The First Front Woman in the Alto Adige Wine Sector

The First Front Woman in the Alto Adige Wine Sector

Elena Walch changed winegrowing in Alto Adige / Südtirol forever – and a lot more besides

Winegrowing in Alto Adige / Südtirol has always been a family business where everyone has a role to play. While forced in the background, the role of women was to knuckle down and work hard. Nowadays, women like Elena Walch are considered groundbreaking and influential. In fact, she has contributed to change the way women are portrayed in Alto Adige’s wine sector.

Her early life did not suggest she would have played a leading role in the progress of the local wine industry. While her parents were from Alto Adige, Elena Walch grew up in Milan – far away from wine, mountains and vineyards. Her education too, went in a completely different direction: she completed her studies and became an architect.

It was only when she shifted her focus to Alto Adige / Südtirol that she was drawn into the world of wine. “It all made me curious and insanely fascinated,” she says today. She therefore took the helm of her husband's winery in Termeno which was hard to swallow for the wine sector of the early 1980s. “At first people looked askance at me and would look around for my husband,” she recalls.

Elena Walch went on the offensive, instead of giving in and retreating behind the scenes, once again “I can certainly do it all like any man. I just have to do a little better”, was her belief. And she thought being better also meant being out of the ordinary: a woman who goes against the grain.

Elena Walch was therefore a pioneer in promoting and launching production quality processes in Alto Adige. She developed her personal philosophy, experimented with new methods of wine growing, tried out new varieties which she adapted to climate and soil, and broke into new markets. This is the pioneering spirit that turned a centenarian traditional winery, into one of Alto Adige’s most innovative: the Elena Walch Winery.

She was also one of the first to take the idea of terroir in Alto Adige further and trace it back to each individual vineyard, whose unique characteristics should be reflected in the bottle to produce wines with a very distinctive character. This tradition is now put by the classification of “Weinberg – Vigna [Vineyard]” forth. Elena Walch was also one of the innovators in this development all over the region.

Given her background, it is no wonder that she reiterates the influence of Alto Adige’s landscape on her wines. “The high mountains allow us to give wine freshness and tension,” says Elena Walch. This is one of the reasons why Walch wines are sometimes stored in an old silver mine deep under the mountain: they age for six years in absolute darkness and high humidity: “In this way, wine matures slowly with a unique elegance and charm,” she states excitedly. About herself she fiercely asserts: “I have always pushed myself to the limits with conviction and enthusiasm. But I had no idea I was a pioneer.”
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