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Cantina Terlano (Cooperatives – Not a Dirty Word)

There is a scene in cult TV comedy series Blackadder when Steven Fry's incompetent General Melchett responds to Captain Blackadder's reaction to new military security measures by observing that “Security isn't a dirty word, Blackadder.” In the world of wine where snobbery can admittedly occasionally prevail, there has sometimes been a similar reaction reserved for wines produced by wine-making Cooperatives.

Wine enthusiasts seem to migrate towards the great Chateaux, Domaines or Estates which are dominated by a single history, ideology and with a clear identity. Co-ops do not appear to match that brief. They usually function as a group of smaller vineyard owners whose grapes end up at one common place to be vinified and bottled. These wines are more usually associated with table wines, at best basic AOC wines, or grape juice that is sold off for distillation. Added to that, there is a natural suspicion of a wine that has not seen its grapes grown, vinified and bottled all at the same property.

Italy is a country which relies heavily on cooperatives with over half of their wine produced by the Cantina Sociales. There are many successful Co-ops throughout the country but in the very North lies a tiny region called the Alto Adige which in part due to its unique micro climate and mix of both low and stomach-turningly high altitude is home to one of the very finest wine cooperatives, Cantina Terlano.

The Terlano Wine Growers’ Cooperative was established way back in 1893 by a group of farmers with ambitions to escape the clutches of big landowners and add renewed vigour to what had been a successful wine-making region since the Roman Empire. Greater emphasis was put on white grape varieties and today the region produces spectacular white wines with a nod to the famous wine-making regions of Germany and the Alsace.

Riesling, the white Pinots, Gerwurztraminer and blends are all world class. These are mountain wines; pure, crystalline, nervy and electric with incredible longevity. Beyond these Germanic classics there is a strong nod to Burgundy with outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay plus superb examples of the indigenous Lagrein proving what can happen when there is a symbiosis of terroir, skill, an abundance of passion and that cooperative does not have to be a dirty word. 

 

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