Complex Fruit, Alpine Freshness: That is Alto Adige Sparkling Wine

Complex Fruit, Alpine Freshness: That is Alto Adige Sparkling Wine

An interview with... Josef Romen, President of the Alto Adige Sparkling Wine Association

Josef Romen falls into raptures when he speaks about Alto Adige sparkling wine. That could be attributed solely to his role as President of the Alto Adige Sparkling Wine Association if it weren’t for the fact that Romen goes on to cite a whole series of objective arguments. And follow up with convincing food pairing tips.

Josef Romen has been working at the Kettmeir Winery in Kaltern for nearly forty years, making him one of the pioneers of the Alto Adige sparkling wine scene. In the summer of 2022, he took over from his predecessor, Josef Reiterer, as president of the Alto Adige Sparkling Wine Association. Romen is therefore someone who lives and breathes sparkling wine and knows precisely what it is that really makes Alto Adige sparkling wine so unique. And that it can be enjoyed on far more occasions than is popularly believed.

Mr. Romen, when you were elected as president of the Alto Adige Sparkling Wine Association, what did you say at your first toast?
Josef Romen: (laughing) I can't remember exactly, but the toast was definitely with an Alto Adige sparkling wine. Since the election took place at the Pfitscher Winery in Montan, it was probably their own sparkling wine.

And where does your interest in sparkling wine come from?
Sparkling wine has accompanied me along my entire professional life. I came to Kettmeir in 1984, when sparkling wine was already being produced there. My interest in sparkling wine has continued to grow little by little. And once we started using the classic bottle fermentation method in 1992, my heart has definitely been beating for these bubbles.

And obviously especially for those pearls that come from Alto Adige. What do Alto Adige sparkling wines have that the others don't?
Alto Adige sparkling wine has the privilege of being made for the most part from grapes that grow at higher elevations. That means a cooler climate and grapes with greater acidity, which is why we can harvest the grapes at the peak level of maturity. At this stage, they already possess a strong character of their own, their aroma is distinct, and the sparkling wine retains thay even after several years of aging on the yeast. The end product is therefore characterized by complex fruit aromas, it has elegant, fine tones of yeast, and the typical Alpine freshness can be sensed on the palate.

As president of the Sparkling Wine Association, it is now your hand that is on the rudder: where should the journey lead at this point for Alto Adige sparkling wine?
It’s best if it’s always upwards. In Alto Adige, we have excellent conditions for producing top-quality sparkling wines, especially in the high and rather cool locations. Particularly in areas at the edges of the traditional winegrowing areas, where the grapes for still wine production often do not achieve a satisfactory degree of maturity, we can generate considerable added value for winegrowers with sparkling wine. This is where I see the opportunities and the great potential for Alto Adige sparkling wine.

This potential is also already evident in the traditional Ambassador sparkling wine. What is it all about?
In December, we will already be presenting the next vintage of our group sparkling wine – now the fourth one. The idea behind it is to produce a sparkling wine to which all producers contribute something and which is therefore an authentic ambassador for our quality: multi-layered, full of character, an interplay of several Alto Adige “stubborn souls” that have to work together in the bottle over the course of almost ten years.

And does that work? Or in other words: what can we expect from the new Ambassador sparkling wine?
It of course embodies Alto Adige freshness, paired with a unique complexity thanks to years of aging on the yeast. The perlage is extremely delicate, and on the palate, it stimulates all of the senses. As a result of the limited number of bottles, though, there are only a few examples on the market, and they are sold exclusively at the outlets of our members.

Speaking of purchasing sparkling wine: when is the best time to drink Alto Adige sparkling wine?
Unfortunately, it lies within the nature of the product that the greatest amount of it is still opened around the New Year’s Eve celebrations. But in actual fact, Alto Adige sparkling wine is something that can be consumed all year round. Not only as an aperitif in the warmer months of the year but, thanks to its character and complexity, more and more frequently as an accompaniment to entire menus. As our cuisine is becoming increasingly more characterized by Mediterranean influences, those pearls of Alto Adige always pairs well.

And you? With which dish do you drink a glass of Alto Adige sparkling wine?
Personally, I'm drinking sparkling wine more and more frequently with meals. Because of the fact that there are the most varied of blends, aging times on the yeast, and residual sugar levels, the ideal sparkling wine can be found for a whole host of different dishes. An uncomplicated Brut, for example, goes perfectly with light appetizers. On the other hand, a Riserva with five to six years of aging on the yeast is an ideal accompaniment to a hearty tagliata beefsteak. Taking everything into account, we have a wide variety of sparkling wines that you can fall in love with all over again every day.
Another taste?
More from the world of Alto Adige wine
Back to the list
Impressions of Wine:Experienced, enjoyed, shared
Always up to date with the Suedtirol Wein newsletter