The Italian Wine Cooperative Surprise #ItalianFWT

For fascinating reasons, Alto Adige is the home to a large number of successful cooperatives. Look for #4 on the map as the home of Cantina Kaltern. map courtesy of

Italian Food, Wine & Travel Group Discovers Italian Wine Cooperatives
This month, our group of Italy fans is exploring the wine cooperatives of Italy.  Virtually every course, text, or article on cooperatives stresses how they produce just average wines. The growers are paid by the ton for their grapes, so there is no incentive to grow for quality. This is true in many grape growing regions of the world. Italy seems to be the exception with multiple examples of high quality wine cooperatives. Our group set out to find out why.

The vineyards are all around Lake Kaltern (aka the Kalterersee) map courtesy of

Alto Adige Cooperatives and Cantina Kaltern
The early twentieth century was not kind to Alto Adige. The region was ceded by Austria over to become part of Italy, then the depression hit. For grape growers, Austrians no longer wanted their grapes or wines as they were now Italian. Italians considered them still part of Austria, so they wanted nothing to do with them either. Vineyard land on the valley floor was changed over to other, more profitable crops.

With grapevines planted on the hills, grapes were of good quality, but were unable to be machine harvested for inexpensive wines. Eventually, growers banded together into cooperatives in order to survive. Fortunately, they saw the value of high quality wines and set some key principals in place. In Kaltern these were their key principals:

  • “Work by hand in the vineyard: the harvest takes place entirely by hand
  • Professionalism, competence and modern techniques in the cellar
  • Great passion of our families in the care of their vineyards
  • The small parceling of the vineyards allows a quick and accurate work
  • Security & flexibility thanks to the cooperative principles”

From the Cantina Kaltern website:

Cantina Kaltern is an old-established cooperative winery representing a whole village and its wine growers. The winery is an ambassador for the wines produced on the shores of Lake Kaltern and especially for the variety Schiava (Kalterersee) – wines that are made by a community of vintners with great sensitivity, passion and expertise, wines with finesse and complexity and yet wonderfully uncomplicated.”

Note that if you’re planning to visit Alto Adige, Cantina Kaltern will happily welcome your visit, check here. They also include links to a variety of lodging choices including bed and breakfast and farm stays.

Disclosure: the wine in this post was provided as a media sample. All opinions expressed are mine.

“Kalterersee” is the name of the DOC, named after the lake.

Kellerei Kaltern Pfarrhof Kalterersee Classico Superiore DOC 2016 (sample, $20 SRP or online here) 13.5% abv

Kalterersee is the grape, also known as Schiava.  Which may not be of much help! Schiava is a red grape which makes light bodied red wines full of red fruit aromas and offering fresh acidity.

Eye: Clear, pale ruby color
Nose: Clean, medium intensity aromas of ripe strawberries, ripe cherries, a touch of cranberry behind. The fresh sweet ripe fruit dominates the nose. Behind the fruit are some floral notes of violets, and a hint of fresh organic earth and leather.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ flavor intensity. medium+ acidity, medium- fine grained ripe tannins, nice round texture with medium body, medium alcohol, and a medium finish. The flavors match the nose with fruit forward ripe red fruits including cranberries, strawberries, cherries.
Conclusions: A goo quality fruit-forward red wine. Balance and structure are good, but the aromas and flavors show just medium complexity relying on the fruit. Drink now to enjoy the bright fresh ripe fruit. This wine isn’t suitable for long term aging, but it should be enjoyable to drink over the next 5 years.

Enjoy a glass while you’re cooking.

Pasta Night with Cantina Kaltern Kalterersee (Schiava)
I had originally intended to make our normal weeknight “red sauce” based spaghetti to enjoy with this wine. I was reminded of recently seeing a new recipe in a magazine so I decided to give it a try and I’m so glad I did! While it does have tomatoes in the sauce, the flavors are dominated by all those peppers; a delicious change from the ordinary. The lively acidity in the wine paired beautifully with the bright flavors and acidic tomato sauce. Bucatini was also a fun twist on our normal spaghetti, as it’s much thicker and chewier. All in all a very nice meal and one we’ll repeat!

Italian Food Wine and Travel Group Cooperative Discoveries
Take a look at all the cooperative winery posts below. Who knew?
Want to join our chat to learn even more?  Just search for #ItalianFWT on Twitter and tune in 10-11am CST on Saturday Feb 1.  We’d love to hear what you think.

Two Pan Sausage, Peppers and Bucatini

Based on a recipe ad in a cooking magazine. Note: with 4 cloves of garlic, make sure everyone in your group eats this dish, as you will all exude garlic afterwards!


  • 12-16 oz. package of your favorite Italian sausages, 1/2″ slices. We like Bilinski’s brand chicken sausages, a bit lower in fat
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cups (about 3 medium peppers) yellow, orange and/or red peppers cut into bite size squares
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, plus more for the table
  • 1 14oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz. pasta – we like bucatini from Rustichella d’Abruzzo
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper as needed


  • Prepare the pasta according to instructions
  • Heat a large skillet to medium
  • Brown the sausage slices in 1 Tbsp EVOO, remove from the pan
  • Saute onions in 1 Tbsp EVOO until soft, about 5 minutes
  • Add the peppers and continue to saute until they are softened, about another 10 minutes
  • Add the garlic, fennel and red pepper flakes, cook only until fragrant, about 30 seconds
  • Return the sausages to the pan with the sauteed peppers and onions
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes
  • Adjust salt and pepper to taste
  • Serve the sausage and peppers over the pasta

12 Responses to “The Italian Wine Cooperative Surprise #ItalianFWT”
  1. Vino Travels says:

    It’s fascinating to learn the history behind these regions and to see that coops don’t just mean quantity.

  2. Impressed by the set of principles adopted by this wine cooperative. Great pairing, and this recipe looks like something even I could manage. Thanks!

  3. wendyklik says:

    That pasta is making my mouth water. Sausage, fennel and bell peppers…Oh my YUM. I’m sure the pairing was lovely.

  4. lizbarrett says:

    Great article, Jeff. I adore Schiava (and yes, it’s an unfamiliar grape to many). I always say, if you like Pinot Noir – esp Old World Pinot Noir, you would like Schiava. Cheers!

  5. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    I’ve always enjoyed the Cantina Kaltern wines and that Schiava seems like a perfect pairing with the sausage and pepper buccatini.

  6. joyofwine says:

    Great post Jeff! I had no idea that “Kalterersee” was a synonym for the Schiava group of grapes. Schiava (as a group) seems to be coming into its own – the 3 G’s as I like to call them (Grosso, Gentile and Grigia) are typically blended into the same bottle, thus becoming one “Schiava”. Lots of neat history behind this group of grapes! Looking at your food pics made my mouth water…seriously need to step up my food game….

  7. Love schiava but peppers not so much… thanks for the fascinating history lesson!

  8. Lynn says:

    Schiava is such a… I’ll say fun and under appreciated wine. I was able to taste all three (Gentile, Grosso and Grigra) on a trip last year. I wonder if anyone grows it in the states? Good conversation in the Twitter chat with regards to quality and coops!

  9. As a fan of Pinot Noir, I am curious to taste Schiava. Cantina Kaltern sounds like a good place to start and a good value. Interesting history with Italian cooperatives, I will pay closer attention to cooperative wines in the future.

  10. Susannah says:

    Jeff- Great history included in this post. I love the Coops of the Alto Adige and always taste their wines when I am at Vinitaly. I’ve only visited the region for wine twice and can’t wait to go back. Schiava is an under the radar grape I think. Your pairing is also gorgeous and looks delicious, a lot more exciting than my weekday fare.
    Cheers, Susannah

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  1. […] Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “The Italian Wine Cooperative Surprise“ […]

  2. […] Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “The Italian Wine Cooperative Surprise“ […]

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