‘For two years now we have cultivated the new Envy variety,an apple from New Zealand which has taken the region bystorm,’ says Georg Kössler. Mr Kössler, a resident of Eppan,is the chairman of the VOG, the association of the SouthTyrol fruit cooperatives, with 16 cooperatives and a total of5,000 members under its wings. The actual apple varietybehind the Envy trademark is the Scilate, a cross betweenGala and Braeburn first cultivated in 1985. It is streakedred, with very firm flesh, extra sweet, extra crunchy, andextra popular. Envy is a global cultivation project. In SouthTyrol, the apple is cultivated on 120 hectares of land andhas taken especially well to the Eppan region. The VOGenterprise sells its apples far beyond the domestic borders:to Germany - traditionally the main customer - but also toGreat Britain, Scandinavia, Spain, and even further to SouthEast Asia. ‘Thanks to today’s cooling technology, applesfrom South Tyrol can travel a long way unharmed,’ says MrKössler. It used to be very different.
Eppan has a long tradition of apple farming. In addition toanimal husbandry, people in the Bozen area also pursued
apple, vine, and pear farming in the mid-1800s. Even backthen, apples were exported to Russia and southern Germany.But apples were not supplied to German and Italian wholesalemarkets until the Bozen-Innsbruck section of the BrennerRailway line was completed in 1897. Around the turn ofthe century, both private trade organisations and organisedcooperatives started to form. ‘The apple trade really startedto flourish after World War II,’ explains Mr Kössler. Everythingwas in ruins, and the farmers were struggling to rebuild alivelihood. ‘Apples were one of the products which madethis possible.’ The favourable climate conditions and thehigh quality of the old and new apple varieties helped, ofcourse. Nowadays, the farmers mainly focus on fruit-growingand viticulture. The cultivation area around Eppan is a very typical example of agriculture in South Tyrol, whichis dominated by small-scale family businesses. ‘Thatis why local farmers are particularly committed:They want to bring out the best in their farmland,’ explains Mr Kössler. The valleys and hills all aroundEppan are used to cultivate all the common SouthTyrol apple varieties: mainly Golden Delicious andGala, followed by Stark and Braeburn. But there arealso new club apple varieties such as the crunchyKanzi, Jazz, and Pink Lady. The latter, in particular,is very popular with customers. These purplish-redapples mottled a yellowish green are crunchy, fi rm,juicy, and cool. New varieties turn up on the shelvesall the time; club apples are all the rage.
CRUNCHY, JUICY, SWEET
An apple sitting in a store and tempting customers isthe result of hard physical labour and an enormousamount of time. Innovative thinkers from the SouthTyrolean apple industry are constantly looking fornew varieties all over the world and bringing themto South Tyrol. These are then tried and tested intest 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, arecrunchy, juicy, sweet, and ‘sexy,’ adds Jürgen Braun.There we have the ISAAQ, the purple red CrimsonSnow, the Swing, or the Red Moon, an apple withred flesh which the company uses to produce redapple juice. Together with his brother Thomas,Jürgen Braun took up apple farming in the 1990s.Back then, his father Luis had visited a Fuji orchardin Japan, where he discovered the tree branchwhich would make the company what it is today.He brought the branch back to South Tyrol and conductedtests for years, selecting countless mothertrees until fi nally the KIKU apple was born. Today,these newly cultivated varieties are farmed in morethan 100 tree nurseries and orchards worldwide,including some businesses in the Eppan area. The
brothers hold regular evening events for and withthe young athletes they sponsor. Freestyle skiersand bikers, slackliners, motocross riders— really coolguys who help establish the brand, promote thenew varieties, and, above all, make eating appleslook cool. Their two-hectare test area is locatedin Girlan | Eppan. A total of 100 new varieties aregrown here. Only a few of those make it onto theshortlist: They must be crunchy and juicy, strikea perfect balance between sweet and tart, andthe trees must yield an appropriate harvest. Theinventors of the ‘Hoila Cider’ also subjected theirproduct to a myriad of tests before the first sparkling apple wine from South Tyrol was finally declaredfit to be served.
COOLER THAN EVER
Hoila gets by without any flavouring or colouringagents, preservatives, or sugar: All it contains is thejuice of Braeburn, Granny Smith, Fuji, and GoldenDelicious. ‘Each bottle contains the juice of SouthTyrolean apples and nothing else,’ says MaximilianAlber. 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 HoilaCider together with a few friends. In 2015 and2016, his cider won the ‘Sparkling Apple Wines,Apple Champagne, Apple Cider’ category at thePomme d’Or tasting competition in Frankfurt. Thesedays, Hoila is being sold well outside of South Tyrol.The international market is becoming increasinglyimportant. Also for the VOG. Every year, South Tyrolproduces more than one million metric tonnes ofapples in excess of what can be consumed in thecountry. Therefore, South Tyrolean apples embarkon long journeys year after year. The customers aredelighted, because apples from South Tyrol are more popular and cooler than ever.
Text: Petra Schwienbacher