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Around the World in 15 Varieties

Whether family business or winery cooperative: No wine producer in Eppan shies away from the international market. And the largest wine-growing municipality in South Tyrol has a lot to show for it.
 
‘When you represent a winery abroad, you are an ambassador of sorts of your home region,’ says Oscar Lorandi. He is the managing director of the Girlan winery and likes to see himself as a cosmopolite. He started working in different places all over Europe at a young age and feels perfectly at home anywhere in the world. Today he sits in his office in the winery and sells the wine to the places he used to visit himself. And not just those: The wines from Eppan are shipped almost all the way around the globe by truck and ship. Eppan now has 40 export partner countries, a list topped by the US, which is closely followed by Europe, Russia, and even Asia. Eppan is the largest wine-growing municipality in South Tyrol. The mild local climate with 300 days of sunshine a year and the special soil of the hilly landscape create the perfect prerequisites for wine-growing. The impressive range of 15 grape varieties is not a marketing trick; not at all: It is simply the result of a perfect alignment of different basic requirements. ‘Eppan is certainly one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the country. This means that our ancestors already chose the right place for their vineyards,’ says Mr Lorandi. And it is thanks to this fact that the quality of the Eppan wines stands out even abroad. While the Girlan vines glow in beautiful colours in the morning sun, a bright-red cuckoo clock is ticking away the minutes on the wall behind Mr Lorandi’s desk. His smartphone is on the desk, always ready to take calls from a short or long distance.

From family businesses to winery cooperatives, everyone has by now tapped into the international market, putting their products out there with the big names in the world of wine. ‘The quality of Eppan wines is not only very good but also consistent. The value for money is just right, and we manage to supply the retailers with an appropriate quantity,’ says Wolfgang Raifer, managing director of the Schreckbichl winery. Numerous awards bestowed by well-renowned wine guides and a sensible marketing strategy also do their it. ‘But this wine region is still only beginning to be recognised abroad,’ reckons Alessandro Righi, managing director of the St. Pauls winery. Currently, roughly a quarter of the 1.3 million bottles of wine produced annually by the St. Pauls winery is exported. Mr Righi therefore explains that he intends to increase export figures by at least ten percent over the next few years.
 
 
 
WHENEVER I TASTE A WINE FROM MY HOME, AND CLOSE MY EYES, I AM IMMEDIATELY TRANSPORTED
TO A MOUNTAINOUS LANDSCAPE. FRESH, CLEAR AND MINERAL.
OSCAR LORANDI, GIRLAN WINERY
TASTE THE MOUNTAINS IN THE WINE

The 300 members of the Schreckbichl winery alone supply an annual total of approx. 2,700,000 kilogrammes (5,950,000 lbs) of grapes which are then processed to make wine. This equals about 900 cartloads. A layperson would have a hard time wrapping their head around this scale. However, such figures are necessary in order to meet demand. ‘South Tyrol wines are trending, especially the whites,’ adds Mr Raifer. In contrast to the gentlemen Raifer, Lorandi, and Righi, Andreas Nicolussi-Leck does not produce his wines in a winery but in his family business. Ever since the 16th century, vines have grown at 500 metres (1,640 feet) above sea level at the Stroblhof wine estate in St. Michael | Eppan. Situated on the slopes at the foot of the Mendel mountains, the ripening conditions are ideal. Demand from abroad has in fact increased to the point where Mr Nicolussi-Leck is unable to meet it with his own production. He therefore has to put potential new customers off until the future. But even Mr Nicolussi-Leck himself is not quite sure why white wines such as Pinot Blanc are so popular in other countries. ‘I think it’s their fine aroma and this marvellous freshness,’ he says— while standing in the middle of his freshly harvested vineyard. Oscar Lorandi also mentions the freshness: ‘Whenever I taste a wine from my home, and close my eyes, I am immediately transported to a mountainous landscape. Fresh, clear, and mineral.’ And he briefly closes his eyes. So it is this piece of home that has been bottled which is making the Eppan wines so popular far beyond the country borders. But one must never forget the national market, says Hans Terzer. He is the cellarer of the municipality’s largest winery in St. Michael | Eppan. ‘The national market is always a stepping stone for the international market.’ He knows the industry, so we had better believe him. After all, South Tyrol only exports a quarter or perhaps a third of its production. The rest is sold in domestic markets.

SMALL BUT MIGHTY

At a mere 5,300 hectares, South Tyrol is only a sideshow venue of Italian wine production. But it is exactly this humble size and structure which distinguishes wine-growing regions such as the Eppan municipality from the rest of the world. It is a unique selling point which also becomes clear in Klaus Lentsch’s business. Stemming from a long line of South Tyrol vintners, Klaus Lentsch decided to venture into new territory in 2008 when he took up producing typical regional wines. Despite a humble nine hectares of acreage, he produces an impressive range of varieties. Bachgart, Fuchslahn, and Eichberg are only three of the historical vineyards. Even though Mr Lentsch’s wine-growing estate is small, he does not want to focus on one market alone but be ‘open to new countries and challenges.’ His favourite export destination is the US. ‘People there are sophisticated. They value the old European style, wines which are clear and mineral,’ he says. But Eppan wines are also consumed in Singapore, Tokyo, and Australia. This little wine-growing municipality has come a very long way in the last few years. One thing that all wine producers agree on is that they would like to increase their export activities. They want to strengthen and expand the market as well as improve international marketing activities. Up until then, Oscar Lorandi is always happy when he spots a bottle of Eppan wine on the neighbouring table in a restaurant during one of his trips. ‘Seeing our wine consumed with Japanese tempura or Indian curry, that’s internationality for me. This way, not only our wines but we, too, can feel at home anywhere in the world,’ he says, with a happy smile.
 
 
Published on 16.01.2019
 
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eppan.wine
eppan.wine is a network of stakeholders from the wine and tourism industry and was founded to boost and reinforce the reputation of Eppan as wine-growing region in the long term. All the prerequisites are there: Thanks to its wine-growing tradition and mild climate, Eppan is the leading wine-growing region in South Tyrol. About 15 quality vines are cultivated in this largest contiguous vine area of the country, and even now they are receiving numerous international awards every year.
 
 
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