2019 Abbazia di Novacella, Sylvaner, Valle Iscarco DOC, Alto Adige, Italy.
The brilliant pale gold and surprisingly dense Abbazia di Novacella Sylvaner really impresses on the palate with a mix of apple, apricot and citrus fruits, vivid mineral tones, a light perfume of white flowers, a hint of bacon, wet rock and snappy herbs, all making it a beautifully balanced effort with a real presence in the glass, giving more expressive old vine versions from Alsace and or Germany a real run for their money. Located in the sleepy little burg of Novacella, the all organic Kloster Abbazia di Novacella, in the Isarco River Valley not far from Trentino was founded way back in 1142 by the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular, who as monks still run this winery and farm with a commitment to quality and sustainability. The abbey’s reputation as a winery is world renown, especially highly regarded for the white wines, like this Sylvaner, as well as their Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and in particular the Kerner. In fact Abbazia di Novacella turned a lot of heads in 2009, when Italy’s influential Gambero Rosso named Celestino Lucin, the Abazzia’s enologist, Winemaker of the Year. The Sylvaner grape, a natural crossing between Traminer, the parent of Gewurztraminer, and the “hunnic” variety lnown as Österreichisch-Weiß, which translates to “Austrian White”, it (Sylvaner) is thought to have originated in eastern Austria, Hungary and or Romania, but has found more fame in the Franconia region of Germany where it can be labeled with the famous Grosses Gewachs (GG) cru designation, though also highly regarded in Alsace and here in the Alto Adige.
The 100% Sylvaner is sourced from Bressanone valley basin, in the northern zone at between 650-750m elevation and set on the region’s glacier formed Morainic deposits, which are composed of mica schist, para gneiss and quartzite soils, with a warm and sunny mostly southern facing exposure. The Sylvaner’s fermentation and aging was done in mostly in stainless steel tank, but a third was raised in acacia casks, and on the lees, for six months. Way up in the Dolomites, Alto Adige is the northern most wine region in Italy and very close to the Austrian border, it is a place with a long history for wines and an area noted for its German culture and language. The Alto Adige has many distinct growing areas with the red grapes like Lagrein, Schiava, Pinot Nero and Teroldego grown mainly around the city of Bolzano, south of Trentino, and in fact one of Italy’s warmest cities, with white varietals such as Kerner, Manzoni, Pinot Grigio, Müller Thurgau and this Sylvaner coming from vines in the north, near Bressanone, the Isarco Valley. Not far from the picturesque Lago di Caldaro (Lake Kaltern) this part of the South Tirol is home to some fabulous wineries of note, like Manincor, Terlano, Kofererhof, Foradori, St. Michael-Eppan and Abbizia di Novacella to name a few. With a string of great vintages, I highly recommend chasing down some these wines. It was great to re-visit the Abazzia di Novacella wines after a few years of missing them and this 2019 Sylvaner was a stand out in their dry whites, and an outstanding value, though I am also fond of their light strawberry flavored Schiava and the deeper dark berry and earthy toned Lagrein.
($22.50 ESt.) 93 Points, grapelive