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It's Time to Talk Trentodoc

Regular readers know I’m a bubbly maven, and I often say (only half-jokingly) that if I could only drink one wine for the rest of my life, it would be Champagne.


The problem is: Champagne is expensive. The quality sweet spot – where you get a really great Champers for your money – used to be around $45-55, but lately it’s jumped to $55-65. And even the Wine Minx can’t shell out that much for a daily sip. So, for regular consumption, I look to the more-affordable Crémants (especially de Bourgogne and de Jura) and to delish Portuguese sparklers, plus some dependable U.S. bubbles, and even a Cava or two.


However, these alternatives don’t always deliver the presence and finesse of Champagne. There is something special about Champagne’s chalky soil, marginal climate, blend of grape varieties, and je ne sais quoi that keep it in a class by itself, making it difficult to find a truly comparable fizz at a lower price point.


Until now?


I recently attended a tasting of Trentodoc wines, and a seminar led by Food & Wine magazine’s Ray Isle. Trentodoc is a dedicated appellation in Trentino in northeast Italy solely for traditional method sparkling wines. (The “doc” refers to the same DOC found on many other Italian wines indicating the quality designation Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or controlled denomination of origin.) I was already familiar with Trentodoc, and remembered enjoying some in the past, but admittedly the wines had not made much of an impression. During this tasting, that all changed.


Trentodoc’s location is notable for a few reasons: it is at high altitude on very mountainous terrain, with vineyards covering steep slopes stretching up the Dolomites. The soil is largely calcareous limestone, which is what the top sparkling wine grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, love. Plus there’s fissures of minerally volcanic soil threaded throughout, which lend a flavorsome salinity. This altitude and soil combine to create growing conditions that echo those of Champagne, if not exactly mimic. And unlike some of the value-bubble places I mentioned above, the producers here have banded together to promote quality – and are very big on sustainability.


Trentodoc as we know it today was established in 1902 by Giulio Ferrari (yes, of the car Ferrari) who, inspired by Champagne, brought Chardonnay to Trento. Still wines were – and remain – important in the region, but the sparkling wines quickly became admired. The Italian Ministry of Agriculture has collaborated on research that shows a hundred unique volatile aroma compounds only found from the mountain terroir of Trentodoc, and in 2023, it was the most awarded Italian sparkling wine at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships – beating out popular Prosecco, sophisticated Franciacorta, and all other Italian fizz.


Most of the wines I tasted showed impressively long length, and many featured an herbal, pine-y character that speaks to their Alpine origin. There was a jaunty freshness, even with the wines that spent six to ten years on their lees. Even my less-favorited were fine bubbles, but the top wines really impressed me – especially when I saw the prices.


Sparkling winemaking is not a low-cost endeavor, which is one of the reasons Champagne is so expensive. But not all bubble regions amplify that price tag. You do have to hand-harvest the grapes for quality (especially on the steep slopes of Trentodoc.) You have to carry out not one, but two fermentations, perhaps use costly barrels, and as the wine “sleeps” on its lees, you’re stuck with a cellar full of bottles, waiting years until you’re able to sell them. However, somehow, Trentodoc has managed to not let their prices skyrocket – and perhaps their lack of fame will keep them lower, for a while at least.


Out of the wines I tasted, here are some favorites. I will say, Trentodoc wines are not yet widely available in the U.S., so you may have difficulty finding them here. But on your next trip to Italy, you MUST seek some out! And who knows, as the buzz grows, so will our ability to find these seriously delicious wines.


2018 Trentodoc Cantina D’Isera 907 Riserva Extra Brut

100% Chardonnay, low 3 grams/L dosage, fermented in stainless steel with 20% spending 6 months in barriques. This producer allows the wine to soften by undergoing malolactic fermentation if the vintage is super lean, but in 2018 it was not encouraged. 50 months on the lees and an additional 12 months under cork before release. Pale lemon-yellow color, strong perfumed aroma of florals, squeaky Meyer lemon peel, chalk, green apple, light toast. Integrated, elegant, concentrated. N/A but ~$40


2013 Trentodoc Corvée Opera Riserva Nature

100% Chardonnay, 12.5% abv, no dosage added, 1 g/L. Fermented in stainlees steel with 72 months on the lees.  Shows its age with a medium yellow gold color and lazy bubbles. Very savory edge of furniture polish, almond skin, even a little beef jerky! High acid and sharp mouthfeel that broadens into an elegant, powerful expression, with more fruit coming on the palate, a very long finish, and great lift for 10+ years. N/A but ~$75


NV Trentodoc Moser 51,151 Brut

Another Blanc de Blancs of 100% Chardonnay, 12.5%, more residual sugar at 6 g/L mid-Brut but not overly sweet seeming. 85% vinified in stainless steel, with 15% in 25hl oak for 6 months, and an addition of 5-10% reserve wines. Moser uses some oak to soften and add a bit of oxygen to round out the wine. Pale silver-lemon color, nice toasty nose, with apple skin, a steely/chalky vibe, salinity, and white flowers on its classy, long finish. Well-balanced, fresh but supported. N/A but ~$30


2020 Trentodoc Letrari Brut Rosé

A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, 12.5%, 5.6 g/L dosage, fermented in stainless steel, on lees for 24 months. Pale peachy onion skin color, lovely very aromatic nose of peony, rose, candied cranberry, notably high acidity, lean and elegant with good structure and a super long finish. Fairly gastronomic. NA but ~$28


Photos courtesy Trentodoc

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