Lagrein is a deep red grape indigenous to the northern Italy region of Alto Adige. The grape is used to produce fruity style wines. A common blend using Lagrein is a Rosato, or rosé, which can also be sweet. In the DOCs of Alto Adige and Trentino, Lagrein can be blended with Schiavo or be made into a varietal wine. Through genetic testing, it has been proven that Langrein is a cousin of Syrah and a grandchild of Pinot. Wines made with Lagrein can exhibit significant levels of tannin depending on the winemaking methods used. Some winemakers choose to shorten the time the juice spends in contact with the skins (maceration). This decreases the amount of tannin extracted from the grape skins. They also can be aged in oak, which allows for controlled oxygen exchange, and softens the tannins. In order for the tannins to ripen sufficiently in the foothills of the Alps, they need to be grown at warmer temperatures found in lower altitudes. Lagrein has limited plantings outside Italy, most notable in cooler locations around Australia and in the Paso Robles region of central California (specifically at Tobin James Cellars).
This week, I drank a 2021 Elena Walch Lagrein from Alto Adige DOC. This wine was an opaque inky purple color that left a faint purple haze with more noticeable stained legs around the goblet. The aromas of vanilla, ripe wild blackberries, blueberries, dark chocolate, and black pepper were readily apparent in the glass. This dry wine had grippy but round tannins that added texture to a full bodied, moderate alcohol wine. The body and pronounced fruit character were balanced by a higher level of acid. The palate was heavy on bramble, ripe red cherries, blackberries, dark chocolate, and a lingering white pepper on the finish. There was also a bitter note that persisted and, at times, overpowered the fruit. This wine could age longer to increase complexity but the lush fruit makes it enjoyable now also. It would pair well with aged cheeses, braised meats, bolognese, or even hamburgers.