The super-fresh, fiercely-structured and textured whites of the little Eisacktaler valley (Valle Isarco in the secondary, Italian language) in Italy’s far, far north Südtirol, are possibly the most exciting aromatic whites we’ve tried out of Italy in recent years. Owing more in style to nearby Austria, and almost always made as single-varietals, Eisacktaler Pinot Grigio and Grüner Veltliner are up there with the best from the most-recognised areas. But it’s the grapes previously thought of as lesser beings that might provide the biggest thrills – and which act as some of the most versatile and food-friendly whites we know.
The Huber family and the steep vineyards surrounding their lovely gasthouse, are an original source of this little valley’s best wines. Andreas Huber’s great-great grandfather actually introduced Sylvaner and Pinot Grigio, but the family are known to have had some vines here since about 1142. The vineyards are almost entirely sandy and loam soils, and vary between 600 and 900 metres and each variety is planted with elevation, aspect and drainage that is best suited. The wines are power- packed, but in an intriguing, complex, and restrained way that fascinates. Andreas’ wines are quite generous, yet remain essentially subtle, with everything kept tight and in shape by the crystalline structure and purity. Ferments are cold and slow, and mostly in stainless steel, but Andreas finds some varieties really prefer a little time in acacia barrels, as have been used for hundreds of years here. These piercing, memorable wines and their equally soulful and memorable makers are always worth the drive.