Italian generosity (Alto Adige, Italy – Day Two)

For I think the first day since I arrived in Europe, today I was able to go outside not wearing my jacket, as the weather was sunny and warm(ish). Alto Adige actually gets over 300 days of sunshine each year, which not helps for the ripening of the grapes, but also gives everyone here a sunny outlook. One of my hosts on the previous day actually asked me if I had brought the rain and fog with me from Germany. Part and parcel of this sunny outlook is their love of simple pleasures, such as good food and wine. On my first two days in the region, two wineries gave me lunch, and another offered to put me up for a night nearby. When you have been travelling for six months with another 10 to go, watching money steadily drain out of your accounts, these simple gestures have the biggest resonance. It also puts me in a really positive mood, and lets me overlook any difficulties I may be having with my travel. The great news is that I have some work organised in Germany and my visa is not far away, the problem is that I have to return to Germany to collect it in person. Ce la vie!

My first prosciutto crudo in Italy

The first visit for the day was to visit icon of the region and Italy, Elena Walch. Elena married into one of the most important wine families in the region with significant vineyard holdings and a fully operating winery to boot. She enthusiastically took the opportunity to get involved with the business, particularly considering that the vineyards are in some of the most sought after parts of the region, in Castel Ringberg and Kastelatz. As the winery is located in Tramin, the unofficial home of gewürztraminer, it is this variety which has brought the winery the most acclaim, with the Kastelaz Gewurztraminer receiving the prestigious 3 glasses from Gambero Rosso on several occasions. More recently the red wines have garnered much attention, possibly due to changes in climate, and Bordeaux and Rhone varieties are being grown and blended along with the local lagrein grape. Amazingly, one of Elena’s two daughters is now in Adelaide studying the Masters of Wine Business course that I completed last July, although she is an internal student. Small world. Accompanied with some wonderful antipasti, I tasted through a selection of the Elena Walch wines across numerous varieties. Click here to read my tasting notes.

Cellars under Elena Walch

After an accidental detour up above the vineyards, I found my next appointment in Magre, just five kilometres north of the border with Trentino. Alois Lageder is a pioneer in the Alto Adige region, although his estate dates back to 1823. The original home of the family was in Bolzano, the centre of the viticultural part of Alto Adige, but the move to Magre was much more recent. When the opportunity to expand the estate came up in the 1991 to purchase one of the most historic estates in the region in the town of Magre, which was established by a very rich family back in the 17th Century. This increased the estate vineyard holdings to almost 60 hectares, and also provided a renaissance mansion where the Paradeis wine tasting centre is now housed, amongst other functions. A new and modern winemaking facility was completed in 1995, and is the most efficient, functional, sustainable and precise I have seen since Chile. The design of the winery stems from the sustainable philosophy of Alois, who was one of the first to convert to biodynamic principles in the vineyards and winery, and become Demeter certified. There are two ranges produced; the Tenutae Lageder is the higher quality, 100% estate grown wines; and the Alois Lageder range made also from contract grown fruit. On a tight schedule the Sales Manager Klaus and I had to rush through a tasting of wines. The focus is on white wines, with at least 70% of production dedicated to them. The Alois Lageder range of wines are all very pure, precise and balanced wines, highlighting the cool climate, rich soils and varietal integrity.  Click here to read my tasting notes.

Bach being played to the barrels in the Alois Lageder cellars

The final visit for the day was to another German named winery – Hofstatter – which I had to return to Tramin for. The origins of the building where the winery is housed go back to the 16th Century, and for many years it was an important coach post, between Italy and Austria. It was Josef Hofstatter who made wine in the cellars, that was sold to guests of the inn, or traded locally. The wines were generally made from purchased fruit, and sold in and from large casks. Josef’s nephew Konrad Oberhofer took over the estate in 1942 and it was then that single vineyards were separately vinified and sold as superior wine. When Paolo Foradori married Konrad’s daughter Sieglinde in 1959 he brought with him vineyards in key sites on the opposite side of the valley, and thus new areas to grow varieties such as pinot nero. The principles of the winery are very simple; respectful and sustainable practices both in the vineyards and winery, minimal intervention of the wines, experimentation and attention. Click here to read my tasting notes.

From the Tramin vineyards looking across the valley

Click here to see more photos from Day Two in Alto Adige.

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