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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

A Small Sample from the Alto Adige: Whitefish Saltimbocca, Strangolapreti, and a Couple of Schiava

Updated: Sep 5

This month the Italian Food Wine Travel writers are looking at the wines of Fruili and Trentino-Alto Adige. Cindy of Grape Experiences is hosting.

We will be gathering for a live X chat on Saturday, September 2nd at 8am Pacific time. You can follow us with the hashtag #ItalianFWT. Be sure to add that to anything you post.

Here's the line-up of the articles from the group...

In doing my preliminary research, I discovered a new-to-me grape from the Alto Adige and decided to dive into an exploration. Let's meet Schiava!

A Couple of Schiava

I almost didn't go this route after I saw Schiava described as wine that tastes like cotton candy. That was not an appealing description - at least not for me. I can't remember the last time I've actually eaten cotton candy. But I am glad I battled my initial aversion. What I discovered was a demure wine colored like a cranberry with bright aromas of pomegranate and raspberry with hints of spearmint and black pepper.

While Italians call it Schiava, it is also called Vernatsch or Trollinger in Germany and Black Hamburg in England. It grows primarily in the northernmost wine region of Alto Adige, one of Italy’s smallest winegrowing regions. But because of its location in the Alps and the influence of the Adriatic breezes, the wines are beautifully multifaceted.

The two bottles I found were the 2020 Castelfeder Alte Reben Schiava and the 2021 Elena Walch Schiava. Actually I found three, but I haven't poured the third yet. Stay tuned for my pairing with the 2021 Nals Margreid Galea Schiava.

2020 Castelfeder Alte Reben Schiava

The Castelfeder Winery, that was originally in the center of Newmarkt, was founded in 1970 by A. Giovanett, who had attended the renowned wine school in San Michele all'Adige and had extensive experience as a vintner. He primarily used Lagrein, Pinot Noir and Schiava varieties.

In 1989, the founder's son Günther Giovanett took over the winery and moved the operation to the small village of Kurtinig. There the grapes they focused on white wine varieties such as Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, and Gewürztraminer.

The wine poured a transparent ruby color in the glass with aromas of red fruits and an herbacous hint. On the palate, the wine was fresh and juicy with a tinge of spice and light tannins.

2021 Elena Walch Schiava

A leading Alto Adige wine estate, Elena Walch is a family-run estate dedicated to creating sustainably-sourced wines that express the terroir of its lands. At the heart of the Elena Walch's vineyards are the single estates of Castel Ringberg and Kastelaz

This wine poured a bright ruby with a delicate whiff of cherries on the nose. On the palate, the wine had a mild acidity and light tannins. I loved the slight flavor of bitter almonds on the finish.

Both of these Schiava were elegant, fruity red wines with good lengths. No cotton candy in sight! I am looking forward to opening that third bottle to cement my budding adoration of this grape.

A Small Sample from the Alto Adige

When I looked at some dishes from the Alto Adige, I was intrigued by two dishes...

Whitefish Saltimbocca

Truth be told, this is typically made with the freshwater Alborella fish that live in the lakes of the Alto Adige. I used some local-to-me cod. This is a variation of the pounded veal dish from Rome, Saltimbocca. 'Saltimbocca' means 'leaps in the mouth'. Think of it as mouth acrobatics with the salty smokiness of speck and the woodsy hints of pine, mint, and eucalyptus of fresh sage. This was so simple, yet so delicious. I can't wait to make it again.


  • 12 pieces of cod, cut into 2-inch chunks

  • 12 slices of speck or prosciutto

  • 12 organic sage leaves

  • olive oil

  • smoked sea salt

  • also needed: skewers and a grill pan or skillet


Place a sage leaf on top of the cod. Wrap the speck around the fish and secure with a skewer. Heat oil in a skillet or heat a grill pan. Add the fish to the pan. Turn the skewers until the speck is crispy and the fish is opaque. Sprinkle with smoked sea salt before serving. Serve immediately.


Strangolapreti, also known as strozzapreti, is a pasta from Trentino-Alto Adige whose name translates to 'priest chokers.' Dating back to the Council of Trent, the name refers to the gluttonous clergymen who would eat so much of the dumplings that they would choke. Made from stale bread, these are an easy and delicious way to use up leftover loaves.


serves 4

  • 4 cups stale bread, torn into pieces

  • 2 cups steamed spinach, squeezed dry and chopped

  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mixture of Parmigiano Reggiano and asiago)

  • 2 eggs

  • milk

  • 2 shallots, peeled and diced

  • olive oil

  • 2 Tablespoons fresh sage, chiffonaded

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • Also needed: your favorite tomato sauce


Place the bread in a shallow bowl and pour in enough milk to moisten it completely. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Drain off the excess milk and set aside.

Sauté shallots in a splash of olive oil. Stir spinach, sage, and shredded cheese into the bread. Whisk eggs with nutmeg, salt, and pepper to break up the yolks. Add the eggs and shallots into the bread. Mix until well-combined.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Using two spoons, or your hands, form the bread mixture into large dumplings. Carefully drop the dumplings into the water. When they come to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon, and drain them.

Plate the dumplings in a pool of tomato sauce. Serve with more grated cheese, if desired.

Not to Ignore Fruili...

Back in December 2015, the group explored Fruili and I posted Roasted Lobster with Pesto + Ca'Bolani Sauvignon. I will certainly get ahold of a few bottles soon!

That's a wrap for my September offering for the Fruili and Trentino-Alto Adige. Thanks to Cindy for hosting this month. The #ItalianFWT group will be back next month with Deanna of Wineivore leading the charge. Stay tuned!

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