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01.04.2020

A Loyal Companion for More than 3,000 Years

Alto Adige Winegrowing: Trailblazer and Cultural Heritage

Alto Adige wine leaves a clear trail behind it: it shapes the image of the landscape, influences cultural developments, and supports the cohesion of the community. In our province, it has been accompanying us for more than three thousand years. Which roots does it have in Alto Adige? How did it become a noble companion? And which institutions and organizations have supported its development? Read on to find out!

Grape seeds that were found in the area around Bressanone are evidence of the presence of winegrowing in what would later be Alto Adige as early as around 500 BC. Historical excavations and cultivated grapevines from Asia Minor even date back to the Ice Age. In these parts, winegrowing experienced a first Golden Age around 15 BC, when the area that is now Alto Adige belonged to the Roman Empire. During that period, new varieties came to Alto Adige and grape growing areas were tended on hillsides and scree cones that were safe from flooding. Starting from 700 AD, monasteries and noblemen from what is now Southern Germany took care of the vineyard estates in Alto Adige. The monks became wine professionals and perfected the winemaking. Continuing on into the Middle Ages, the winegrowing lay in the hands of around forty monasteries from Bavaria and Swabia. During the Habsburg dynasty toward the end of the Middle Ages, the wine was transported to imperial and royal courts throughout all of Europe. By this time at the latest, the path was clear for wine from Alto Adige. While during the Middle Ages, it was above all else white wines that were in demand, starting from the sixteenth century the tone was set in Alto Adige wine production by red wine. During this period, winemakers changed from a fermentation only of the juice to a maceration with the skins and seeds.

The planting of new grape varieties such as Riesling and the various Burgundy varieties goes back to the wine pioneer Archduke Johann of Austria around 1860. Shortly thereafter, thanks to the opening of the Brennero Railway in 1867 and the Val Pusteria railway in 1871, wine as a trade commodity was brought to more distant areas for the first time. Concurrently with this, it marked the birth of wine dealers and associations for the support of the wine trade and wine exports.

And soon after that, research institutions were founded for the first time for the education of winegrowers. The first school for winegrowing was established in 1872, the “Agricultural Instructional and Research Center in San Michele all’Adige”. In addition to education, the introduction of new varieties to the province was fostered, such as the Bordeaux varieties, Sauvignon Blanc, Red Muscat, and Italian Riesling. The planting of the varieties Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer, Veltliner, and Pinot Blanc also dates back to the recommendations of experts from that time. In 1893, the first cooperatives were founded in Andriano, Terlano, and Egna, offering a place for the harvest and processing and providing support for winegrowers and their interests.

How it is that winegrowing and knowledge about wine has constantly developed in the province can be outlined very well with the following milestones:

  • The introduction of the Italian wine law in 1931. This regulates the adherence to especially high quality standards and is regarded as the forerunner of the later DOC regulations (DOC stands for Denominazione di origine controllata, or Controlled Designation of Origin) from 1963.
  • The founding of the Alto Adige Fruitgrowing and Winegrowing Consulting Center in 1957. To this day, it stands by the side of its members with consultation and keeps them informed about new developments.
  • The opening of the Technical College for Fruticulture, Viticulture, and Horticulture in Laimburg in 1963 with the subsequent founding of the Laimburg Agricultural Research Center. The latter continues today, taking care of research and development on the agricultural products in Alto Adige.
  • The introduction of the DOC designations Lago di Caldaro/Kalterer See in 1970 and Alto Adige/Südtirol in 1975 which placed the marketing under the control of even stricter rules and quality controls.

The Consortium of Alto Adige Wine has been regarded since 2007 as the contact point for all matters regarding wine in Alto Adige. Thanks to the close cohesion of all of the participants and the commitment of the Consortium, the Alto Adige wine sector has a track record of success with many international sales markets. The numerous awards and distinctions won by Alto Adige wines, the quality upon which value has been placed for years, and the worldwide success all confirm that Alto Adige wine is one big success story.
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