One of the world’d oldest grapevines

The grapevine of the Versóaln variety at Katzenzungen Castle

November 2015
Nestled amidst chestnut and apple trees, Katzenzungen Castle is perched atop a rocky hill overlooking Prissian-Tisens. The commendably renovated and well-preserved Renaissance Castle is a favorite venue for romantic weddings, and is also used for exhibitions and other cultural events. The first documented mention of the structure was in 1244, when Henricus de Cazenzunge passed his splendid castle down to the counts of Thun and Fuchs.

In the heyday of the Baroque period, a grapevine was planted at the foot of the hill, which has lived through counties, empires and dictators – and has now become archetypally symbolic of South Tyrolean wine history. The vine belongs to the ancient Tyrolean grape variety, Versóaln, which was once widespread. The origin of the name is not known for certain: it could be derived from the dialect word verdolen, meaning “green” (the color of the Versóaln berries), from Soal meaning “rope” or from versóaln meaning “to rappel”, possibly in reference to the security halters used during the grape harvest on the steep terrain.

A study carried out by the University of Göttingen determined that the grapevine at Katzenzungen Castle is 350 years old. The Versóaln vine is thus one of the oldest ungrafted vines in the world. Its canopy, which hangs on traditional pergolas made of chestnut wood, encompasses 300 square meters – a world record for a single vine – making Katzenzungen Versóaln the largest vine in the world as well. Laimburg Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry produces 500 to 600 precious, numbered bottles of wine annually from its grape yield: the pale-yellow white wine, with glints of emerald, has inviting notes of citrus fruit and firm, well-sustained acidity.