One Village, Two Products, Enormous Success: Terlano, Asparagus, and Wine

One Village, Two Products, Enormous Success: Terlano, Asparagus, and Wine

An interview with... Georg Eyrl, head of the Cantina Terlano

In Terlano [commonly known by its German name “Terlan”], the year is considered to have not four seasons, but five: add in the asparagus season. Along those lines, asparagus is known as the harbinger of spring and traditionally arrives on the plate starting from the end of March. It is best accompanied by a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. As head of the Cantina Terlano winery, Georg Eyrl has a double responsibility at the same time: for both asparagus and wine.

The dual role of the Cantina Terlano is unusual in the world of wine. In fact, it doesn’t only commercialize wine, but also asparagus bearing the “Margarete” Quality Seal. Georg Eyrl is passionate about both: Terlano wine and Terlano asparagus. As such, he has a lot on his plate, especially in the first months of the year. But daily work aside, he still took time to answer a few questions: inevitably about wine and asparagus.

Mr. Eyrl, your asparagus farmers are nearing the sprint to the finish line these days. What’s on your agenda?
Georg Eyrl: When it comes to marketing, we need to get customers ready for the start of the asparagus season with discussions and visits to clients. It’s preparatory work, just like the efforts our asparagus farmers made last year. For them, it was a matter of removing the dams in the fall, putting on films, and setting up mini tunnels.

All of that is done so that the asparagus can be brought to market right on time...
Yes, that’s right! That’s a challenge this year, because Easter falls early this year and asparagus cannot miss on a traditional Easter table. This year, the Terlano asparagus season starts at the end of March. Then asparagus will once again take center stage in dining for a good eight weeks.

The Terlano asparagus season has been celebrated for more than forty years now. What’s the recipe for success that stands behind it?
I think that we were true pioneers in Terlano with regards to the cooperation between agriculture, tourism, and the dining industry. We realised early the importance of offering authentic, local products. Today, everyone is talking about freshness, eating locally, and favoring shorter transportation routes, so the Terlano asparagus season is still current and topical.

But even with that, none of you are allowed to stand still, are you?
Definitely not. We not only offer asparagus dishes, but also an accompanying program where you can look over the shoulders of the farmers and learn more about cultivation.

The Terlano asparagus season has become a showcase project for the symbiosis of agriculture and dining. How did that happen?
Terlano was probably one of the first, but over the years many local examples have emerged in Alto Adige that work quite well. It’s important that all parties involved treat each other with respect and openness, and mutually benefit from each other. These are the foundations for long-term cooperation.

In any case, wine and asparagus seem to be a combination that works very well. Why in Terlano in particular?
Terlano provides the best conditions for both of them. Asparagus has the advantage of the sandy soils deposited by the Adige River on the valley floor, while wine benefits from the quartz-rich porphyry soils on the alluvial cone on which the village of Terlano stands. These conditions have been taken advantage of here throughout history, including by Margarete Maultasch, the fourteenth century countess of Tyrol, the historical records of whom document her love for asparagus...

... and probably a glass of wine to pair with. As a double expert, which one do you recommend with asparagus?
The classic wine to be enjoyed with asparagus dishes is Sauvignon Blanc. It’s fruity and aromatic and therefore pairs well with the flavor of asparagus. Asparagus and Sauvignon Blanc make such a great pairing that the Cantina Terlano produces its own Sauvignon Blanc, labeled Spargel [“Asparagus”] – but only during the asparagus season and in a limited edition.

And what if you’re not a fan of Sauvignon Blanc? What do you recommend?
(laughs) No doubt it’s a wine from the Cantina Terlano! But jokes aside, if you prefer your wine paired with asparagus to be less aromatic, you can drink a Pinot Blanc. Fans of robust white wines will also do well with a Chardonnay. But in the end, the wine choice always depends on the asparagus dish you’re enjoying. For example, a red wine – including Pinot Noir – pairs well with a meat dish and asparagus as a side.

And speaking of asparagus dishes, what are your own personal favorites?
I love asparagus risotto, but I also like it the traditional way, asparagus with Bolzano sauce, made with hard boiled eggs. That’s always a highlight. And if I’m in the mood for something a little more creative, I also like asparagus with lamb or game.

That’s really quite a range...
After all, the beauty of asparagus lies in its versatility. Asparagus can be enjoyed as a salad, served as a starter, or incorporated into a main course. Even desserts are conceivable and feasible. All it takes is a little creativity.

© Photo: Hannes Unterhauser
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