Regular readers will already know that the Dolomites is one of my favourite places to ski. This UNESCO recognised region is stunning, the skiing is excellent and varied and you have the added benefit of wonderful Italian cuisine. So it didn’t take much to persuade me to join a trip before Christmas which offered the opportunity to ski with a sommelier.
Alta Badia are rightly proud of their local food and wine and their ‘Sommelier on the Slopes’ programme was introduced to showcase some the best local wines. For just €28 per person, you ski with a sommelier to three different mountain restaurants where some of the best local wines have already been prepared for your guided wine tasting. Perhaps not surprisingly, the tours quickly sold out last season, but I’m happy to tell you that they have introduced more dates this winter.
We met our guide and sommelier Hubert Kastlunger at the lift and headed up the mountain for the first of our three stops. Hubert was a ski instructor but has worked as a sommelier for the last 10 years and was a charming and very knowledgeable host. With his bright green ski jacket, he was easy to follow but we were more impressed when this came off to reveal a white shirt, bow tie and sommelier apron. With his discreetly black ski boots you could hardly tell he’d just come off the slopes.
We tried six wines in total; two wines at each of the three stops. Although South Tyrol is a relatively small region, the different terrains mean there is a lot of variety in the wines available. Hubert took us through the grapes, the vineyard and the producer for each of the wines and explained how the wine makers in the region made a collective decision in the 1970s to either make good wine or not make wine at all. And it’s clearly a decision that has paid off.
As you’d imagine, we started with the lighter wines, like pinot blanc and sauvignon blanc moving through to heavier wines at our last stop. As well as these familiar wines, we had the opportunity to try St.Magdalener, a delicious red which is often underrated because its colour is more a dark rosé than traditional red. If you see this on the menu, I’d definitely recommend trying it. We all valiantly made tasting notes but it was genuinely difficult to choose a favourite. And of course, most of the local wines are simply not available to buy outside South Tyrol so we did our best to make the most of them in situ.
Overall, at just €28 per person this is great value and a lovely way to pass an afternoon. And we were able to look at the wine list that evening with a much better idea of which local wines would go best with our food. I’d highly recommend booking in advance as tickets are expected to sell out fast.
Just a final note on the photos, our trip in December was the first of the season and the weather meant our wine tasting was hosted inside three very cosy restaurants. Later in the season, weather permitting, you should be able to sit outside. Take sunscreen.
Sommelier on the slopes tours meet at 1.30 pm and run through to 4 pm.
Tickets cost €28 per person and include guided skiing and three wine tasting sessions
Numbers are limited so book early!
Skiers must be intermediate level and able to ski red runs. If in doubt, please check when you book.
Remaining dates for Sommelier on the Slopes https://www.altabadia.org/en/italian-alps-dolomites/food-and-drink/sommeliers-the-slope.html this season:
- 25 Jan
- 22 Feb
- 1, 15 & 22 March
Organised in association with the Alto Adige Wine Consortium and the Alto Adige Sommelier Association, tickets should be purchased in advance from the Alta Badia Tourism Board www.altabadia.org, +39 0471 836176 / 847037 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To enjoy a break to Alta Badia, fly to Venice (airlines include BA & EasyJet from £26 return) or Innsbruck (EasyJet from £68 return) and Alta Badia is a two-hour drive away, with taxi transfers or car hire available.
Kate stayed at La Majun. Rates start from €132 per person, per night, based on two sharing on a half board basis. Powder Byrne offers a ski weekend in Alta Badia from 7th to 11th March from £1,839 per person staying in a Junior Suite at Hotel La Majun including return flights, luxury transfers, Powder Byrne Concierge service and four nights’ accommodation on a half board basis. Visit powderbyrne.com or call 0208 246 5300.
Ski passes cost from €43 per day.