When a Wine Recommendation Turns into Love

When a Wine Recommendation Turns into Love

An interview with... Wine Culture Award winner Claudia Dietsch

The fact that a wine recommendation can turn into a love story has been demonstrated by Claudia Dietsch and her husband Johann, whose wine shop BERGWEIN is something of an embassy in Munich for the Italian winegrowing province of Alto Adige. The Alto Adige Wine Culture Award in the “Special Award” category was bestowed upon them in 2023.

Claudia and Johann Dietsch have been experiencing Alto Adige wine culture since 2011 in BERGWEIN winery, on Gärtnerplatz square in Munich. They discovered their passion for wine on a trip to Alto Adige, where they trained as sommeliers. In conversation with Claudia Dietsch, we get to the bottom of her incredible love story with Johann and explore the question of which wine best embodies the Alto Adige way of life.

Ms. Dietsch, can you still remember which wine awakened your passion for Alto Adige in the early 2000s?
Claudia Dietsch: We were high above Bolzano at the Gasthof Kohlern Inn and the innkeeper suggested we drank an aged Lagrein Riserva Tor di Lupo from the Cantina Andriano. It was extraordinary! The next day, we immediately stocked up on books in Bolzano/Bozen to broaden our knowledge.

What made the difference for you at that time?
We were incredibly surprised at how the lovely freshness of full-bodied red wines does not overpower their structure and volume. That creates a very nice interplay, especially with the cuisine of the Alps because, for example, a buttery dish does not pair well with a broad, filling, yet powerful red wine. The strong expression, the harmony of the whites and the great variety were all truly impressive for us.

What makes Alto Adige special as a winegrowing region?
The captivating allure of wines lies in their stylistic evolution, exuding freshness, an animating spirit and great individual qualities and all contributed to ignite our passion. Their distinctiveness, straightforward presentation, mineral quality and depth, serve as our daily source of inspiration.

Alto Adige boasts great diversity. Does its variety make it difficult to fully convey the character of the winegrowing province to your customers?
It is quite the opposite. Its diversity is precisely what makes this territory so fascinating and we are good at conveying this positive image. That is why we can recommend the perfect wine from our extensive portfolio tailored to individual tastes. Our deep understanding of the winegrowing region of Alto Adige stems from our close relationship with winegrowers and tasting of new vintages at trade shows. Through these experiences, we delve deeper into the world of our wines and exchange our knowledge with customers

How does this knowledge exchange unfold?
When someone has not yet tasted Alto Adige wines, I ask them what kinds of wine they prefer to drink. In this way, we can better tailor Alto Adige wines to their tastes, drawing from our diverse selection. But some of our customers are already familiar with Alto Adige wines. In such cases, the conversation becomes an interesting exchange of information and we are always glad when we ca introduce someone to a new and delightful wine.

What are the criteria that guide you in the selection of a producer?
We taste wines from different vintages and conduct on-site visits to wineries and vineyards. Priority is given to people working close to nature, in the field or in the cellar. Understanding the operational philosophy is paramount for us, alongside a quest for consistent quality.

What should your customers most pay attention to?
Our customers often have a favorite wine tied to special memories. I however encourage them to stay curious and be open to different wines. There is so much more to discover.

Even for an insider like you?
Yes, there are always young winegrowers who take over the family business or others who start from scratch, sometimes with wonderful, independent wines. You have to stay on top of it so that you don't miss anything!

You once said that Alto Adige embodies a way of life. Which type of wine best describes this feeling?
It depends on the occasion and mood and there is thus a diverse range of options. For instance, while savoring a classic Pinot Blanc on a summer evening on my balcony in Munich I can be momentarily transported to Alto Adige. As winter arrives, a well-rounded Pinot Noir complements a hearty pasta dish and evokes the cosy ambiance of a classic Tyrolean wood-paneled parlor in our own living room.

How would you describe your most cherished Alto Adige wine?
My favorite white wine embodies the clarity reminiscent of a mountain stream in early summer. Powerful, juicy, with an elegant yellow fruit, bright blossom and hint of washed stone at the end. As for red wines, I prefer those with a scent of rose and delicate spice that emphasizes clear, cool fruit and leaves an unmistakably fresh note at the end. They are simply worth another sip.
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