Schiava – a beautiful light red wine

I do not judge the quality of a red wine by its intensity. Instead, I am a fan of light colored red wines. I find these wines to have lovely aromatics and beautiful texture on the palate. The light red wines that have recently caught my attention are Schiava from the Alto Adige region in Italy which I wrote about in the Napa Valley Register and share here.

Schiava – a beautiful light red wine

Italy is home to more than 500 indigenous grape varieties. Many of these grape varieties have been around for centuries but at some point, they fell out of favor. Today some of these grapes are extremely rare, consisting of only a few acres, and others, thought to have been extinct, have only recently been found in a small field somewhere off the beaten path. It is fun to discover these lesser-known red wines from Italy, and the one I am enjoying right now is Schiava, a beautiful light red wine.

Schiava is grown in the Alto Adige region in Italy. Better known for its Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer, Alto Adige is a predominantly white wine region that makes up two-thirds of the wine in the region. Only one-third of plantings is to red grapes. Schiava totals 11 percent (1502.4 acres) of the total area cultivation of red grapes which makes it the most planted red grape in Alto Adige.

Schiava, also called Vernatsch or Trollinger in German, has been at home in Alto Adige since the 16th century. For centuries, Schiava produced a simple wine enjoyed for its light body and fruit and floral notes. In fact, Schiava wines were the dominant production in Alto Adige up until the 1970s.

But Schiava was not known for its dark color or intense flavors. Even though light wines could be drunk all day, the market wanted bigger style wines. Sadly, Schiava fell out of favor in the 1970s, and plantings of Schiava were reduced, making way for international varieties and bigger style wines.

In recent years, Schiava has been rediscovered by winemakers, and the wine is being appreciated for its light color and body. And luckily, even though the planting of Schiava had been reduced, there are 80 to 100 years old vines that remain today.

I am a fan of lighter-bodied red wines and have enjoyed two Schiava wines from two leading producers in Alto Adige.

Schiava – a beautiful light red wine

Alois Lageder Schiava Alto Adige Doc ($17)
A pioneer in the Alto Adige region, Alois Lageder was established in 1823. Alois Lageder IV, who took over in the 1970s, is the fifth generation in the family. Owning 125 acres, they have been farming biodynamically for a few decades.

The Lageder Schiava is planted in gravelly soils and the vines are planted in the traditional pergola trellis system. Schiava grapes prefer shade and overhead pergolas protect the grapes from too much sunlight and harsh weather. The grapes are picked and macerated in stainless steel tanks, followed by six months in concrete vessels for malolactic fermentation.

The Lageder Schiava is a striking ruby red color with a purple shimmer. The wine has a beautiful fruit and floral nose that continues on the palate. There is a lovely freshness to this medium-bodied wine that has soft, rounded tannins and a light and elegant finish.

Schiava – a beautiful light red wine

2020 Elena Walch Schiava Alto Adige ($16)
An architect by profession, Elena Walch married Werner Walch whose family-owned vineyards. Elena Walch’s first vintage under her own label was in 1988. From the start, she has been a promotor of quality and innovation and helped lead the qualitative revolution of South Tyrolean wines. Today the Elena Walch winery is run by Elena’s daughters Karoline and Julia. With 106 acres of vineyards, the family follows the principles of sustainability.

Schiava makes up only 3% of the Elena Walch production. The Schiava grapes ferment for approximately one week in stainless steel tanks and are then aged in large wooden oak casks for four to six months.

A lovely light magenta color, the Elena Walch Schiava is a little darker in color. Raspberries, strawberries, violets, and earthy aromas exude out of the glass. On the palate, the wine has soft tannins and lovely acidity.

With bright, juicy acidity and low tannins, Schiava is approachable and easy to drink. Chill it and enjoy it on a hot summer day. Or pair it with seafood, grilled fish, pizza, pasta, light cheese or even game meats or Southeast Asian dishes. It may be a light-colored red wine, but it is exceptionally delicious and versatile.

Schiava is one of Italy’s many light-colored indigenous grapes that prove that red wine does not have to be dark in color to be appreciated.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.