Kuenhof, Sudtirol Eisacktaler Sylvaner DOC 2013 (about $28)


Italian Wine for september, 2017

The Kuenhof winery is located in the northern part of the Alto Adige, Italy’s northernmost region. It’s about as far north as one can go and still be in Italy.

Because this portion of the Alto Adige was long part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and only became part of Italy after World War I, there is a strong German influence here. Peoples’ names and street names as well as the foods and the spoken language all reflect its German heritage. On your morning stroll you are likely to be greeted with a booming Guten tag rather than a melodic Buon giorno. Same country, different language. Reflecting its mixed heritage, this part of Alto Adige is referred to as “Sudtirol” (or South Tyrol) by the local population.  

The Kuenhof winery is located in a section of the Sudtirol known as the Val d’Isarco (or Isarco Valley). This 50 mile long, narrow valley stretches from the Brenner Pass on the Austrian border south to the town of Bolzano, Italy. The Isarco River meanders along the length of the valley floor amidst steeply-sloped hills dotted with vineyards.

The Valle Isarco (or “Eisacktaler” in German) is generally recognized as one of Italy’s premier white wine appellations. The nearby Italian Alps shelter the valley from the cold northern winds while permitting plenty of summer sunshine and the large day-night temperature variation and high mineral content of the soil all come together to provide an excellent microclimate for growing wine grapes, especially cold-climate white varieties like Veltliner, Sylvaner, Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

The Kuenhof winery has been in the Pliger family for over 200 years. Historically, the estate’s grapes were sold off to nearby wineries and it wasn’t until 1990 that the Pligers started bottling and selling wines under their own label. The winery is currently owned and operated by Peter and Brigitte Pliger and is generally recognized as one of the Isarco Valley’s best producers.

Their vineyards are located at elevations of 1,600 to 2,300 feet above sea level on loose, gravelly soil and the steeply sloped hills are terraced with stone retaining walls. Here the Pligers grow a small number of white varieties - primarily Sylvaner, Riesling and Veltliner - and follow organic farming protocols.

The Sylvaner variety is not particularly well known in the U.S. While grown in certain areas of Europe (where it is often spelled Silvaner) such as Franconia in Germany and Alsace in eastern France, it reaches peaks of perfection in northern Italy’s Isarco Valley. The cool but sunny high-altitude vineyards are conducive to developing both body and acidity in the grapes. It is a rich and aromatic variety that in the hands of a talented producer is capable of producing wines of great texture, depth and lively acidity.

The 2013 Kuenhof Sylvaner is made entirely of estate-grown Sylvaner grapes that are 2013 Kuenhof, Sudtirol Eisacktaler Sylvaner DOC hand-harvested in mid to late October. The grapes undergo a relatively long three to four month cold-temperature fermentation using indigenous yeasts. Afterwards, the wine is aged in a combination of steel tanks and acacia vats for about 6 months, then bottled and available for sale approximately a year after harvest.

This is an outstanding white wine by any measure. Pale yellow in color with a greenish tint, it offers pleasant pear and apple aromas with hints of fresh herbs like sweet marjoram and lemon balm. It is a full-bodied white wine with a vivid, textured mouthfeel and lively acidity. Its apple, citrus and tropical fruit flavors are enhanced with a hint of a creamy lees character rounded off with exceptional intensity and grip on the citrus-driven finish. The wine checks in with 14.5 percent alcohol and will age well for another 3 to 4 years.

This wine is best served chilled at about 52 degrees. It pairs well with light appetizers and pasta dishes; grilled or roasted fish of all types; simply prepared veal, pork and chicken dishes; and risotto done most any way including a seasonal pumpkin risotto.

To protect the taste and integrity of the wines all Kuenhof wines are bottled with screwcaps.

Not that I need to appeal to a higher authority but it is worth noting that the 2013 (and the 2014) Kuenhof Sylvaner is the recipient of a prized Tre Bicchieri award from the Gambero Rosso organization, Italy's premier arbiter of good food and wine.


©Richard Marcis
September 8, 2017

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