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Daniel Verdorfer Monday, 29 April 2013

South Tyrol – from mass production to quality wines

South Tyrol occupies a truly central position: on Italian soil between Austria and Switzerland. Between Alpine peaks and Mediterranean landscapes. Between the German- and Italian-speaking regions. Between cosmopolitan curiosity and deep-rooted tradition. South Tyrol's attraction lies in the diversity of its harmony of contrasts. (Eos)
South Tyrol – from mass production to quality wines
 
 
 
"In Southern Tyrol the weather brightened up, I could already feel the Italian sun, the mountains turned warm and shiny, I could see vines climbing up, and quite often I found myself leaning out of the carriage."

Heinrich Heine, Travel Pictures III, Chapter XIII (1830)
South Tyrol can look back on a long wine-growing tradition. As early as 3000 years ago, the Raetians started growing wine on these slopes. In the early Middle Ages viniculture flourished, and vast areas were planted with vines. Around 1800, influenced by the Habsburg monarchy, varieties of Burgundy and Riesling were planted in the vineyards.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the first winery cooperatives were founded (Andrian Winery in 1893, Tramin Winery in 1898). This period saw the largest expansion of vineyards in South Tyrol – over 10,000 hectares (now just under 5,300 hectares). Right until the early 1980s vast amounts of grapes were harvested in South Tyrol. This resulted in low quality and low prices. The winery cooperatives filled mainly into barrels, then later into 2-litre and 1-litre bottles. But by the end of the 1970s, the wine scandals in Austria and Italy had prompted a major rethink. From this time on, the region started changing. Output was reduced dramatically, wines were matured to suit the area where they were grown, and combined with modern cellar technology and methods this led to a vast improvement in quality. Wine was also increasingly matured in wood, and various types of barrels were imported from France. Vineyards were planted with new varieties to suit individual growing areas. Success was not long in coming. Year by year the wines improved and soon the area established itself on the Italian market as Italy's premier white wine region. Today 20 different grape varieties are grown in South Tyrol. Over 98 percent of the entire wine-growing area are now DOC certified (high-quality cultivation). The white varieties in particular are very much in vogue. This is confirmed by Italy's most important wine guides. For a number of years, "Gambero Rosso" has crowned the area as the best white wine region. But red varieties are also seeing a major revival, in particular South Tyrolean Pinot Noir, Lagrein as well as the most traditional and one of the most important local varieties, South Tyrolean Vernatsch. Let us hope that this trend continues into the future. Raise your glasses!

Daniel
 
 
 
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