What To Eat, Drink And Do In This Unique Italian Sparkling Wine Region

Lake Toblino in Trentino, a region in Italy known for its superb sparkling wines and…

[For the latest information on requirements for leisure travel in Italy go to Ministero della Salute.] If you’re looking for a remarkable corner of Italy away from the country’s tourist magnets, one that offers a unique take on the Italian experience, head to Trentino, the dramatically scenic and mountainous region north of Lake Garda. Here wining and dining locally provides distinct pleasures—superb sparkling wines and Italian food with Alpine twists—and when you can push yourself away from the table, there are plenty of opportunities to work off any culinary indulgences with a wide range of sports from hiking, trekking, golf and sailing to skiing in winter at top resorts like Madonna di Campiglio.

Trentino has been in the spotlight recently, which isn’t a surprise considering its achievements with high-altitude viniculture, In 2020 Wine Enthusiast named it their Wine Region of the Year and its Trentodoc sparkling wines, using hand-picked grapes cultivated in mountain vineyards reaching to 900 meters above sea level, and produced by metodo classico (the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, as with champagne), racked up more honors at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships (CSWWC) than any other region in Italy. 

Should you be thinking of heading to Trentino in the near future, now that Italy is reopening for leisure travel, find out what to eat, the type of sparkling wines to drink, and the places to see from three insiders—two top Trentodoc producers and one of Italy’s best sommeliers—as detailed below.

MOSER TRENTO

Moser Trento was established in 1979 by Diego and Francesco Moser; the latter gained renown not only as a gifted vintner, but also as a top cyclist—he won the Giro D’Italia in 1984 and many other racing awards. Today Moser is run by the third generation of family winemakers, Carlo and Matteo Moser, who have evolved their sparkling wines “to increase aromatic complexity” by extending aging times to a minimum of 30 months for their Brut, with some of their sparkling wines aging to 60 months. Moser’s Brut Nature ’14 won top ranking (Tre Bicchieri) from the influential Gambero Rosso for 2021. 

Restaurant not to miss: The Vecchia Sorni trattoria in Sorni di Lavis—the Mosers suggest trying the home-made carne salada with horseradish cream. At the Locanda Alpina in Brez order the tortel di patate (thick potato pancakes), Trentino mortandela (a salami) and Mezzeno, a mountain cheese.

To eat and drink: Spaghetti with burro di malga [a prized Alpine butter] and bottarga di Trota (trout fish roe)—the Mosers like to pair this with their 51,151, a 100% chardonnay Trentodoc; risotto with salmerino (a local river-fish) and crescione (an aromatic herb) with their Brut Nature, also made entirely of chardonnay grapes. For a lighter bite they like smoked salmon with a green salad dressed with Garda DOP extra virgin olive oil, drunk with Rosé Extra-Brut, made with pinot noir grapes

To see and do: The Mosers suggest the scenic Valle dei Laghi cycle path that takes you from the shores of Lake Garda to the striking Lake Toblino “with a castle that appears to float on water.” Along the route, “you cycle amid vineyards and orchards with stunning mountains framing the views.”

Other things to experience in Trentino are “hiking the Brenta Dolomites, dining on Lake Garda and booking Rifugio Fuciade [close to 2000 meters above sea level] and enjoying its cuisine and top class wine cellar.”

Towns and Villages: The Mosers recommend Canale di Tenno, a beautiful medieval village north of Lake Garda, as well as Molveno, at the base of the Brenta Dolomites, a destination popular in summer (for water sports on Lake Molveno), and winter (for skiing). Vigo in the Val di Fassa, a Dolomite valley, is another recommendation. This Ladin village with gorgeous views is also a ski and summer sports favorite.

LETRARI WINERY

While Leonello and Maria Vittoria Letrari founded their winery in 1976, the family has been producing wines in the region for centuries. Their daughter Lucia, an oenologist with thirty years experience, heads up the winery today. Her recent focus has been on experimenting with Trentodoc aging periods—from 60 to 120 months for the Riservas— and with yeast selection. Letrari’s Trento Dosaggio Zero Riserva ’14 earned Tre Bicchieri from Gambero Rosso for 2021. She will introduce the winery’s first blanc de noir sparkling wine this year.

Restaurants not to miss: Letrari suggests La Casa del Vino della Vallagarina in Isera “with its splendid panoramic terrace overlooking the Adige Valley.” Another great place to eat is the Moja Restaurant in Borgo Sacco di Rovereto, “an elegant meeting point offering refined and modern cuisine with a prestigious wine list.”

To eat and drink: In the Vallagarina (Lagarina Valley), found between the city of Trento and Lake Garda, where her family’s vineyards are located, fresh pasta with meat sauce or mushroom ragù, potato gnocchi, canederli [bread dumplings], spätzle and vegetable soups are typical first courses, says Letrari, which she likes to pair with one of her Trentodoc wines. Dishes featuring lake fish, like trout and char, are popular, she says, along with such area delicacies as Monte Baldo black truffles and white asparagus. Carne salada [cured lean meat] with cheeses from Monte Baldo or Lessinia [a pre-Alpine region north of Verona] are also good matches for Trentodoc wines, she notes, as are appetizers with Parma ham, culatello and Trentingrana and other mountain cheeses. She says her Trentodoc Dosaggio Zero (80% chardonnay and 20% pinot noir) and Trentodoc Riserva Dosaggio Zero (60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir) go particularly well with fish appetizers, shellfish, sushi, sashimi and red meat tartare.

To see and do: Exploring the Vallagarina and upper Lake Garda area on an e-bike is a good way to get to know the area, according to Letrari, who says that one of the most beautiful cycle paths in Trentino runs along the Adige River “between vineyards and ancient villages and is surrounded by nature. It starts in Borgo Sacco, a few meters from Cantina Letrari. More daring cyclists can also take paths toward Lake Garda or the slopes of Monte Baldo.” 

Letrari says the plateau of Folgaria and Lavarone, which can be reached in just over half an hour from Rovereto, is another part of the region worth discovering. “Traveling from Calliano and the marvelous Castel Beseno castle [dating from the Middle Ages], you arrive in Folgaria, an elegant town visited by winter sports enthusiasts, L’Alpe Cimbra [Cimbrian Alps] is an enchanted place where time seems suspended. The forts of the Great War tell the story of this border area and the paths through the woods [lend] a fairytale dimension.”

Cities, towns and villages: An ideal destination for a romantic getaway far from the crowds is the village of Lavarone Chiesa, says Letrari, “where the wonderful Alpine lake that was dear to Sigmund Freud is situated. For those looking for cultural stimuli, the city of Rovereto offers an historic center with medieval and baroque architecture. The MART [Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto] complex hosts prestigious exhibitions with international appeal. The Castel Veneto [in the city] is a Renaissance fortress that now houses the Italian War History Museum, with a rich collection of artifacts from the Great War and the Second World War.” In Rovereto you’ll also find, Maria Dolens, says Letrari, a large bell commemorating those who lost their lives in conflict, that rings each day in remembrance.

ROBERTO ANESI

Roberto Anesi, voted Italy’s best sommelier in 2017 by AIS, the Italian Sommelier Association, is also well-known for his knowledge of the wines and culinary traditions of Trentino. He owns the restaurant El Pael in Canazei.

Restaurants not to miss: The Val di Fassa has a tradition of high quality cuisine, says Anesi. “In a valley with 12,000 inhabitants, we have two restaurants with Michelin-stars—Malga Panna in Moena and L Chimpl da Tamion in Vigo di Fassa. Their chefs are very connected to our roots, to tradition, to the forest and its products.” 

To eat and drink: For the pasta course, Anesi recommends strangolapreti, “a kind of dumpling made with bread and spinach, and served with melted butter.” When he’s having a local pasta with vegetables, or with a mild sauce, he pairs it with a Trentodoc made primarily with chardonnay grapes. “If the pasta is rich, a good Trentodoc rosè will work perfectly,” he says. For main a course he suggests grilled or stewed game, like a roe deer fillet, with a rosé Trentodoc Millésime [also referred to as Millesimato; these are vintage wines aged a minimum of 24 months] or Riserva [a classification that requires aging of at least 36 months]. It’s a surprising combination, he says, as “people are not used to pairing sparkling wines with meat.” For special meals, for example, a lobster with saffron sauce, or a risotto with Sicilian red prawns and lemon powder, he suggests a top Trentodoc vintage from 1995 (“absolutely outstanding”) 2006, 2008 or 2010. For quicker bites Anesi recommends trying Trentingrana cheese and honey with a Trentodoc Brut Riserva. He even drinks sparkling wine with a quick snack of French fries and mayonnaise. “I have this at the end of a long day of work in the restaurant and it really makes me happy!”

To see and do: Anesi says that visitors should come to the Val di Fassa, “because it has some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. You can ski during the winter and hike, climb, paraglide or just take relaxing walks in summer.”

Plus there’s the Ladin culture to experience. “Ladin [an ancient language dating from the Roman occupation of the area 2000 years ago] is a great treasure we have,” says Anesi. After a day of sporting activity, he suggests heading to “one of the characteristic bars in the small villages to enjoy an aperitif and listen to people speak Ladin.”

For more information about Trentodoc sparkling wines, go to Trentodoc.com; to learn about traveling in the Trentino, VisitTrentino.info. For information about visiting the wineries in this article go to Letrari.it and MoserTrento.com.