Is Lagrein Wine The Best Value Red? (Video)

It’s time to take a closer look at Lagrein wine.

What makes the “perfect” wine?

  1. It ought to be fruity.
  2. And yet, it should be a touch earthy too.
  3. Most importantly, it should be affordable!

While that might not be everyone’s definition of “perfect,” it’s hard to deny that affordability is a deciding factor when it comes to buying wine. Surprisingly, there is an Italian wine that checks all the boxes and meets “perfect” status.

It's hard to find quality, hand-crafted wines under $20 these days.

It comes from an unlikely place.

Alto Adige is not a place where wine enthusiasts look for red wine. In fact, the tiny region at the foot of the Italian Alps is mostly known for its white wines, namely Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay.

Yet, there is an indigenous red found here that delivers the complexity of Cabernet paired with the easy-drinking-nature of Pinot Noir. Yep, we’re talking about Lagrein wine.

Alto-Adige-Vineyards-View-Epic-Travel-Italy-Schimonski
Whoa, now that’s a view! Photo by Schimonski.

It’s very rare.

A lot of wine people toot about the treasure-worthy nature of rare wines. And, they’re not wrong. To enjoy something exclusive feels really special!

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So, what if I told you there are only about 1,000 acres of Lagrien in the world!?! That’s 250 times more rare than Pinot Noir. (Actually, it’s 244, but you get the idea). Still, you can find great bottles of Lagrein wine for under $20.

Un-effing-believable!

The Wines

Here’s a breakdown of the two wines tasted in the video.

Castelfeder Lagrein wine - Rieder from Alto Adige

Castelfeder “Rieder” Lagrein

2014 vintage (~$18)

This was distinctly more earthy than the other wine, with notes of pencil lead and wet granite encompassing fruit flavors of raspberry and red cherry. Overall, the aromas were a bit “turned in” (as in, they were hard to smell).

On the palate, however, the wine opened up with succulent red cherry flavors and a hint of citrus pith towards the finish. The tannins were moderately low, making it easy to drink.

Cantina Terlano Gries Lagrein from Alto Adige tech sheet

Cantina Terlano “Gries” Lagrein

2015 vintage (~$34)

Pow! Lots of fruit on the nose of this wine that’s almost candied in nature. Think candied raspberries or raspberry Tootsie Roll Pop! Not to worry though, the aromas become more earthy as the wine opens up, like a wet cast iron pot with slight hints of iodine (ever go camping with iodine pills?).

On the palate, this wine tasted rich and fruity. The tannins were only slightly present and created body and interest to support all the bold fruit. This was definitely the crowd-pleaser of the pair.


What We Learned About Lagrein

Where the white wines tend to grow best on the south-facing slopes in Alto Adige, Lagrein performs best in the heavier, richer soils by the river.

The river also helps moderate temperatures in this cool wine-growing region.

Another thing to note about Lagrein is how it ages. While the wine doesn’t have the tannin to last for 20+ years, it does have the acidity to go for the mid-term (say, about 10 years or so, depending on the quality).

On tasting a 12 year-old Lagrein, I noted honeyed notes of tobacco, brown spices, and this sweet-sour Horehound candy play. It makes a great wine to try cellaring a few years.

Happy tasting!

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About Madeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly