Val di Cembra

trentino-alto adige

The Val di Cembra is a valley that lies within the Trentino region. Following the Adige River valley to the north, after the city of Trento, at the town of Lavis, there is a valley that branches off from the Adige continues to the northeast, encompassing the tiny town of Cembra. This valley is the Val di Cembra…

From a wine perspective, on the surface, there is little to talk about. The Italian government has never recognized the Val di Cembra with a DOC, making it difficult to determine which wines come from the Val di Cembra, as most of those that do are bottled under the IGT “Vigne dei Dolomiti,” which is an umbrella term for most any wines from the Trentino region, home of the Dolomite Range, hence the name.

The Cembra valley is, in fact, densely planted to vines, and if there is one specialty of the region, it would have to be the Müller Thurgau grape (the “th” of “Thurgau” is pronounced like a “t”). Müller Thurgau is a hybrid varietal developed by Hermann Müller in the Thurgau region of Switzerland in an attempt to create a varietal that produced a wine of the excellence of the Riesling grape, but with a more prolific production. It has always been thought to be a cross between the Sylvaner and Riesling grapes, but recent studies seem to indicate that the cross is of Riesling with a grape called “Madeleine Royale,” which, until researching for this article, I personally had never heard of.

As a wine varietal, Müller Thurgau never did much in Germany or Switzerland, but on the slopes of the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy, it has a considerably different result. It makes a wine that is not quite as aromatic and structured as a Riesling, one of the greatest wine grapes of the world, white or red, regardless of what many will tell you. Müller Thurgau wine has mineral and peach notes that are terrific with our Casunzei pasta, Steamed Cockles or Whole Roasted Branzino. Despite its elevated level of acidity, I also enjoy its crisp, fresh quality with nothing at all.

Among the producers that are making wines from Val di Cembra fruit, Pojer e Sandri is a relatively small winery in Faedo, just to the north of the valley, that makes some of the very best wines in the Trentino region. Their “Palai” bottling of Müller Thurgau is a real reference point for understanding this varietal. They also bottle a “Besler Biank” and a “Besler Ross,” which are blended wines from the Val di Cembra. Curiously, the “Biank” (Bianco) is a blend that includes no Müller Thurgau, evidencing the fact that it is not the only varietal that does well in the valley. Another producer, on a larger scale, is the Lavis winery, a cooperative winery based, as the name would indicate, in the town of Lavis.

We will be featuring whatever wines we can from the Val di Cembra throughout February, so I look forward to seeing you stop in to Babbo for a sample of them!