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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Italian Wine Country: The German Way

Written by Allen Tan
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As we turned off the road and into the orchard, my gaze broke from the rugged alpine peaks in the distance. Adolf had started speaking and I looked to the front of the carriage to listen as he leaned over his shoulder: “And these apples get sold all over the world…” he explained, tipping his wide-brimmed felt hat towards the stout trees on our right.

Italian Wine Country, The German Way, Hotel Weinberg, Travel Northern Italy, Italian wineries, Weinstraße, Südtirol’s wine production, Castle Schloss Korb, Castle Beaumont, valley

A view of the valley from a room in Hotel Weinberg.

The crisp fall air and blue morning’s sky colluded with the rhythm of the horses, lulling me into a trance. We turned another corner, taking us into a vineyard. Neat rows of terraced vines framed the path, pulling my eyes down to the valley below. The gently rolling hills were covered with a layer of green leaves that danced in the light breeze and shimmered in the sun. This land had provided wine for generations. I took a deep breath; this was exactly where I wanted to be.

 

The carriage pulled into a block of buildings surrounded by the vineyard. We had arrived at a German-style Schnapps distillery for an early morning sampling of a local tradition. I chose an unfamiliar herb-based spirit for my first taste and the woman behind the counter poured me a generous glass. A surge of energy moved through my veins, warming my cool cheeks. The connection with the land was so potent here, and with the fruits of last year’s harvest coursing through me, it became clear how disconnected I had become from my food through the sterile confines of my local grocery store.

 

We continued down rows of wine grapes, finally stopping in the parking lot of a winery for a tasting. As we disembarked the carriage tractors puttered past us as they returned from the vineyards, pulling long trains of wagons stacked over the brim with plump grapes.

 

This was Adolf’s world, the collection of municipalities along the Weinstraße (Wine Street), the crown jewels of the “Provincia autonoma di Bolzano” (one of two provinces that make up the celebrated Northern Italian region of Südtirol). The wineries of the Weinstraße are the heart of Südtirol’s wine production, and although we were in Italy, it was German that Adolf spoke to us, illustrating the intriguing distinction of this region. It is a culture that blends the best of both Italian and Germanic roots into their tradition of alpine winemaking.

 

The towns of the Weinstraße host an abundance of Pensions (guest houses) and Hotels and I chose the Hotel Weinberg in St. Pauls, home of the “Cathedral in the Country”. Hotel Weinberg sits overlooking the expansive valley containing the Weinstraße. I gazed out of the arched window in my room, and through the vineyards, three hundred meters to my front an outcropping of forested rock held up the ruins of an ancient castle like a statue on a pedestal. Such an amazing view can scarcely be described as anything but breathtaking and is characteristic of the beauty this place exudes without effort.

Italian Wine Country, The German Way, Hotel Weinberg, Travel Northern Italy, Italian wineries, Weinstraße, Südtirol’s wine production, Castle Schloss Korb, Castle Beaumont, view

An ancient castle as viewed from the Hotel Weinberg.

 


 

Today, the Weinstraße is a well kept secret of Bavarian vacationers, and remaining untouched by cookie-cutter tourism, every step draws you deeper into a rich culture that has managed to remain authentic in the face of global homogenization. In the Weinstraße’s narrow streets and erratically intercepting corridors shops and homes lay hidden around corners and in small nooks, making exploration exciting and unique.

Italian Wine Country, The German Way, Hotel Weinberg, Travel Northern Italy, Italian wineries, Weinstraße, Südtirol’s wine production, Castle Schloss Korb, Castle Beaumont, streets

 

A ride on Adolf’s carriage takes us through one of the Weinstraße’s villages.

Wandering village streets there is no shortage of fantastic daytime dining; pizzerias and taverns mark every corner. Because there are no touristy sections in these villages, follow the local’s lead when choosing eateries. Dinner reservations are not necessary along the Weinstraße, and there are enough restaurants that it would take months to experience them all.

 

My most memorable meal was a lunch taken just outside the town of St. Pauls in the castle on the hill. Schloss Korb is a family-owned castle turned four-star hotel and produces one of the premier wine labels in the region. This was not my first visit to Schloss Korb, and I was pleased to be greeted once again by its patriarch, Mr. Dellago and his horse-of-a-Great-Dane Zeus. A blue-eyed Italian, Mr. Dellago owns and administers Schloss Korb with a tradition of excellence, and remains a permanent resident in the castle’s keep.

 

Everything about Schloss Korb is brilliant, and their cuisine is no exception. Pairing everything from authentic German favorites to Northern Italian staples with skilled preparations and an impressive wine list that boasts best local and international wines, Korb sets the standard. The open-air patio that wraps around Korb’s valley-facing side may be the best view in Südtirol, and is a great complement to their superb cuisine.

 

Try to visit the area in fall or late summer, particularly in the harvest season (late September through mid-October). The spirit of the harvest permeates everything, and the vineyards come alive with workers and German hikers. The harvest is considered a high-season and it would be wise to plan lodging accordingly.

Italian Wine Country, The German Way, Hotel Weinberg, Travel Northern Italy, Italian wineries, Weinstraße, Südtirol’s wine production, Castle Schloss Korb, Castle Beaumont, view

The Weinstraße from a window in the Castle Beaumont ruins.

Flights arrive at Bolzano Airport (BZO) several times a day, and are the priciest of your options. For travelers who don’t object to a little driving, I suggest flying into Munich International Airport (MUC) and renting a car. The drive will take you through the Southern Bavarian countryside as it transitions into a breathtaking Alpine landscape, passing through Austria on the Brenner Highway. It’s also easy to travel by train, and is the least expensive option if you’re already in Europe.

 


 

Lodging is easy to book online, and I suggest you book ahead; there are a limited number of beds, and on German holidays rooms can be scarce. For best results, book through the official Eppan tourism website, they can make recommendations based on your preferred activities and transportation situation. For those wishing to stay in a piece of history, I suggest the Castle Schloss Korb; request a room in the castle’s keep for an especially unique experience.

Italian Wine Country, The German Way, Hotel Weinberg, Travel Northern Italy, Italian wineries, Weinstraße, Südtirol’s wine production, Castle Schloss Korb, Castle Beaumont, courtyard

The courtyard of Castle Beaumont.

The best way to explore Eppan is by car, and rentals are easy to find in Bolzano City. Taxis are hard to come by in the smaller villages, but for trips to and from your hotel they are easily arranged. If you plan on spending your days wandering vineyards, consider a bicycle; most hotels offer them complementary or for a small fee. Check the parking arrangements with your hotel before booking, and watch-out for those fast Italian drivers!

©Allen Tan

Travel Information:

Eppan Tourism Office

http://www.eppan.com

Rathausplatz 01

I-39057 Eppan an der Weinstraße (BZ)

Tel.: +39-0471-662206

Fax: +39-0471-663546

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Schloss Korb

http://www.schloss-korb.com/

Fam. Dellago

Hocheppanerweg 5

39050 Missian / St. Pauls, Eppan

Tel.: +39 0471 63 60 00

Hotel Weinberg

http://www.hotelweinberg.eu/en/index.htm

Inh. Herbert Schrott

Luziafeldweg3

I-39050 St. Pauls, Eppan

Tel.: 0039-0471-662326

Carriage Tours by Adolf

10am, Every Day by Request

Leaving from Hotel/Restaurant Gwuerzerkeller

http://www.gwuerzerkeller.com/ (German/Italian)

Zallingerstrasse 24

39040 Tramin

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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