History and Tradition
As the name suggests, the Trentino–Alto Adige is comprised of two separate areas. Trento refers to the southern part of the region and its capital is Trentino (the ancient Roman Tridentum). The name Alto Adige identifies the northern territory of the region that includes the higher (alto) part of the Adige River.
Populated since the Bronze Age, the area was subsequently inhabited by the Celts and the Etruscans and later became part of the Roman Empire in the 1st century B.C. As was always the case, Romans colonization brought about the construction of roads, building of cities, aqueducts and canals, and Roman law in addition to the subdivision and distribution of land to locals for cultivation.
Following the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the area underwent the same fate as many other parts of Italy. Subsequent waves of invaders occupied the region causing a centuries long period of economic and societal stagnation to settle in. It was in the Middle Ages that the current ethno-cultural mix composed of mostly Italian and Germanic people was formed. In fact, the region enjoys a special autonomous status and its inhabitants are bi-lingual.
After WWII, two important developments that changed the region dramatically took place. The first was the rapid industrialization in and around the Trento and Bolzano provinces, stimulated by the construction of hydroelectric plants, bringing with it long-term prosperity to the area. The second was the development of tourist resorts, especially in the beautiful Alpine zones of Alto Adige.
The region's traditional festivals reflect the rich ethnic mixture that characterize Trentino - Alto Adige. Some traditions call on German roots, while others have strong Venetian or Lombardian influence. In addition, there are still isolated communities high on the Alps, such as Luserna or the Mocheni Valley, that trace their roots back to medieval times and maintain their own unique historic traditions.
Pane e vino fanno un bel bambino or "bread and wine make a beautiful baby". This saying tells a lot about the importance and consideration given to wine in this Alpine region. The expression reflects the widespread belief that bread and wine are fundamental sources of nourishment and growth, both physically and emotionally. That said, consider that Trentino-Alto Adige produces less than 1% of the national wine production, but accounts for about 10% of grappa production. Grappa is a vodka-like traditional Italian drink, made from the leftover skins and seeds of grapes used for wine — try some and you may find yourself uttering pane e vino fanno un bel bambino.
There are three grapes native to this region, one is the white Nosiola and the other two are the red Teroldego Rotoliano and the Marzemino. In addition to the native grapes, well known international grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Moscato, Pinot Nero and Pinot Grigio, as well as Müller-Thurgau, are grown throughout the region.
One main distinction between Trentino and Alto Adige production is the fact that in the northern area the wines are produced mostly by small family-owned and managed wineries that sell their product locally with limited exports to Germany and Austria. Trentino on the other hand counts on a large number of growers who joined into large cooperatives, such as Ca'vit and Mezzacorona, which produce wines that have consistent taste and characteristics year after year. These popular wines have found their niche, both in Italy and abroad, among wine drinkers who look for reasonably good and affordable wines for daily enjoyment.