Three kilometres south of Brixen, in the district of Mahr, there has been lively construction activity for some years. A group of old masons, who still master the art of dry stone wall building, is carrying out an impressive work of reclamation of old vineyard terraces. Some of the dry stone walls are as high as a man, and they are restoring them mostly by hand. The extremely daring clients of this work, which actually deserves a landscape culture award, are the Kuenhof (Brigitte and Peter Pliger) and Taschlerhof (Peter Wachtler) wineries. Even more impressive than the landscape-cultural achievements of the two neighbours, however, are their wines.
Peter Pliger is a quiet, reserved person. He never praises his wines, but lets them speak for themselves. And what they have to say, or rather what they have to offer in terms of taste, made the Italian wine world sit up and take notice at the beginning of the 90s and drew their attention to the Eisack Valley for the first time. The Kuenhof's "Kaiton", a Riesling that was not allowed to be sold with the varietal name at the time because the variety was not yet permitted, was the first Eisacktal wine to receive the Three Glasses of the "Gambero Rosso". In addition to this wine, Brigitte and Peter Pliger also produce Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer and Veltliner, all of which are intense, concentrated growths that often reach high alcohol levels without seeming clumsy and heavy. These are not loud, superficially impressive wines, but multi-layered growths of great intensity, delicacy and inner strength. You can feel the minerality of the slate soils that leave their mark on the wines in this part of the Valle Isarco. Every sip makes you curious about the next one, and before you know it, one bottle is finished despite 14.5 percent alcohol and the next one is opened.
|Peter Pliger (Source: Roland Brunner)|
When working in the vineyard and in the cellar, it has always been important to the Pligers to cultivate and vinify the wines as close to nature as possible. "For ten years now, we have been working without chemicals, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Our vineyards at an altitude of 550 to 720 metres offer very good conditions for working this way because of the good ventilation, and if the weather doesn't go completely crazy, we almost never have major problems," says Peter Pliger. In the cellar, spontaneous fermentation and ageing on the fine lees takes place in large acacia wood barrels as well as in stainless steel tanks.
|The terraces of the Kuenhof (Source: Roland Brunner)|
In recent years, the Pligers have also become more involved with biodynamic methods and are increasingly using fining agents in the vineyard and cellar. Peter Pliger is convinced that this way of working not only gives the wines a better taste, but also positive energetic components that go beyond that.
The farm-gate prices of the wines range between 12 and 13.50 euros.
Farm sales by appointment:
Tel. +39 0472 850546
Fax +39 0472 209175
"Fullness, depth, an animating intensity and the character of the slate soils, which only exist here on these terraces, make our wines unique, and that is worth the huge effort," says Peter Wachtler, who, together with the Pligers, has meanwhile already invested a six-figure sum in the recultivation of the terraces. Tasting his Sylvaner "Lahner" leaves only one comment: "Right!" A powerful, concentrated wine, 50 percent of whose grapes are briefly dried and which gets a fresh note from a small addition of Riesling.
|Peter Wachtler (Source: P.Wachtler)|
The farm-gate prices range from 9 to 13 euros.
Tasting and sales by appointment
Tel. +39 0472 851091
Mobil 335 6914480
Fax +39 0472 251007
The Eisack Valley is narrow, and the busy Brenner motorway, the main road and the railway seem to be ever-present, especially acoustically. So it is all the more surprising that sometimes you don't have to drive far at all to find quiet places where you almost feel transported to another world. One of these places is the municipality of Feldthurns, where, although not everywhere, on the whole you will find a pleasant silence and can be close to nature undisturbed. Perhaps it is because of this special flair that all three of the self-marketers based here produce their wines organically and/or biodynamically.
Although Christian Kerschbaumer pursues relatively fast-paced hobbies such as motorcycling and snowboarding, he is one of the quieter contemporaries. He does not push himself to the fore. And he doesn't need to. His wines do that for him. They are distinctive, powerful wines that make a lasting impression. Power, however, is not their only characteristic: clear fruit, elegance and fresh aromas, as you would expect from wines from the mountains, characterise all of Christian Kerschbaumer's wines. Despite his quiet manner, the winemaker is a very talkative, communicative person. Especially when it comes to the things that are important to him: independent wines of the highest quality from organic cultivation. He knows about almost everything that is happening in South Tyrol in this regard. During my research on South Tyrolean organic producers, I learned more from him than from the relevant associations.
|Christian Kerschbaumer (Source: Kerschbaumer)|
Ever since Christian Kerschbaumer finished agricultural school in 1992, he was on the lookout. Then, at the beginning of the millennium, it became clear to him what he wanted: first, he wanted something of his own and, second, something special. So he decided to no longer deliver his grapes to the cooperative, but to produce wine himself. Practical reasons contributed to this decision. At that time, the farm had already been converted to organic farming. However, the grapes delivered to the cooperative and grown according to organic standards ended up in the same tank with all the others and were not paid any better. So it made more sense to make their own wines. And the own wines should not only stand out from the cooperative wines by the name on the label, but above all by their quality - and clearly. They should be really "great wines". After a relatively short time, he is already well on his way. His Veltliner, in particular, now belongs to the avant-garde of the Eisack Valley. Like all his wines, it is a powerful, full-bodied drop, with lush aromas, which, however, never appear superficially and strikingly, but are well integrated into the pithy, racy nature of the wine.
As far as organic farming is concerned, Christian Kerschbaumer is always looking for improvements. He does not take the use of copper in organic production for granted, but tries to reduce the amount of copper sulphate applied more and more by using alternatives and strengthening the vitality of the vines with biodynamic methods. His ambition, his clear objectives and above all his calm, communicative and at the same time energetic, determined manner will ensure that here too, as with the quality of his wines, more and more positive results will soon become apparent.
At present, 18,000 to 19,000 bottles are produced annually. When the new vineyards come into production, it should be between 30,000 and 35,000. Prices range from 8 to 14 euros.
Direct sales by appointment
Tel.: +39 0472 847 296
Josef Unterfrauner did not become a winemaker entirely by choice. When he was told at the age of 15 that he was to take over the parental farm as the eldest, he was not very happy at first. But out of a sense of duty, he accepted his fate. At that time, he had no idea what to do with the small fruit and wine farm, which was mainly self-sufficient. Until he went to the South Tyrolean lowlands at the age of 17 to earn a few extra lire at a fruit farm and saw there how one can also work professionally in agriculture. This fascinated him, and so he decided to restructure his parents' farm, initially as a sideline. His relatively good earnings as farm manager at the Neustift monastery at the time allowed him to make the necessary investments quickly. However, his life consisted of "365 days of work a year, no holidays, no nothing". But that was not important to him either, because he wanted to "just get things going". He succeeded quite well until 1993, when a drastic experience made him pause.
|Josef Unterfrauner (Source: Roland Brunner)|
Coming home from work in Neustift one beautiful, sunny afternoon, he saw his pregnant wife standing in the middle of the spray of chemical sprays. "A superficially, aesthetically beautiful image that made me think whether it can be the meaning of our lives to destroy ourselves, our offspring and ultimately our livelihood, the soil". He didn't think twice and switched to organic, even though he "didn't have a clue about organic at the time". The first organic year confirmed his decision. "Everything was going great and I thought at the time: 'It's that simple. It went on until 1995, and "then came the total catastrophe. It was a runaway. Practically a total failure," and his neighbours said he was insane and beyond help. "But Josef Unterfrauner did the only right thing to do when problems arise. Instead of brooding and despairing, he looked at what was going on. "And the fact was that it looked bleak; the fact was that I wanted to do organic, and the fact was that I had no idea about it." That meant "I had to see that I came to knowledge and could steer the whole thing in a sensible direction." In the meantime, he has succeeded with systematic knowledge acquisition, but also with trial and error and the exchange of experience with like-minded people. The production works well, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and there are no major difficulties in the meantime. At least none that have made him regret his decision.
The range currently consists of four wines: a pleasantly acidic and varietally typical Sylvaner, a cuvée of Müller-Thurgau, Sylvaner and Gewürztraminer called "Aurum", a fruity, single-varietal Gewürztraminer and a Portugieser called "Regius", a pleasantly uncomplicated, drinkable red wine that Josef Unterfrauner perhaps unjustly places somewhat in the back row.
The Zöhlhof is not only recommendable because of the quality of the organic grapes produced here, but also because of the special atmosphere created by the various works of art placed all over the farm. And people also like to celebrate in this setting. With friends and acquaintances, and every two years also on a large scale with a themed art exhibition with customers and all those who want to become customers.
Josef Unterfrauner currently produces about 12,000 bottles a year. Prices ex farm: 8 to 13 euros.
Direct sales by appointment
Tel.: +39 0472 847 400
In Josef Unterfrauner's case it was his pregnant wife in the spray mist; in Norbert Blasbichler's it was the chickens that from one day to the next no longer laid eggs after involuntarily coming into contact with a spray. Norbert Blasbichler thought: "This can't be it" and converted his farm to organic farming in 1997. The story with the chickens was ultimately only the trigger that brought Norbert Blasbichler to what had always driven him anyway: a production method that is firstly based on sustainability and secondly encompasses more than just production for the most lucrative possible sale. Norbert Blasbichler is interested in the whole thing. In the meantime, he also maintains cattle that supply him with the guaranteed organic manure from his own farm for his production. The Radoar farm has been certified according to Bioland criteria since 1999. Norbert Blasbichler, however, wants to go further and is studying biodynamics in depth, which he calls the "logical next step", "because it involves all the factors that increase the vitality of the plants, so that ultimately external intervention is no longer necessary at all, or at least to a very limited extent." In addition, in his opinion, "plants should become more resistant to the extreme weather conditions that are certain to increase in the future due to climatic changes through biodynamic treatment."
|The Blasbichler family (Source: Blasbichler)|
Extreme viticulture has always been - and still is - on the Radoar farm. The vineyards are the highest in the Eisack Valley. Müller-Thurgau, Zweigelt, Kerner and some Pinot Noir are grown up to 900 metres. These are real mountain wines, with a distinctive but well-integrated acidity; pithy, but due to the low yields (about 5,000 bottles per hectare instead of the usual 7,000 to 9,000) very intense in taste. Even the basic versions of Müller-Thurgau and Zweigelt are extremely tasty, racy, completely dry growths; the selections "Etza" (Müller-Thurgau) and "Loach" (Zweigelt) enhance this even more. In addition, there is the Kerner "Radoy" ( medium sweet ) and, in the future, a single-varietal Pinot Noir.
The distillates of the Radoar-Hof are just as high quality as the wines. Everything that is suitable is distilled. The Radoar-Hof's chestnut brandy has become particularly famous, a fine, elegant distillate that is produced in a complex process from the sweet chestnuts found everywhere along the Eisacktaler Keschtnweg. A fine vinegar and an apple juice round off the range.
The annual production is currently around 11,000 bottles. The farm-gate prices of the wines range from 8 to 14 euros.
Direct sale: by appointment +39 0472 855 645 or directly at the farm bell (from September to November continuously also on weekends)
As I was only here for one day, I only had time to visit one restaurant. There are more restaurants and inns in and around Feldthurns that are worth a visit. For tips, it is always best to ask the wine producers.
At the Oberwirt you get classic South Tyrolean cuisine, but also excellent pizzas. Unlike most pizzerias, a lot of emphasis is placed here on a cultivated ambience and an excellent wine selection. All the producers from Feldthurns are represented with their best wines, and the rest of the assortment is also impressive. Prices for half board range from 49 to 55 euros, depending on the season.
Tel. +39 0472 855212
Fax +39 0472 855611
Treff.Wein - Incontro con il vino
Every year on the last Friday in July, all the producers from the Valle Isarco present their current wines under the arbours in the old town of Bressanone. From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., you can get to know and enjoy the whole range of Valle Isarco wines in a pleasant atmosphere. An opportunity not to be missed. This year the event will take place on Friday 29 July .
Regensburger Allee 9
Tel. +39 0472 836401
Fax +39 0472 836067
Tourist Office Bressanone
Regensburger Allee 9
Tel. +39 0472 836401
Fax +39 0472 836067
Free Winegrowers South Tyrol
Association of currently 82 self-marketing South Tyrolean wineries. An absolute must for every South Tyrolean wine lover: the Vinea Tirolensis, at which almost all member wineries present their current wines. This year's event will take place on 22 August at Autocity Barchetti in Bolzano.
Tel. +39 0471 238002
Fax: +39 0471 238 242
Arranges accommodation on farms in South Tyrol. Among them are also many farm wine producers. The quality criteria are very strict and are checked annually.
Tel. 0039 0471 999325
Fax. 0039 0471 981171