South Tyrol or Süditrol/Alto Adige is unlike anywhere else in Italy. German and Austrian influences can be found in the food, architecture, and dialect. It’s an outdoor sports mecca for hikers, climbers and cyclists in the summer and snow skiing in the winter. The mountain vistas and lakes, vineyards and apple orchards are a photographer’s dream setting.
This northernmost corner of Italy is a cool-climate wine lover’s destination. Here, one will find sublime whites, notably Gewurztraminers, a signature variety of this area, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Reds include Pinot Noir, Schiava, a light bodied red (known as Trollinger or Vernatsch in Germany), and Lagrein, a high acid wine with plum and earth notes.
We tasted a selection of wines at Cantina Tramin which hosted our visit. This historic wine cooperative was founded in 1898 by Christian Schrott, a parish priest living in the commune of Termeno (Tramin) and a member of the Austrian parliament. At that time most local growers were families living the mountains who were struggling to sell their grapes profitably. Schrott believed creating a union would provide the growers a better foothold in business.
The idea worked. In 1971, Cantina Tramin merged Cantina Sociale di Egna, which was founded in 1893. This union brought the Mazzon and Gen vineyards, both Pinot Noir, to Cantina Tramin. Now, over a century later, Cantina Tramin consists of 168 family wineries and is regarded as one of the world’s most successful wine cooperatives. Cantina Tramin encompasses 667 acres (270 hectares) of vineyards. All are located on hills and mountain slopes. The valley floor is reserved for apple orchards, another important cash crop in this region. Seventy percent of production is white wine.
Technical Director Willi Stürz has overseen production at Cantine Tramin since 1992. Under his guidance, Cantina Tramin has become a benchmark for success among Italian wine cooperatives. The focus is quality over quantity. Of note, Cantina Tramin was the first cooperative winery in Italy to have eliminated the use of herbicides on more than 90 percent of its vines.
Anyone who assumes cooperative-made wines equate to “basic and inexpensive” will throw that misconception out the window after tasting Cantina Tramin’s wines, which have obtained critical acclaim. Cantina Tramin’s Epokale Gewurtztraminer was the first Italian white wine to receive a 100-point score from The Wine Spectator, and its Nussbaumer Gewurtztraminer has received 20 consecutive Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri designations. Read more about our visit and tasting notes at The Connected Table blog.
Wolfgang Klotz, Director of Sales and Marketing, took us on a vineyard tour and to Cantina’s modern winery and tasting room designed by the architect, Werner Tscholl. This large green structure was conceived to resemble vine branches and to be energy efficient. Inside, one is surrounded by large windows overlooking the mountains.
Listen to our conversation with Cantina Tramin’s Willi Stürz and Wolfgang Klotz on The Connected Table LIVE (first segment). The second is a prior episode (2018) with Alto Adige Vintner Elena Walch, who runs her namesake winery with daughters, Karoline and Julia.
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