‘For two years now we have cultivated the new Envy variety,
an apple from New Zealand which has taken the region by
storm,’ says Georg Kössler. Mr Kössler, a resident of Eppan,
is the chairman of the VOG, the association of the South
Tyrol fruit cooperatives, with 16 cooperatives and a total of
5,000 members under its wings. The actual apple variety
behind the Envy trademark is the Scilate, a cross between
Gala and Braeburn first cultivated in 1985. It is streaked
red, with very firm flesh, extra sweet, extra crunchy, and
extra popular. Envy is a global cultivation project. In South
Tyrol, the apple is cultivated on 120 hectares of land and
has taken especially well to the Eppan region. The VOG
enterprise sells its apples far beyond the domestic borders:
to Germany - traditionally the main customer - but also to
Great Britain, Scandinavia, Spain, and even further to South
East Asia. ‘Thanks to today’s cooling technology, apples
from South Tyrol can travel a long way unharmed,’ says Mr
Kössler. It used to be very different.
Eppan has a long tradition of apple farming. In addition to animal husbandry, people in the Bozen area also pursued
apple, vine, and pear farming in the mid-1800s. Even back then, apples were exported to Russia and southern Germany. But apples were not supplied to German and Italian wholesale markets until the Bozen-Innsbruck section of the Brenner Railway line was completed in 1897. Around the turn of the century, both private trade organisations and organised cooperatives started to form. ‘The apple trade really started to flourish after World War II,’ explains Mr Kössler. Everything was in ruins, and the farmers were struggling to rebuild a livelihood. ‘Apples were one of the products which made this possible.’ The favourable climate conditions and the high quality of the old and new apple varieties helped, of course. Nowadays, the farmers mainly focus on fruit-growing and viticulture. The cultivation area around Eppan is a very typical example of agriculture in South Tyrol, which is dominated by small-scale family businesses. ‘That is why local farmers are particularly committed: They want to bring out the best in their farmland,’ explains Mr Kössler. The valleys and hills all around Eppan are used to cultivate all the common South Tyrol apple varieties: mainly Golden Delicious and Gala, followed by Stark and Braeburn. But there are also new club apple varieties such as the crunchy Kanzi, Jazz, and Pink Lady. The latter, in particular, is very popular with customers. These purplish-red apples mottled a yellowish green are crunchy, fi rm, juicy, and cool. New varieties turn up on the shelves all the time; club apples are all the rage.
CRUNCHY, JUICY, SWEET
An apple sitting in a store and tempting customers is the result of hard physical labour and an enormous amount of time. Innovative thinkers from the South Tyrolean apple industry are constantly looking for new varieties all over the world and bringing them to South Tyrol. These are then tried and tested in test areas under different cultivation conditions. The Braun brothers at the KIKU company in Girlan |Eppan are also constantly working on new varieties. Their KIKU apples, streaked a brilliant ruby red, are crunchy, juicy, sweet, and ‘sexy,’ adds Jürgen Braun. There we have the ISAAQ, the purple red Crimson Snow, the Swing, or the Red Moon, an apple with red flesh which the company uses to produce red apple juice. Together with his brother Thomas, Jürgen Braun took up apple farming in the 1990s. Back then, his father Luis had visited a Fuji orchard in Japan, where he discovered the tree branch which would make the company what it is today. He brought the branch back to South Tyrol and conducted tests for years, selecting countless mother trees until fi nally the KIKU apple was born. Today, these newly cultivated varieties are farmed in more than 100 tree nurseries and orchards worldwide, including some businesses in the Eppan area. The
brothers hold regular evening events for and with the young athletes they sponsor. Freestyle skiers and bikers, slackliners, motocross riders— really cool guys who help establish the brand, promote the new varieties, and, above all, make eating apples look cool. Their two-hectare test area is located in Girlan | Eppan. A total of 100 new varieties are grown here. Only a few of those make it onto the shortlist: They must be crunchy and juicy, strike a perfect balance between sweet and tart, and the trees must yield an appropriate harvest. The inventors of the ‘Hoila Cider’ also subjected their product to a myriad of tests before the first sparkling apple wine from South Tyrol was finally declared fit to be served.
COOLER THAN EVER
Hoila gets by without any flavouring or colouring agents, preservatives, or sugar: All it contains is the juice of Braeburn, Granny Smith, Fuji, and Golden Delicious. ‘Each bottle contains the juice of South Tyrolean apples and nothing else,’ says Maximilian Alber. Born in Eppan, Mr Alber has always been in close touch with the apple business, even as a child. Strongly influenced by his roots, he developed Hoila Cider together with a few friends. In 2015 and 2016, his cider won the ‘Sparkling Apple Wines, Apple Champagne, Apple Cider’ category at the Pomme d’Or tasting competition in Frankfurt. These days, Hoila is being sold well outside of South Tyrol. The international market is becoming increasingly important. Also for the VOG. Every year, South Tyrol produces more than one million metric tonnes of apples in excess of what can be consumed in the country. Therefore, South Tyrolean apples embark on long journeys year after year. The customers are delighted, because apples from South Tyrol are more popular and cooler than ever.
Text: Petra Schwienbacher