and rainy summer made for an abnormal harvest that took place a little earlier than normal.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes grown in the vineyards of high hills surrounding Trento as well as on the Brentonico plateau comprise the Altemasi Rosé. The hand-picked grapes are then transferred to the cellars where the magic happens. First, slowly pressed whole Chardonnay berries undergo a stainless steel fermentation with added yeasts. The Pinot Noir wine is made via the “submerged cap” system whereby the must stays in contact with the skins until the first signs of fermentation start. This results in the signature pink hue. Come spring, the wine then stays on the lees for at least 15 months. The result is bright red fruit like cherries with a citrus aftertaste coupled with nice acid.
Anyhoo, on a side note, the day before the picnic we toured the Altemasi cantina for an overview. Then, we headed to Trento, the capital of Trentino-Alto Adige. Sitting beside the Adige river nestled into a glacial valley and offset by the peaks of the Dolomites, Trento is magical. Since I adore Vienna, I was instantly smitten with Trento’s Austrian vibes, particularly in the architecture. In many ways, it feels like the perfect setting for a fairy tale.
I got to see the beautiful medieval-era Duomo with the famous rose window from the outside. The buildings, particularly those with frescoed facades, truly stole my heart. I look forward to coming back and exploring Trento a bit more! Anyway, I digress.
The night before the picnic, we had a lovely feast at Scrigno del Duomo in Trento. We sipped some local specialties including an Altemasi sparkler to start, a sauvignon blanc, a Tocaj Superior and a Chardonnay. Funny, the oaky flavor of the latter reminded me a bit of the California-style. Anyhoo, food porn below: