It’s not always easy for Massimiliano Giacomini to explain to the uninitiated what makes northern Italy’s sparkling Trentodoc wines so special. “The first thing we always have to do is tell people what we’re not: prosecco,” Giacomini, an export manager for Trentodoc producer Ferrari Trento, says. “Only then can we begin to tell them what we are.”
Positioned high in the Dolomite mountains northwest of Venice, winemakers in and around the city of Trento—the legally defined denominazione di origine controllata, or DOC, goes by the portmanteau Trentodoc—has fought this uphill battle of perceptions for a century. Trentodoc arguably owns the most unique identity of any sparkling wine–producing region in the world, yet is often simplistically referred to as “Italian champagne” or—even less accurately—as prosecco by another name (it’s not).
So what is Trentodoc? Produced in the traditional champagne style (known in Italy as the metodo classico), Trentodocs primarily utilize chardonnay and pinot noir grapes and require secondary fermentation in the bottle to produce their signature fizziness. But despite these similarities, Trentodoc wines exude a very different character than champagnes and something a world apart from proseccos (which are made from completely different grapes and via a very different method).
Trentodoc’s secret ingredient is place, and that place is hundreds of meters higher on average than the regions that produce champagne, prosecco, cava, and other popular sparklers. During the day, the Dolomites enjoy warm Mediterranean temperatures. At night, cool mountain air flows down into the valleys from higher elevations, blanketing the vineyards. These temperature swings allow the grapes to maintain the bright, punchy acidity that defines Trentodocs. Mountain wines through and through, they exhibit an alpine crispness distinctive to these elevated volcanic vineyards.
Consumers will find another huge differentiator between champagne and Trentodoc: price. Back in October, the Trump administration slapped a 25% tariff on French and Spanish wines owing to a trade tussle with the European Union over jetliner subsidies. While Italian cheeses were swept up in that dispute as well, Italian wines were exempted. Throw the trade war into the equation and the value proposition for these unique Italian sparklers has never been more straightforward.
Below are a few bottles that will help you bring these wines down from the mountaintop the next time an occasion calls for bubbly.
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