The history of Alto Adige Wine has deep roots

Rhaetian origins of winegrowing, roman winemaking technology, habsburg wine exporting

Wine is the expression of the total beauty of a territory. Circling around it is a world that continuously renews itself, a world filled with colors and fantasy, with unique landscapes, strong people, and inspiring expectations of existential progress and complex gourmet experiences. Wine has accompanied human history and culture in Alto Adige for more than three thousand years and has decisively shaped the development of the province.

Finds of grape seeds in the area around Bressanone demonstrate the existence of cultivated grapevines as early as around 500 BC. In the area of what is now Northern Italy, historical excavations and finds such as Etruscan drinking vessels, dippers, and pruning hooks demonstrate even date back as far as the Iron Age. In 15 BC, modern-day Alto Adige was part of the Roman Empire. The combination of Roman winemaking techniques with the Rhaetian tradition of winegrowing soon led to the first Golden Age of winemaking. New varieties arrived in the province and new grape growing areas were planted on the slopes and scree cones which were safe from flooding.

Since that time, the Rhaetians as the original inhabitants, and then the Romans, and after them the Franks, Bavarii, and Langobards during the Migration Period of the Middle Ages all left their mark on the early development of winemaking in Alto Adige. Starting from 700 AD, monasteries and noblemen from what is now Southern Germany managed numerous wineries in the province in order to cover their need for wine. The monks perfected the handling of wine and kept the most detailed records of it. Through the course of the Middle Ages, more than forty monasteries from the areas of Bavarian and Swabia acquired various wineries in the province and had a stimulating effect on winemaking throughout an era that lasted nearly a thousand years. At the end of the Middle Ages, Tyrol found itself under the reign of the Habsburgs, and the wine from Alto Adige reached the imperial and royal courts of Europe.

From juice to mash fermentation

In the Early Middle Ages, it was above all else the young white wines from Bolzano that were popular. But starting from the sixteenth century, the cultivation of red wine gained a foothold, and for the first time, the method of winemaking changed from fermenting the juice to fermentation of the entire mash.

Wine pioneer archduke Johann of Austria

Archduke Johann of Austria did a great service to Tyrol with the introduction of new grape varieties such as Riesling and the Burgundy grapes. The extremely broad assortment of grapes that are grown in Alto Adige today date back to his period 160 years ago.

New connection routes boost the wine trade

Up to the second half of the eighteenth century, the nobility or spiritual “wine lords” bought the grape must from the farmers and made it into wine themselves. Only with the opening of the Brenner Railway in 1867 and the Pustertal Railway in 1871 did wine become a ware for trade, and it could also be transported in large quantities even to distant places. From then on, the number of wine dealers grew quickly, and associations were organized for the support of the wine trade and export.

First research and education at San Michele all’Adige

At the suggestion of the Viticulture, Fruticulture, and Horticulture Society of Bolzano, the founding of the Agricultural Educational and Trial Institute in San Michele all’Adige took place in 1872, following the model of the institution that had previously been built in Klosterneuburg near Vienna. In addition to educating students in winegrowing, grape varieties were introduced with the red Bordeaux grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, and Red Muscat, as well as Italian Riesling which later disappeared. The collection of varieties that are found today in the Isarco Valley, with Sylvaner, Gewurztraminer, Veltliner, and Pinot Blanc, date back to recommendations by the Director Mach in 1881.

Merger into Winery Cooperatives

The first cooperatives were founded in 1893 in Andrian, Terlan, and Neumarkt. For the first time, their grapes were pressed centrally and sold under their own name. By the outbreak of World War I, they had been joined by thirteen more.

Protected Origin

The Italian wine law of 1931 on “designated wines” delineated certain cultivation zones . As a guarantee for the adherence to especially high standards of quality, it is regarded as the precursor to the later DOC regulations (denominazione di origine controllata, or controlled designation of origin) from 1963, which introduced the legally regulated, controlled designation of origin for the protection of wine consumers.

Consulting in winegrowing

In 1957, around fifty fruitgrowers and winegrowers founded the Alto Adige Fruitgrowing and Winegrowing Consulting Center. This association is a non-profit organization and is tasked with collecting and evaluating knowledge on scientific research and practical experience and making it usable through practical, relevant consulting for its members. Today, around 80% of the winegrowers in Alto Adige make use of the Consulting Center’s services.

The Origins of Alto Adige Pearls

The year 1902: that was when the history of Alto Adige sparkling wine commenced, the year in which the winery in Eppan/Appiano first produced sparkling wine from Riesling grapes. And Alto Adige sparkling wine made its first grand entrance at the Bolzano/Bozen Wine Tasting Festival in 1911. After the First World War, sparkling wine production came to a standstill. Yet the dream of that tingling rarity continued to exist, and thus Sebastian Stocker, an Alto Adige wine pioneer, made a brut for the first time in 1962. But the breakthrough on the market for Alto Adige sparkling wine only came in 1965 with a sparkling wine from Kettmeir, which was produced with tank fermentation, also known as méthode Charmat. In the mid-1970s, Haderburg, Arunda, Praeclarus, and V. Braunbach gradually began to refine excellent base wines with the classic process of fermentation in the bottle known as méthode champenoise. In 1990, the Association of Alto Adige Sparkling Wine Producers was founded, and it has now grown to eight members.

Strict producer regulations

For Alto Adige wines, the DOC designationsLago di Caldaro” or “Kalterer See” and “Alto Adige” or “South Tyrol” that were introduced in 1970 and 1975 were especially important. They placed the cultivation, production, and marketing of Alto Adige wines under the protection of even stricter rules and quality controls. Today, 98.8% of the entire winegrowing area in Alto Adige is under DOC protection. In that regard, Alto Adige is at the peak of all of Italy.

Education and research for the support of winegrowing

In 1963, education for fruitgrowing and winegrowing began in a new school building in Laimburg. Back in 1962, the trial activity in winegrowing had already begun on varieties, clones, and rootstocks. The year 1975 marked the founding of the Laimburg Agricultural Research Center with the subsequent construction of the first dedicated spaces.

Winegrowing locations as ambassadors of quality

Starting around 1980, Alto Adige winegrowing began to experience a sustained upswing. The making of single vineyard wines, the drastic reduction of yields, and the introduction of modern techniques and methods provided a considerable boost in quality.

Consorzio Alto Adige Wines as the interface for wine competence

Since 2007, all contact partners for wine matters in Alto Adige have been bundled together into the Consorzio Alto Adige Wines. And since the beginning of the new millennium, Alto Adige wine has found access beyond the Italian market to many international sales destinations. Alto Adige has managed to establish itself as Italy’s leading white wine region with the highest density of awards in the smallest space.

A Museum of winemaking

An overview of the history and traditional techniques of local winemaking may be found in the South Tyrolean Wine Museum in Kaltern.

Winegrowing shapes the landscape and the people

Or vice versa. Alto Adige’s winegrowers have a close connection with nature. They shape the landscape and always strive for that balance which brings forth Alto Adige wines that are so strong in character.

Alto Adige Wine – Authentic Quality

If Südtirol is on the capsule, then Alto Adige is inside. Guaranteed origin and controlled production according to the highest standards of quality make Alto Adige wines genuine ambassadors of the region.