As early as the Middle Ages, Alto Adige wine already had an excellent reputation and represented an economic factor for the province. But what was decisive for the development of winemaking in Alto Adige was the modernization in the twentieth century. Old equipment was cast aside, and the Saltner – the guardian of the vineyards – was no longer used.

In 2002, 2,500 year-old wooden barrels that were fitted with iron hoops, just like those used by the Rhaetian winegrowers in Alto Adige, were discovered near Bressanone. Also bearing witness to winemaking in Alto Adige during Roman times is the “Roman Villa” in St. Pauls-Eppan. The largest wine press in Alto Adige may be found in the Trostburg Castle above Waidbruck in the Isarco Valley.

Monasteries north of the Alps bought wineries in Alto Adige in order to cover their needs for table wine and wine for the mass. Gifts were often involved. The residents of Alto Adige wished to procure their spiritual salvation. Around 1300, there were some forty Southern German monasteries that carted wine north from their estates in Alto Adige. The bishops of Bressanone and Trento as well as local monasteries also invested in winemaking. Well-read monastery winemakers then made the wine in an expert manner. For a long time, therefore, it was the knowledge of the monasteries that improved and refined Alto Adige wine. Even today, the monastery wineries are among the best in the province.

Worth Experiencing Museums

The South Tyrolean Wine Museum in Kaltern illustrates the history of winemaking with a unique collection of articles on display from archaeology, art history, popular religion, handicraft, and the wine industry. Old, rare grape varieties grow in its vineyard. In the autumn, the grapes may even be picked from the Pergola trellis. www.weinmuseum.it

The Village Museums of Tramin and Kurtatsch offer an invitation to discover the farming traditions and the wine culture in the southern part of Alto Adige. The museum in Tramin owns an international collection of Gewürztraminer bottles dating back to 1886. Also unique are the carnival figures of the Tramin’s ancient pagan Egetmann parade. www.museumzeitreisemensch.it, www.dorfmuseum-tramin.com

The vineyards of Trauttmansdorff Castle in Merano conserve fifteen indigenous grape varieties from oblivion: they bear names such as Blatterle, Jungferler, Fraueler, Gschlafener... (which in English translate into such colorful names as Leafy, Virgin, Woman, Sleeper...) In the autumn, winery tours are offered, including to the “Versoaln” at Katzenzungen Castle in Prissian, the largest and possibly oldest grapevine in the world. Exclusive tastings of the Versoaln wine are held.
www.trauttmansdorff.it

Worth Experiencing Monasteries

Since its founding in 1142, wine has been made by the Augustinian canons at the Neustift (Novacella) Monastery near Bressanone. Tours of the monastery take visitors on a trip back through history. Tastings in the monastery cellar are also available upon advanced reservation. www.kloster-neustift.it

Augustinian canons transformed an early fortress at the right spot into a monastery: the areas around the Muri Gries monastery was once called “Cheller” [“Cellar”]. In 1845, when Benedictines who were driven out of the Muri monastery in Switzerland moved in, they revived winemaking. www.muri-gries.com

In 1991, the Von Braunbach winery leased the shuttered winery of the German Order monastery in Siebeneich near Terlan, and since that time it has also produced wine from the monastery’s Lagrein grapes. The historical ensemble, a gift of the bishop of Bressanone around 1200, has been livened up with modern elements but still maintains it contemplative aura. www.braunbach.it