Girlan

Delicious, Wallet-Friendly Refreshment from the Mountainous Pocket of North West Italy

Wines from isolated, mountainous pockets of the world can be exhilarating discoveries for those seeking new drinking experiences. The Alto Adige in Italy’s remote, mountainous north is perhaps the quirkiest high-altitude region going. Yes, you are technically in Italy, but forget about pasta, tanned youths on Vespas and your high school Italian. This is the Südtirol, a stone’s throw from the Austrian and Swiss borders and encircled by the saw-toothed Dolomite Mountains. Südtirol is the German name (South Tyrol in English), as the region borders Austria’s Tyrol state to the north. In fact, this area was part of Austria until WW1, and so the Germanic influence runs deep, here the restaurants serve hearty dumplings; smoked pork and sauerkraut; you drive a snow plough in winter; and the locals speak German as often as Italian, or even Ladin, a local dialect spoken only in this part of the world.

Alto Adige’s wines are as singular as their setting. This is isolated, high-altitude viticulture at its most extreme. Here, an endless variety of stony, well-drained, south-facing slopes look down on the Adige River from highs varying from 750-3250 feet. A wide range of grape varieties have long been grown here and intense aromatics, fresh acidity, and spiciness run through all the best wines. For wine buyers looking to Italy for diversity and value, this is as good a place to start as any. We think these wines offer some of the brightest, most exciting values we ship—with not a Pinot Grigio in sight!

The style of Girlan’s wines is very much in the zeitgeist; aromatic, textural, snappy whites and delicious, fragrant, crunchy-fresh reds.

Founded in 1923 as a small co-operative winery with 23 growers on their books, Girlan is based in the heart of Italy’s beautiful, mountainous, Alto Adige region. This historic Cantina has always been determined to do things differently. It was one of the first in the region to pay a premium based on the quality of grapes received. That charter has only been strengthened under the current direction of Oscar Lorandi and cellarmaster Gerhard Kofler. Today they work with 200 families who farm around 215 hectares of vines (small in the context of the region), meaning the average grower’s holding still lies under a single hectare of vines. If the grower delivers grapes of a quality to make it into a premium Girlan bottling, they get a generous bonus. This incentive clearly goes a long way and it is therefore little wonder that this address is held up as one of the beacons of the Valle dell’Adige. The wines speak loudly of their region’s mountainous, stony terroirs in a way that belies their humble price tag.

It’s therefore no accident that we have happily worked with this over-delivering Alto Adige outfit for as long as we can remember. The quality and value are outstanding. The Adige produces many outstanding wines and the best of these are typically in the upper price ranges—so to have a producer that offers such value is something to cherish.

The Range

Girlan Alto Adige Lagrein 2022
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Girlan Alto Adige Lagrein 2022

At its best, Lagrein can produce some of the Alto Adige’s most striking reds, and this is one such example. Drawn from vineyards within the sandy Bassa Atesina terroir (a canton of the mountainous Südtiroler Unterland), this fine example is raised in large wooden barrels and concrete vats for five months. It’s a gorgeous, accessible red, with an enticing mix of radiant black fruit and spice, alongside pencil-shaving and graphite notes. Though only 12.5 percent alcohol, the same exuberance plays out on the fleshy, supple palate featuring integrated tannins, lively acidity and a vibrant finish. Begs the question:  why aren’t more people talking about Lagrein? Would be even more delicious with a juicy leg of lamb or braised beef shin.

Girlan Alto Adige Lagrein 2022
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Girlan Alto Adige Platt & Riegl Pinot Bianco 2022
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Girlan Alto Adige Platt & Riegl Pinot Bianco 2022

This pristine Pinot Bianco is drawn from a single vineyard called Platt & Riegl at an elevation of 550 metres above sea level in the gravelly, mineral-rich soils of the Appiano Monte. The area is considered to be one of the premier terroirs of the Alto Adige, and this is one of its finest vineyards. Here, in the lee of the snow-capped Mount Mendola, the sun-drenched, rocky soils and the elevation make a considerable contribution to the style of the wine, as do the old vines, hand-harvesting, partial malolactic conversion and partial vinification in large oak (50% in 5,000L cask).These influences result in a more satin-textured, mineral wine than you typically get from this variety.

Girlan Alto Adige Platt & Riegl Pinot Bianco 2022
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Girlan Alto Adige Pinot Bianco 2022
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Girlan Alto Adige Pinot Bianco 2022

Like most producers in Alto Adige who want to sell some wine on the international market, Girlan does make a Pinot Grigio. It’s a good wine, but the truth of the matter is that their Pinot Bianco is miles more interesting (in our humble opinion!), so we ship this instead. This comes from hand-picked fruit grown on Alto Adige’s mineral-rich hillsides of Cornaiano, at altitudes ranging from 450 to 500 metres above sea level. The juice fermented in tank, with 10% going through malolactic conversion to add some flesh to the wine's cool Alpine bones. The weight and texture here is pinpoint; expect pulpy citrus, apple and notes of apple blossom vying with pithy, mineral freshness.

Girlan Alto Adige Pinot Bianco 2022
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"Girlan is the only estate that never gave up on Schiava, even in its darkest hours and has been producing this outstanding and long-lived Gschleier Alte Reben since 1975." Jancisrobinson.com

Country

Italy

Primary Region

Alto Adige

People

Winemaker: Gerhard Kofler and Oscar Lorandi

Availability

National

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