I just tasted the new vintage of Cantina Terlano’s Pinot Bianco Vorberg Riserva, namely the 2021 and it doesn’t disappoint. For me, and many others, it must be one of the finest white wines made in Italy and it is a relative snip. Anyone who enjoys Chablis, should be inclined to take a look at this outstanding wine.
Not many Italian estates are capable of producing highly individual and ageworthy white wines. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that Cantina Terlano is a cooperative.
Based in north-eastern Alto Adige and founded 40 years ago, Terlano is a cooperative boasting 143 growers who pool together 190 hectares of vines! Nothing at Terlano is rushed; two green harvests are carried out to control yields and fruit is hand harvested and selected. Gentle, whole cluster pressing is employed, and fermentation and ageing both occur in large oak barrels. So committed to producing age-worthy wines, the Cantina actually holds back a few thousand bottles of Vorberg for at least four years. This practice has its roots in the post-war years when Sebastian Stocker, the ‘Kellermeister’ (cellar master), would hide bottles behind walls. You can still see some of his hiding places when you visit the winery!
One of the estate’s specialities is Pinot Bianco (or Pinot Blanc if you prefer the French). There are very few complex Pinot Blanc in the world, and I am yet to find anything that comes close to the Vorberg Riserva in terms of quality. Pinot Bianco is a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir commonly associated with Alsace in north-eastern France and also grown in Germany, where it is also known as Weissburgunder. However, the strain of vine grown in Alsace is not capable of the same quality, as it produces significant yields of less characterful berries. It comes as no surprise that it makes relatively simple entry level wines there and little beyond. It is only really in Alto Adige that serious wines are made from this variety and Terlano’s Vorberg comfortably tops the list.
The fruit for ‘Vorberg’ (meaning ‘in front of the mountain’) comes from vines grown in sandy soils on steep south/southwest facing slopes at altitudes of 400-900 meters. The nutrient-poor soils control the natural vigour of the vines, while the aspect and altitude allow fruit to ripen fully and evenly. The result is a wine with both concentrated floral aromatics and notable minerality. Indeed, there is a complexity to this wine that is distinctly mineral. Antonio Galloni gave the 1955 Pinot Bianco Vorberg – yes, the 1955 – 100 points when tasted in 2013, commenting that it surprised a group of wine lovers who have had the world’s greatest bottles many times. His colleague, Ian d’Agata, scored the 1959 at 99 points, and the 1966 at 98 points…I think you soon get the impression that Terlano’s Vorberg has a real pedigree.
2021 was a late harvested vintage, where the fruit was picked in very healthy condition. The lack of pressure at harvest allowed growers to judge the optimum moment to harvest without fear of inclement weather. Combined with the significant shift between day and nighttime temperatures, it is easy to see why there are high hopes that 2021 will rank as an extraordinary vintage in Alto Adige. If you put your nose in a glass of 2021, you will quickly pick up the quality of the vintage, reflected in the wine’s aromatics and precision.
To date, no critics have yet published a note on the 2021.