1,000 years of wine architecture at a glance

1,000 years of wine architecture at a glance

From medieval winegrowing to high-tech wineries

It is clear from the outset that wine is a feature of the Alto Adige landscape: and it is just as clear that wine also characterises the appearance of many villages and affords insights into the development of their architecture, from the underground wine cellars to the innovative buildings of glass, concrete and aluminium that are geared towards sustainability. A foray into the local wine architecture is thus also a voyage through 1,000 years of (architectural) history.

This best way to start is by looking downwards, into the wine cellars that frequently date back to the Middle Ages; many of these are still in use today and can in some cases also be visited, as for example in the wine village of Cornaiano. No wonder, as these cellars perform their function perfectly: dug into the earth, they maintain a constant temperature and thus ensure ideal conditions for the wines to age.

The success of the wine industry resulted in a growing self-confidence: thus, in the 16th and 17th centuries – especially along the Alto Adige Wine Road – splendid residences were built in the “Oltradige” style. Inspired by the Italian Renaissance, this style created entirely new landmarks in the villages with impressive examples such as the Tòr Löwengang residence in Magrè, part of the Alois Lageder winery, the Manincor winery with its views of the surrounding vineyards and of Lake Caldaro, or the J. Hofstätter winery, whose historic seat can be found in the midst of Termeno.

At the end of the 19th century came the next step in the development of the wine business in Alto Adige, which – like all previous stages – was reflected in its architecture. The founding of the first cellar cooperatives gave the winegrowers independence, with this emancipation also marked by architectural monuments: elegant structures in the Wilhelmine style, with Art Nouveau elements and façades reminiscent of castles or stately residences.

One example is provided by the renowned St. Michele-Appiano winery: but the St. Pauls winery has also integrated its historic core into today’s ensemble, thus demonstrating how old and new can be optimally combined. The same effect was achieved with the refurbishment of the Merano winery, which now features an additional (glazed) storey and ultra-modern underground cellars.

One thing is clear: the demands of cellar management are today very different from 100 years ago – or even 900 or so years ago, when the Novacella winery was founded by Augustinian canons in their monastery near Bressanone. There too can be seen the care with which the architectural heritage of Alto Adige is treated and how well it can be combined with new challenges – such as those in respect of sustainability. In Novacella, for example, visitors can not only inspect the historic monastery cellar, but also the ultra-modern cellar built under the winery’s vineyards.

The same applies to Bolzano’s Muri-Gries monastery, once a castle, that was taken over by the Benedictine order in 1845. Here, too, old and new architecture are impressively combined.

Not far from the Muri-Gries monastery stands the new headquarters of the Bolzano winery, a jewel of the innovative wine architecture to be found in Alto Adige. It not only reflects the new demands facing the wine industry, but also adopts the formal language of modern architecture. Last but not least, it lays the foundations for a sustainable, resource-conserving wine industry.
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