Lagrein grapes growing in New Zealand.
|Major regions||Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol|
|Notable wines||Lagrein Scuro, Lagrein Dunkel, Lagrein Rosato, Lagrein Kretzer|
Lagrein (pronounced lah-GRAH’EEN, lah-GRINE or lah-GRI’NE) is a red wine grape variety native to the valleys of South Tyrol, northern Italy. Along with Marzemino, it is a descendant of Teroldego, and related to Syrah, Pinot noir and Dureza.
The variety is ferociously vigorous, with drooping canes and a tendency to grow lateral shoots, making canopy management a key issue in cooler areas. It is a generous yielding variety, so overcropping can also be a problem. In the Peter May/Victoria cultivar at least, the variety is deeply coloured, tannic and has very good acidity at ripeness. Unusually, even the free run juice is tannic.
Lagrein produces wine which has high acidity and low pH, and is also highly tannic, which is why blending with less tannic varietals works so well. Eric Asimov says Lagrein produces "congenial, straightforward wines that can be deliciously plummy, earthy and chewy, dark and full-bodied but not heavy, with a pronounced minerally edge."
As a single varietal wine, Lagrein can be extremely astringent. To manage this, winemakers give the wine long periods of barrel maturation (>18 months) or for younger fresher wines, pre-fine the juice to remove tannins before fermentation. Lagrein produces a very deep yet intense red color in wine, with notable hues of purple which can be seen especially in the macerated juice. The variety typically shows a rich berry-fruit mid palate, savoury tobacco/leather/mushroom notes and some sour cherry astringency on the finish.
Cultivation of Lagrein in South Tyrol usually results in the tannic red wines Lagrein Scuro, or Lagrein Dunkel, or the fragrant rosé wines Lagrein Rosato, or Lagrein Kretzer. In recent years, winemaking techniques have changed, with shortened maceration periods and used oak to achieve less aggressive flavours.
Outside Italy’s South Tyrol region, the variety is rare to the point of obscurity. In Australia it is limited to some 15 producers, mostly in the cooler parts of the south-eastern states, although most are still at the trial-block stage and are yet to release wines labelled as Lagrein or as Lagrein blends. There are some plantings of the vine in California as well, a concentration in the Paso Robles AVA,mostly in small vineyards or blocks. While it has been typically used as a blender, a number of producers, including Mosby, Alapay, and Jacuzzi Family Vineyard have made Lagrein designated wines from French Camp Vineyards. There is an additional production vineyard in the Umpqua Valley AVA which has 5 acres (2.0 ha) planted.
Lagrein was pioneered in Australia by Peter May of Melbourne University’s Burnley Campus who discovered a couple of vines in the "vine library" of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation at Merbein in northeast Victoria, and in part influenced by research by Richard Smart and Peter Dry, planted the variety in his garden-sized vineyard at Kyneton in 1988. He later provided cuttings and advice to a number of Victorian producers.
Producers in South Australia have propagated cuttings from mother vines grown in the South Australian Government facility at Nuriootpa, and it is possible that these are a different cultivar from that grown by Peter May in Victoria. From the small number of producers and the descriptions of plantings available on their respective websites, the total area of Lagrein cultivated in Australia is likely to be less than 50 hectares (120 acres), compared with approximately 43,000 hectares (110,000 acres) of Shiraz/Syrah.
- Eric Asimov (March 28, 2011). "Unfamiliar, but Worth Getting to Know". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-15.
- Vouillamoz, J. F. ; Grando, M. S., Heredity (May 24, 2006). "Genealogy of wine grape cultivars: Pinot is related to Syrah".
- winepros.com.au The Oxford Companion to Wine. "Lagrein".
- VinoDiversity.com Lagrein in Australia
- French Camp Vineyards Lagrein
- Amaranth Ridge Vineyard
- May, Peter, VinoDiversity.com Lagrein - finding a new winegrape variety for Australian vineyards
- winebiz.com.au Wine Industry Statistics - Viticulture: Area of grape varieties, bearing and non-bearing vineyard 2006/2007