In a tiny region of the Italian Alps sits a place called Alto Adige where the Lagrein grape is produced. This rare red wine is almost 250 times more rare than the Pinot Noir and is only planted on about 1,000 acres in the world.
The flavor of a Lagrein is similar to a Syrah with its velvety mouthfeel and mid-level tannins. You can easily taste the dark fruit flavors but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll notice notes of cacao and baking spice, with a hint of floral aromas as well. In Italy, the Lagrein has more of a peppery flavor with a biting acidity. The U.S.-grown Lagrein shows more of those fruity notes still with that boastful acidity and lovely layer of tannins.
Speaking of the U.S., you can find Lagrein in two very specific locations: the Central Coast of California and the Montinore Estate in Willamette Valley, Oregon. It prefers heavier soils near water that are in cool climates but not cold, which definitely explains its success in these two regions.
The fruit flavors combined with the high acidity and medium tannins make this a perfect pair for a dinner of game and meat or rich cheeses. Think hearty stews, pork chops, or lamb. Flavors that are earthy and rich which will be complemented by Lagrein’s robust flavor profile.
The tannins in a Lagrein aren’t high enough for it to successfully age for 20 years, but the acidity allows it to get to ten years with a beautiful flavor. If you let your bottle sit for about 5 years, you’ll get a new level of complexity out of it. Although they are delicious as soon as they’re opened.
If you’re not able to buy from Alto Adige, try some of the vineyards here in California. Here are a couple recommendations to get you started. You’ll notice that even with their distinct quality, Lagreins don’t have a scary price tag! It’s a win-win.
Santa Barbara Winery : 2016 Joughin Vineyard Lagrein
Pelletiere : 2017 Riserva Lagrein (Paso Robles Willow Creek District)
Sottomarino : Sottomarino 2013 Lagrein (Paso Robles)
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