It is said that South Tyrol – Alto Adige is Europe’s most beautiful wine growing region and I have to agree. There are beautiful mountain peaks, pine forests, lush green meadows, and steeply terraced vineyards. Valleys are filled with more vineyards and apple orchards guarded over by ancient castles perched on high peaks. This part of Italy will be hard to forget.
The area is probably the least Italian region that my husband and I have ever visited on our trips to Italy. It’s an area where you will hear Italians (who were Austrians before WWI) speak German or Landis more often than Italian. Most Americans haven’t discovered this region but it is visited by Europeans wanting to enjoy its simple charms.
For todays adventure, my husband and I joined the two sommeliers from the Hotel Gardena and ten other guests for a wine tasting along the South Tyrolean Wine Road. We have been to wine and champagne tastings at home, in France and Italy but not on such an intimate scale.
We drove down from the Dolomites to the town of Termeno/Tramin that is called the birthplace of the Gewürztraminer grape to visit the famous wine producer, Tramin. You can’t help but notice the ultramodern building as soon as you enter the town. The glass, concrete and steel building is designed to have the color and criss-cross pattern of grapevines.
The winery makes some of the best white wines in Italy and has won many awards including the Best of Italy, Best Winery of the Year, and Best Italian Dessert Wine. Tramin is a 280 member grower’s cooperative winery. This is not uncommon in this area because each grower has such a small amount of land that it was not be economically possible to produce their own wine.
We were greeted by winemaker, Willi Sturz who was named Italian Winemaker of the Year in 2004. He is so genuine in his enthusiasm and passion for the wine that he is creating. He spoke in German and Franz Lageder, the sommelier from the hotel translated. After our initial introduction, Willi lead us out to the back of the winery and explained that they are using the latest technology during each step of the wine making.
From there, we then went into the cellars where he told us that wines were all aged differently. Some of the wine is aged in stainless steel, some in very large casks and some in tradition small casks.
He said they are best known for their Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
We got our exercise by then climbing up to the beautiful glass enclosed tasting room with panoramic views of the vineyards and mountains in the background.
One of our favorite wines of the tasting was called Stoan, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer. Their entire production of that wine was sold out…I guess that lets you know how good it was.
This was an enjoyable morning and after some of the couples made wine purchases we returned to our vans. We had no idea what still was ahead. Franz just said we were going to go take a look at some of the vineyards before heading back to the hotel. Actually, Willi followed the two vans up into their most prized vineyard where the best of their Gewürztraminer grapes were growing.
Willi explained how they monitor each vineyard and that these grapes would be left to fully ripen on the vine until they were like raisins. They would not be picked until sometime in November for an intensely aromatic flavor.
While Willi was explaining the harvesting process, our two sommeliers, Franz and Egon, unpacked a lunch of speck (smoked ham), parmesan cheese, bread and more wine.
What a delightful surprise. When we had arranged to take part in a wine tasting along the wine road, we had no idea that it would turn out to be so interesting. So I am now giving a toast to Willi Sturz, Franz Lageder, Egon Perathoner and the Hotel Gardena for giving us such a wonderful and memorable experience in their wine growing region.