Thurnhof

Who: Andreas Berger

Where: Bolzano, Bozen, South Tyrol, Italy

What grapes: 

How many bottles: 5,000

Key facts: This is a 3.5 hectare, 6th-generation family estate farming high mountain vines outside Bolzano.


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Thurnhof Sauvignon

Practicing Organic methods, no herbicides or pesticides
Elevation: 800 meters above sea level
Bottles produced: 4,000

 

 

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Thurnhof St. Magdalener

Practicing Organic methods, no herbicides or pesticides
Soil type: porphyric soil, glacial moraine
Elevation: 350 meters
Grapes: 90% Vernatsch, 10% Lagrein
Method of fermentation: Stainless steel fermentation followed by aging in 1,000-1,500-liter wooden barrels, bottled the April following harvest.    
Bottles made: 4,000

 


I met Andreas Berger at a residence at the back of a cul de sac that was enduring a large amount of construction. The street felt crowded with apartments, the presence of mountains was palpable, compressing everyone into a little pocket of habitable land. It was winter, grey and cold. We were not enjoying the Sound of Music vistas that so often crowd memories of wine excursions to Alto Adige. My impressions were not in danger of being unduly colored by natural beauty. Andreas’ place was warm, comfortable, tranquil. The scale of Thurnhof is both appealing and daunting.  

The region has so many tiny estates, my diligent inner wine auditor wishes to survey a swath of them. But really it is always a drop in the sea, at some point you have to accept that a complete understanding of small-farm Tyrolean wine is not available to the non-resident. Even if I moved our office to Bolzano it would be a challenge to track down and taste all the appealing wines of this region. 

Bolzano is swallowing the once-pastoral area around Thurnhof. Farmland is being digested and remade as apartment blocks, demographic pressure building in this hemmed-in city, sending tendrils of suburban sprawl out across the mile of buffer that once separated Andreas’ farm from urban life. 

Andreas takes protecting his little green island seriously. No herbicides or insecticides are used at Thurnhof. They plant soil-improving cover crops on a bi-annual basis. This land is well-suited to vines, the imprint of glacial moraine and porphyric soil deposits on the wines made at Thurnhof is clear. The estate’s 3.5 hectares of vines rise to a height of 800 meters above sea level on Virgil mountain, freeing grapes from the torrid summers of Bolzano (as hot as Palermo, a city in a cauldron of rock.) The wines have the fragrance and delicacy found in great cool-climate mountain zones. 

It’s a little cellar, not overly enamored with technology. Thurnhof traces its wine growing history back to the 12th century, with ancestors of the current proprietor acquiring the property in the 19th century. Railroad construction and bombs during WWII broke buildings at Thurnhof but left the Berger family’s dedication to traditional wines of their homeland intact. The war left the cellar in ruins: the Berger family didn’t rebuild until the 1980s. In the intervening years they grew fruit and sold it to the co-op, very common practice for small farmers in Alto Adige.