Lagrein: The Iconic Grape of Alto Adige

A collection of tasting notes from this unique and flavorful Italian red


Coming from the rugged Dolomite Mountains along the border of Austria in North Central Italy, Lagrein is the iconic red grape of Italy’s Alto Adige region. In some ways, the wines are similar to Syrah, though perhaps with a more obvious appeal and richer fruit in youth. At their best, these are medium-bodied and quite fresh, yet at the same time, they are intensely flavored with dark berry and plum fruit. They are accented by spice, are mineral and often have pronounced chocolate notes.

These are wines that can age well over the mid-term, often peaking around six to nine years from the vintage. A handful of wines will improve for more than a decade. In my experience, the top bottlings have been Hofstatter Steinraffler, Terlan Porphyr, Muri Gries Abtei and Mayr-Nusserhof Riserva. I also have to admit to being impressed by Colterenzio Sigis Mundus lately.

While the prices for these wines are not particularly low (due to the modest production, there is no reason to expect them to be), they are fairly priced and kick the butts of wines costing double or triple. If you haven’t tried Lagrein yet, you owe it to yourself to check them out!

The wines reviewed below were tasted recently at their respective wineries. Some may not be widely available, but I’ve included the reviews to give you a broad a range of impressions to help offer as complete a description of current release Lagrein as possible.

Lagrein image via Shutterstock
2009 Cantina Terlano Terlan Porphyr 14%

Gorgeous on the nose and super aromatic with notes of wild plum, flowers and spices all wrapped in a thin veil of wood spice and soil tones. This has so much ripe fruit, it seems almost sweet in the mouth. There's real tension under the pure fruit, with stemmy spice and tobacco notes adding detail and a green leafy note adding a bright accent. Juicy fruit covers gentle wood spices on the finish, which shows good length and really fine inner mouth perfumes. Superbly elegant, this is less powerful than the 2007 but already shows more elegance, with a very spicy, almost black peppery finale. 94pts

2007 Muri-Gries Abtei Lagrein 13.5%

Tight, pure fruity nose with small green anise seed notes over lightly toasted oak and plum skin fruit. This is bright yet soft in the mouth with a polished richness to the wine and absolutely gorgeous purity of wild raspberry fruit, which shows a little confiture edge. On the back end and the finish, I find blackberries over hints of tar and truffle. This is long and elegant with excellent fruit persistence. The wine is still young and tight, but I can already see the incipient complexity and exceptional quality of the fruit. 93pts

2009 Muri-Gries Abtei Lagrein 13.5%

Inky and chalky on the nose with a little cracked pepper spice. In the mouth, this is smooth yet fairly transparent with lovely purity of fruit in a lively, slightly dense style that shows off very chocolaty mulberry fruit. This is so young that it still tastes like a barrel sample, though the great focus on the long if slightly inky finish bodes well for the future. So young! 92pts

2009 Tiefenbrunner Linticlarus Lagrein 14%

Lovely nose is a bit tight but reveals slightly herbal, floral, nutty oak aromas. This is very smooth on entry and shows really fine integration. Lovely bight acidity and very supple tannins support precise black currant, black berry and black cherry fruit. This remains a little tight but shows an emerging leading edge of mocha spice as well as lovely purity of fruit on the moderately long finish. This is tight, long, very well balanced and elegant. 92pts

2009 Erste + Neue Puntay Lagrein 13.5%

Nutty oak, leather, violets, crystallized flowers, a touch of animal and peppery baking spices all come together on the complex nose. This is a bit soft on entry but the acid kicks on the mid-palate, offering fine support to the rather pure, lightly plummy blackberry fruit. A streak of nutty oak runs right through the middle. There is a fair amount of toasty coffee bean on the back end and finish, which is fairly rich if rather elegant. This is quite a refined style of Lagrein with finely balanced tannic structure and good complexity. I’m not sure it's any more attractive than more rustic versions. 92pts

2008 Elena Walch Riserva Castel Ringberg 13.5%

Super perfumes on the nose are full of oily herbs, a smoky undertone, violets, fresh flowers, fresh fruits, a little blueberry and some fresh oak. This is bright on entry with an early wood sweetness. Terrific fruit with real energy and lovely freshness. This shows off pure inner mouth perfumes of sour plum and black currant, which drive onto the bright and persistent fruit-driven finish. 92pts

2009 Hofstatter Steinraffler Lagrein Riserva 13.5%

Leather and a bit animal on the nose with sweet red pastille fruit and floral aromas that are fairly intense. This is gamy with perhaps a hint of brett on the nose. Sweetly-fruited and polished in the mouth with a weightlessness to the intensity of the palate. Filled with dark fruit and featuring fudge accents, light spiciness and very well integrated wood accents. The finish shows nice, long cherry stone flavors with super fine, elegant tannins. 92pts

2009 Colterenzio Cornell Sigis Mundus 13.6%

This smells strongly of chocolate covered espresso beans. Rich and inviting with a base of toasty oak and jammy black fruit squeezing out the edges. On entry, there is a hint of violet and then smooth, rich almost chewy (but too well balanced to be chewy) fruit. This strikes as a very important wine, packed with fresh fruit in the mouth and then finishing a little light and spicy with more oak than you find on the palate. Sort of embryonic with a nice suggestion of vanilla on the nose and more chocolate on the palate. It’s all embedded in rich and dark, slightly dried berry fruit. 92pts

2009 Colterenzio Mantsch Lagrein Riserva 13.7%

Fresh with definite forest floor aromas on the nose. Above those, there is rich black fruit with a touch of coffee grind adding a bit of complexity. This is very deep and smooth on entry, showing very well for such a young wine. Precise blackberry and black plum flavors here and a hint of mulberry fruit. Smooth yet perky on the back end. Fades away a bit on the finish, leaving acid-driven black fruit flavors with just a hint of spices. This has a really engaging texture, front-loaded with great fruit and then showing a hint of pencil shavings and bitter chocolate notes on the finish. 91pts

2007 San Michele Appiano Sanct Valentin Lagrein 13.5%

Deep and meaty on the nose. Beefy almost with hints of cracked pepper and blackberry/black currant fruit, accented with an attractive hint of spicy green herbs. Taut and transparent in the mouth, this shows off a perfectly pure core of bright blackberry fruit, topped with chocolate accents and mint on the back end. The tannins show a bit of a dry edge on the finish though this remains very elegant even if it's quite ripe. The green mint makes me think a bit of Cabernet Franc. 91pts

2009 Cantina Terlano Terlan Gries 13%

Quite red-fruited on the nose with good depth to the spicy, very dusty, antiseptic and chalky aromas that are topped with hints of rose petals. This is deep and V-shaped in the mouth with great nervy cut on the palate. Lovely purity and precision to the fruit show layers of wild cherry, small plum and black currant flavors before finishing with cocoa, herb and apple core notes. The tannins here are dry and firm but not austere and they drive the long finish. Just wonderfully pure and long. 91pts

2009 Andrian Tor di Lupo Lagrein Riserva 14%

Creamy black cherry fruit on the nose has a bit of bramble and almond as well as a hint of chocolate. Bright and lighter-bodied than the nose might suggest. This is quite fruity and sour plummy on the palate, with hints of red currant and even a bit of mushroom emerging on the back end. This turns quite powerful in the mouth and a bit meaty and matte. This shows some wood tannin on the tight, fairly short finish, though it is very clean, clear and easy drinking. This can serve as a nice introduction to the variety for those used to a more international style as it blends oak and rich fruit fairly seamlessly. 91pts

2011 Erste + Neue Lareith Lagrein 13%

More perfumed than the regular bottling with a lovely sandalwood tone along with a hint of pepper and coffee accenting mulberry and blackberry fruit. This is sweetly fruited on entry, a very different expression of Lagrein that is pretty dense with fruit if not at all weighty on the palate. The tannins are fine-grained and the minerality, while present, is rather well covered by the plummy, slightly mocha-toned fruit. The minerality does emerge on the finely layered, long finish which shows super purity. 91pts

2010 Manincor Rubasch Lagrein 13%

Smoky on the nose with a lightly nutty, spicy and slightly herbal underlay. The mouthfeel here is alluringly ephemeral with edgy tannins adding energy. Nice supporting acids etch the very clear mid-palate with lovely sour plum and pomegranate fruit. This shows nice length on the finish with some lightly dusty tannins and excellent focus. Very transparent and fresh. 90pts

2011 Tiefenbrunner Castel Turmhof Lagrein 13.5%

Tight and mineral on the nose with obvious spicy oak notes. A bit buttery and herbally spicy. On entry, this shows off bright acidity with rather soft, well managed tannins that lend this a juicy feel with plum skin and black soil notes. With nice length on the finish, this shows very pure plummy fruit with black raspberry top notes in an attractive, medium-bodied style. 90pts

2010 Kaltern Spigel Lagrein 13%

A bit of raw wood greets the nose here with oaky spice. On the palate, this shows off a little liquor quality to the transparent black cherry and black currant fruit. Turning a touch creamy on the palate, this remains nicely bright and fresh on the finish, which shows more red fruit character. This is a very linear wine, very nicely done. Captures the purity of the fruit with an oak treatment that is already receding. 90pts

2011 Elena Walch Lagrein 12.5%

A bit salty on the nose with hints of licorice and fennel and light older wood aromas. A hint of smoke and salted plum fruit. Light and elegant on entry with a fine, delicate texture. Fully ripe tannins, transparent blackberry and black plum skin fruit have just a hint of cocoa and licorice adding some complexity. The very light finish shows good fruit persistence with great transparency and a lovely, stony finale. This may be very small-scaled but at the same time, it is quite complete. 89pts

2010 Tiefenbrunner Castel Turmhof Lagrein 13.5%

Very similar to 2011 with a lot of spicy wood notes accented by strong floral notes and rich plum skin fruit. In the mouth, you find lots of floral and bitter cocoa with emerging red currant fruit in a softer, lower acid style than the 2011. This is broader in the mouth with slightly creamy black cherry, blackberry fruit on the finish. Showing a little bit of plumpness here, though the finish is fresh and clean. 88pts

2011 Kaltern Lagrein 13%

Very fine nose with lots of floral aromas, blackberry, smoke, gravel, tree bark. Really very nicely perfumed with cocoa and spice. This is a touch soft in the mouth. Soft and silky, in fact, with rich, dark berry fruit that has a slight woodsiness to it and a little streak of vanilla. Very smooth and plump with mineral and bitter spice notes on the lightly spicy finish. Has a slightly plum pie filling quality to it. This is really easy to drink. I love the way the finish cleanses the mouth, but it is a touch short. 88pts

2011 Adrian Classic Lagrein Rubeno 13%

Very classic notes of smoke, almond, black plum, mineral and eatery fruit greet the nose. This opens with bright acid in a medium-bodied, lean and fresh style with a hint of peppery spice on the palate over clear blackberry fruit. The fruit is transparent, revealing very sandy soil tones. Absolutely lean and lithe with very soft tannins and a hint of cocoa on the back end. Finishes rather quickly. 88pts

2011 San Michele Appiano Lagrein

Pretty aromas of cocoa, rose petal and black currant fruit come together on the nose, which is fairly complex with stemmy, smoky and spicy undertones. Rather broad in the mouth with good acids and ripe tannins, the fruit here shows a nice, spicy character in a black raspberry/plummy vein. This is easy drinking but not simple with the spicy character and plummy fruit on the fresh finish. 88pts

2009 San Michele Appiano Lagrein Riserva 13.5%

Noticeable veneer of oak on the nose. Raspberry preserves and a little licorice and tar lurk under top notes of gamy leather and a hint of vanilla. This is actually quite complex and attractive on the nose, especially with some air. Smooth and a little soft in the mouth, this is almost Californian in ripeness and fades quickly on the finish, but the nose is certainly attractive. 87pts

2011 Erste + Neue Lagrein 13%

Rocks and brownies on the nose with hints of raspberries and rose petals. While this shows a bit of gassiness on entry, it is immediately followed by big black fruit and tough little tannins, which make this a bit rustic and a bit chewy if firmly medium-bodied. The flavors are nice and fresh, all plum skin and spice. A clean, short finish shows mineral and spice notes with a return of aromatic rose petals. 87pts

2011 Hofstatter Lagrein 13.5%

This is nicely fruit-driven on the nose and opens well to show a slightly plummy, lightly smoky, plump black fruit nose. Bright in the mouth with some early red and blue berry fruit that is bright and juicy with lightly chewy tannins. A medium-bodied style that shows black cherry skin with a hint of chocolate on the mid-palate. The finish comes off as a bit matte and a bit sweet, with less brightness and a bit more chew than one might expect due to some drying tannins. 87pts

2011 Girlan Lagrein 13%

Very pretty and focused on the nose with spicy crushed mulberry fruit and violets. In the mouth, this is juicy and slightly inky with angular but well managed tannins. A lot of plum skin and blackberry fruit in a lusty and slightly rustic style. Finishes with good length, sweet fruit and slightly dry tannins. 87pts

2007 Girlan Lagrein Riserva 13.4%

A lot of fruit backed up with sweet wood, caramel, chocolate, spicy licorice and herb notes on the nose. This is smooth, opulent and really broad on the palate with fine depth and good mineral cut to the fruit. There is impressive richness to the blackberry and mulberry flavors, which turn a bit drying on modest finish. I’m not sure that I would know what this is if I tasted it blind. Well done but anonymous. 87pts

2011 Colterenzio Lagrein Classic 13.4%

Smoky and a hint reductive with earthy shale and low plum and nettle fruit. This retains a hint of gas on the palate which is decidedly medium weight with light tannins, good acid and a clean and fresh style. Turns gently inky on the back end. Very honest style. 86pts

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