January Wine Letter - Splendid sweetness from small bottles

Internationally renowned South Tyrolean dessert wines
Until 15 or 20 years ago, South Tyrol was certainly not known on the global dessert wine scene. But with the general
upswing of wines from the region, pride in dessert wine is also emerging. The January wine letter is dedicated to these wonderful South Tyrolean dessert wines which slumber in all VINUM Hotels South Tyrol like cellar treasures awaiting the curious as well as the experienced wine aficionado. Cheers! Santé! To your health!
 
 
Of course, talk here is of niche products. Our wineries will certainly not become large dessert wine producers, not in another 15 or even 20 years. Micro production - you could even call it homeopathic-sized - will continue. And they are good, sometimes damn good. Notably, wines like Gold Muskateller "Vinalia" (Bozen Winery), "Quintessenz" (Kaltern Winery), "Sissi" (Meran Burggräfler Winery). And (fortunately!) in the ongoing Gewürztraminer sales frenzy, a few local oenologists have also pointed out some daring versions of that wine with residual sugars.

But most winemakers play it safe, leaving the grapes on the vine for a reasonably long time - albeit not risking an autumn period of rain - then harvesting them late October/early November. They can then dry out for even longer in airy places and crates before being brought into the cellars in December or even in the following year. This results in a classic passito" or what is known in Austria and Germany as “Trockenbeeren-Auslese” – a medium to full bodied dessert wine. It’s very sweet, but usually also very good to irresistible - especially when served with a blue or green cheese (Gorgonzola al naturale, Roquefort etc.). The intrepid Tramin cooperatives allow their selected G`würzer to shrivel even further on the vine, in any wind and weather and in (almost) any coldness. Now and again, a favourable autumn fog rises, bringing enough moisture to form noble rot on the grapes. The cellarman's eyes then light up, because he knows he can once again craft an outstanding dessert wine. Among the best vintages is Gewürztraminer Passito "Terminum", by far the best in its
class, as also unbegrudgingly acknowledged by fellow winemakers.

Rosenmuskateller, South Tyrol's only red dessert wine, came to the region in 1850 when the princely family Campofranco - ancestors of today's owner Count Georg of Kuenburg - moved from Sicily to Schloss Sallegg in Kaltern. At the Princess's behest, several Moscato-Rosa vines were brought with them and planted in the warmest soils around Lake Kaltern. And there they thrived magnificently. About 20 years later, small Moscato-Rosa vineyards appeared in Trentino and these vines were most probably imported from Dalmatia. In the
first hundred years of its existence in Italian Tyrol and South Tyrol, there was no market for this sweet, expensive rose muscatel. So castle wineries (Tiefenbrunner, Sallegg, Schwanburg), monasteries (Neustift) and wealthy wine families (Walch, Elzenbaum, Waldgrieser) cellared it more for their own needs. Today, just 9 hectares of rose muscatel are planted in South Tyrol. This Sicilian guest – long since died out in its original home! - has high demands of its new home, requiring very warm and dry locations and patient nurturing in the vineyard. Muri Gries has its Rosenmuskateller in Kaiserau, Bolzano. Half of this fine dessert wine is aged in small wooden barrels and the other half in large wooden barrels, giving the wine a strong intensity. It‘s compact, with dark rose scents, spice and dried fruit aromas, with a slight hint of noble must - a grandiose rose muscatel, recommended to accompany the most famous South Tyrolean desserts in VINUM-Hotels South Tyrol.
 
 
The VINUM-Hotel - February Wine Letter:
"Mazon - Pinot Noir Heaven" - The best location for the most elegant red wine

Chemistry professor Ludwig Barth Ritter zu Barthenau (born in Rovereto, 1839), was a giant as never before seen in lecture halls - "highly developed in body and mind alike". He was one of the most well-known scientists in the field of organic chemistry in the German-speaking world. A specialist, a luminary, an authority. When he died in Vienna at the age of 52, there were many commemorative addresses and later biographies were written, and two marble busts in Vienna still remind us of the great knight Ludwig, who in his youth was capable of bending thick iron bars with his bare hands.
In South Tyrol, the professor created a legacy that would for last centuries: he had varieties of Pinot Noir planted on his estate Ansitz Barthenau in Mazon (Neumarkt) - perhaps following Archduke Johann, who cultivated the first vines of this noble red Burgundy variety in Schenna, around 1850. A pioneering act indeed - today, this terrace location in Mazon is considered by many wine experts one of the best Pinot Noir small crus outside of Burgundy. The February VINUM-Hotels South Tyrol - Wine Letter traces the secrets of this most elegant red wine in South Tyrol.