Divinely Alpine: Exploring the Elegant Wines of Elena Walch


Kate + Vin

Elena Walch Wines
sudtirol vineyard icon 1

The regal estate of Elena Walch beautifies life with a portfolio of exquisite wines and a pair of wineries that dazzle from floor to ceiling.

When one of Italy’s most celebrated winemaking regions boasts 3,000 years of viniculture, it’s hard to imagine there’s much room for improvement. Unless you’re Elena Walch.

In the 1980s, Elena married into one of the oldest winemaking families in Italy’s northernmost wine region, Alto Adige (also known as South Tyrol), a stirring Alpine wonderland alive with countless castles, storybook villages, lush valleys and the most stunning vineyards in the world. With her, she brought vision, paired with passion. And within a matter of years that potent combination saw Elena instill innovation into age-old winemaking practices — elevating Alto Adige wines into the realm of unrivaled quality.

When I first heard about Elena Walch I was instantly intrigued. How often are women celebrated for boldly challenging the status quo? Not nearly enough. Before we left on our latest South Tyrolean adventure, my husband, Vin, and I made plans to visit her estate. The trip did not disappoint.  

A Village Lost in Vine

elena walch tramin termeno
The Church of St. Quirikus and Julitta in Tramin towers just steps away from the Elena Walch Winery.

After finishing a late breakfast we drive about half an hour into the heart of Alto Adige’s winegrowing region — breezing past tempting photo opps and idyllic hillside towns along the South Tyrolean Wine Road (Weinstrasse). We eventually spot Tramin  — a wine village seemingly lost in time and home to the Elena Walch estate.

We drive up the mountainside astounded by the lushness of the vineyards bounding toward the peaks. The road to Tramin appears to be paved with viticulture. We find parking on the edge of the village and meander through Tramin’s winding alleys toward the winery.

Tramin peacefully invites you into the past. Gothic German and Italian Renaissance influences dance effortlessly together from one cobblestone to the other. If we were here on any other day I would have let its seductive stillness transport me to the Middle Ages. I make mental notes on sights to revisit later.

The Art of Elegant Vinification

We eventually reach the Elena Walch Winery which to our amazement seems to sit in its own forest. Walking through the entrance we encounter fairy-tale-like grounds bringing to my mind scenes from The Secret Garden. We are also immediately struck by the touches of chic design gracefully interlaced with the estate’s historic charm.

elena walch grape processing
The heavenly views from the vineyards continue at Elena Walch’s new grape processing facility.

Anna Marsoner, our guide for the morning, soon greets us with a wide, warm smile. We exchange introductions and begin our tour by following her to the winery’s newest addition.

We walk into a room with towering glass walls graciously offering views of distant mountains. Here, we peer into a massive stainless steel hopper connected to an automated grape press and de-stemmer machine.

Anna explains how the winery uses gravity to feed the pressed grapes to the fermentation tanks. She then invites us to follow her down a set of steps to get a better picture of what she means. Before we reach the bottom step we are hit with the happiest of all aromas — grapes becoming wine. Next, we are overcome by the spellbinding sight of Elena Walch’s state-of-the-art fermentation cellar.

elena walch winery fermentation cellar
Anna walks through how Elena Walch’s ultra-modern fermentation cellar allows the winery to consistently produce high-quality vintages.

The light shimmers off each stainless steel tank showering us in rosy hues. I half expect Prince to strut out from behind a tank and break into Purple Rain. Anna informs us Elena was an accomplished architect before her marriage. The divine aesthetics of this space leaves no doubt in my mind.

We walk over to an LED display glowing from a nearby wall. Anna’s hand dances over the screen showing us how the winery applies climate control technology to produce vintages to exacting standards.

elena walch estate tour

Moving on from the new fermentation cellar we venture deeper into the mountain entering a vast room that looks to be a thousand years old. Here, more massive steel fermenting tanks stand against stone walls naturally cooling the cellar air. Staring at these vino-vinifying giants, we begin to get a sense of the vast amount of wine Elena Walch produces at the estate.

From Steel to Cask

Anna ducks us into a tunnel that runs to a dark cavernous area. It looks like we are walking through a passage that belongs deep within the belly of a castle. We encounter rows of French and Slovenian oak barriques masterfully aging wine into expressions distinct to Elena Walch.

elena walch barrique cellar
Deeper into the mountain we go…

She tells us the first building on the property was a Jesuit convent for 70 years before being purchased by the Austrian founder, Wilhelm Walch, in 1869. From here, we head up steps into another cellar where massive wooden casks surround us from all sides. As much as the new fermentation cellar gave us a peek into the winery’s future, these imposing wooden monoliths whirl us back in time.

The face of each cask bears the ornate craftsmanship of woodcarvers from Val Gardena, a valley in Alto Adige’s Dolomites mountain range. Every chiseled mark forges a story commemorating significant occasions in the estate’s history.

I stare at them as if I am in an art gallery.  One can’t help but wonder how long it took to carve out such detail…and how these immense wine barrels were transported long ago. The artisans certainly did not roll them down the mountain. 

elena walch wines wooden casks
The massive casks of Elena Walch are true works of art in the wine world.

The oldest cask dates back to 1878. But, the one I find most interesting has a delightfully mischievous depiction. Thanks to a poor translation, the woodcarver etched horns on a likeness of Moses rather than the intended halo.

The largest cask is made of Slovenian Oak from Croatia and holds 180 hectoliters. Anna quickly puts the number into terms we can grasp telling us it would take 65 years and 7 months to empty completely!

While admiring these historic casks, Anna informs us Elena Walch produces 500,000 bottles each year primarily from two nearby vineyards, Castel Ringberg and Kastelaz. In total, her vineyards comprise 60 hectares. Hard to picture? Imagine roughly 60 baseball fields flush with vines.

elena walch historic wooden wine cask

Continuing on we are surprised to learn hands pick every single grape that goes into an Elena Walch wine bottle. I am ready to volunteer. Anna also informs us the vineyards flourish without applying any herbicides.

Elena was among the first in Alto Adige to make sustainability a hallmark of her wines. This meant producing wine in harmony with nature and reducing the quantity to place supreme importance on uncompromising quality.

Taking such a position was initially met with resistance by wine producers firmly rooted in tradition, but the value of preserving vineyards for future generations has become a celebrated standard in Alto Adige thanks to pioneers like Elena. Nearly every facet of her wine production considers the environmental impact — from practicing sustainable cultivation to solar powering the estate to using corks from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

⇒ You Might Also Like: The Must-Visit Wineries of South Tyrol

Tasting Elena Walch Wines

elena walch wine tasting garden

As our tour comes to an end, Anna leaves us in the estate’s garden where a table with wine glasses radiates in the late morning light. We sit down and enjoy the sun pouring through the trees. In no time we are greeted by Karoline Walch, one of Elena’s two daughters actively working in the family business. Karoline and her sister, Julia, are poised to follow in their mother’s footsteps and one day lead the estate.

Karoline enthusiastically joins us at the tasting table. Her passion is immediately evident as she takes us on a journey through an array of her family’s award-winning wines. We begin with the single-vineyard Pinot Bianco “Kristallberg”, the grapes of which are grown at a height of 600 meters (nearly 2,000 feet).

The vineyard’s dramatic temperature swings between night and day give the Pinot Bianco “Kristallberg” a bright crispness, mineral tones and a bouquet flush with green apple and white peach. After a couple of sips, I find myself indulging more than tasting. The wine sings with summer elegance and I make a mental note to serve this splendor at my sister’s baby shower in August.

After we finish sampling the Pinot Bianco we move on to the only Vigna-certified Pinot Grigio in Italy. Karoline shares that after five years a vineyard may apply for Vigna certification, which certifies the wine is born from a single, geographically-defined vineyard. Producing wine in this manner ensures the heart and soul of the land are personified in each bottle — a guiding philosophy of the Elena Walch estate.

elena walch wines pinot grigio
karoline walch elena walch wine tasting
elena walch sauvignon
karoline walch elena walch wines
Karoline Walch joined us to conduct a grand tasting of the family’s award-winning wines.

Pinot Grigio is my personal vice, so I am especially excited to try Elena Walch’s Pinot Grigio “Vigna Castel Ringberg”. Its rich fullness and fruity aroma immediately impress as I sip. Now, I have two Elena Walch wines I must serve at my sister’s shower.

Naturally, I want more, but we continue with the Sauvignon “Vigna Castel Ringberg”. This wine equally pleases   perfectly balancing its Alpine heart with its French roots. My wine list for the shower grows by one more.

Next, we try Elena Walch’s Gewürztraminer “Vigna Kastelaz”, the most popular and award-winning wine in her portfolio. Translated, Gewürztraminer means “Spices of Tramin”, which is quite fitting as this northern Italian treasure pairs best with spicy Asian cuisine, seafood, cheeses and dessert.

elena walch kastelaz gewurtztraminer
Elena Walch’s award-winning Gewürztraminer is cultivated from the Kastelaz vineyard the only south-facing vineyard in Alto Adige. (photo credit: Elena Walch)

One sip of Elena Walch’s Gewürztraminer and it’s clear this is a wine that demands to be noticed. It is immensely lush and intensely complex. A delight for both the nose and mouth. Vin says this is his personal favorite.

What makes Elena Walch’s Gewürztraminer especially unique is where the grapes are grown. All vineyards in Alto Adige face to the East or West, but Elena Walch’s Kastelaz vineyard is an exception. It is the only south-facing vineyard in Alto Adige. Here, the vines thrive on a steep 63-degree slope and enjoy cool Mediterranean winds from Italy’s Lake Garda.

While Alto Adige is best known for world-class white wines, the red wines from Elena Walch should be on your radar. The last two wines we sample are the Pinot Nero “Ludwig” and the Lagrein Riserva “Castel Ringberg”.

elena walch lagrein
Elena Walch’s Lagrein Riserva made us raving fans of this lesser-known red.

Recently named the second-best Pinot Noir in all of Italy, the Elena Walch Pinot Nero “Ludwig” is enticingly ruby red in color and delicately juicy. The finish is smooth with a slight tanginess. Definitely a wine I want to explore further.

Like the Pinot Grigio we tasted, the grapes for Elena Walch’s Lagrein Riserva come from the winery’s Castel Ringberg vineyard. Set on a hill off of the South Tyrolean Wine Road, the Castel Ringberg vineyard overlooks the hypnotic blue of Lake Caldaro. A castle built in 1620 rises from the surrounding vines. 

We admit to Karoline the Lagrein grape is a bit of a mystery. She informs us it is a sun-loving grape native to Alto Adige and is a cross between Syrah and Pinot Noir.

elena walch castel ringberg vineyard
South Tyrol’s Lake Caldaro beams from just beyond Elena Walch’s Castel Ringberg vineyard.

In our wine glasses, the Lagrein Riserva showcases a deep red color. Its nose recalls an Alpine berry jam we enjoyed at breakfast earlier. The wine itself is robust with touches of spice and fruit and has a pleasantly long finish.

Karoline points out that it pairs well with venison and other meats. Vin comments he can’t wait to try it with the wild game in our freezer back home. That is a nice thought for him, but I am busy thinking about how we can stay longer at this heavenly place.

elena walch winery bistro
When you visit Elena Walch in Tramin, plan to also enjoy the winery’s chic bistro: La Verre Capricieux

We conclude our tasting with Karoline, but before leaving the garden we enjoy more Lagrein and a savory plate of local specialty cheeses and cold cuts from La Verre Capricieux — a stylish bistro on the property.  

Get to Know Elena Walch Wines First Hand

Our time at the Elena Walch estate was a truly inspiring way to spend part of a day in South Tyrol. Elena Walch’s impeccable wines are a delight not to miss. And touring her estate in Tramin is a must when visiting the region. Like us, you’ll come away with a deep appreciation for the eloquent vision and devotion to quality Elena Walch, her daughters and the estate’s staff bring to every bottle they produce. 

Tip: When traveling the South Tyrolean Wine Road, you can also visit the Castel Ringberg estate of Elena Walch, which we mentioned above. It is located right off the road just a few minutes from Tramin. While there, you can walk among the rolling vineyards and sip wine amid stellar views of Lake Caldaro.

elena walch wines castel ringberg estate
Include a visit to Elena Walch’s historic Castel Ringberg estate as part of your South Tyrol Wine Road itinerary.

You can learn more about these amazing Alto Adige wines and available tours by visiting the Elena Walch website. Be sure to ask for Elena Walch the next time you are at your local wine shop.

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67 thoughts on “Divinely Alpine: Exploring the Elegant Wines of Elena Walch”

  1. You had me at, “…a scene from The Secret Garden.”

    Your images are so evocative; I feel as if I’m touring the vineyard right with you.

  2. wow. not only are the photos really fascinating, your words are richly informative! I’ve never been to winery before so really made me so curious. Now, gotta go check out more from you blog.:)

  3. Your photos are amazing and the vineyard sounds awesome. I’m ready try some of the wine right now haha! 🙂
    Cheers, Sarah Camille // SCsScoop.com

  4. Such an experience! I’m getting the feeling that every aspect wraps visitors in vibrant indulgence. I would love to see these vineyards! Thanks for sharing.

  5. So few Americans know Elena Walch or her tremendous white wines, let alone the Lagrein. She is a brilliant powerhouse, whose fervor for excellence is evident in her winemaking- the results are in the glass! Thanks for the photos and beautifully-written piece. I wish I’d called in live with her wines before I visited Tyrol and the Alto Adige, but the time will come for a return to taste her wines in situ. Cheers my friend! -JvBUnCorked

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. She is an absolute force. Hope you get to visit her winery someday.

  6. What a great read. Thanks for sharing your Elena Walch experience. It sounds positively indulgent. I’ve always wanted to try the wines…I simply must!

  7. Beautiful post! I love the name of the winery’s bistro: Le Verre Capricieux. And welcome to the #ItalianFWT group. Hope you’ll come back next month!

  8. The cave and the grape field look exciting! I’ve been Innsbruck last year, Austria is simply beautiful.. A wine tour is def’ a great idea when traveling!

  9. I don’t think there’s anything I love more than a good wine tour! This looks like a great way to spend a day – also your photos are gorgeous!

  10. We’ve never explored South Tyrol. The region looks beautiful, and the vineyard grounds look stunning. You have a beautiful way with words. We felt as if we were sitting there drinking the wines with you. Lovely post!

  11. This tour sounds absolutely amazing and your photos are stunning! I would definitely want to go here someday ?

  12. Love the photos! I don’t think I’ve ever been to a winery but definitely seems like I’m missing out, especially in Italy!

  13. Wow, this vineyard looks beautiful and your photos are amazing. This place is definitely worth a stop-off of South Tyrol ! I love visiting wineries even if I’m definitively not a wine lover 🙂 . It’s also so lovely to read about Elena Walch’s success story !

  14. I love your photos! Thank you for recommending this place, we love wine AND Italy, so seems like we have a new place to add to our Italy roadtrip itinerary! Absolutely love it 🙂

  15. Women winemakers are no longer so unusual in South Africa, which has some awesomely delicious wines too. I agree that exploring wine cellars, with their evocative aromas, is a special thing to do.

  16. This was a lovely read since I live in san Francisco and love, love wine! Not many women vintners /owners around the world and so this was a refreshing read!

  17. Gewurztraminer is one of my favorite wines, and from your lovely description, hers sounds fantastic!

  18. Oh no, another place I have to visit now and drink wine. Darn! haha 🙂
    I will definitely be checking this place out soon

  19. OMG! I want to visit Elena Walsh Winery right now! It looks ah-making! The plate of meats and cheeses is right up my alley!

  20. Thank you for writing such a detailed and informative post about wine in South Tyrol! I never knew the area produced wine. Incredible photos too!

  21. The views look divine! Italy and wine are 2 of my favorite things, I’d love to visit! Great pics 🙂

  22. This is one of the parts of Italy I like the most! I’m not too much into wine, but hubby is goos at wine tasting and such so when we go I just wander around and take pictures while he’s busy. I’m sure I’d love this place!

  23. This sounds like so much fun! Your photos are stunning too! I’d love to go on a tour like this 🙂

  24. This looks like such a fancy and special way to spend a day! And it’s even better when you get to know a bit about this history behind it.

  25. Wow! The photographs are just amazing. We passed through the south of France on a road trip two years ago. I really wanted to go wine tasting but then we couldn’t drink and drive so we skipped that. I feel bad about it now though but there was no better way.

  26. The fact that they pick by hand and don’t use herbicides is incredible. I would love to visit this winery.

  27. I don’t particularly like wine but I just loooove vinyards ❤❤❤ I can only imagine how pretty this would look in autumn ❤

  28. What a stunning place! I’m not much of a wine drinker myself, but would love wandering through the vineyards and old buildings and learning about the process. We did a wine tour in Bordeaux and it was a really enjoyable experience! South Tyrol looks very pretty and somewhere I will have to visit next time we are in Italy!

  29. The pictures are breathtaking. And I almost feel the taste of the wine in my mouth, the way you describe it.

  30. Wow, that sounds like an amazing day! I love visiting wineries, and this one looks stunning. I also love hearing stories of wine makers who are challenging the status quo. Will keep an eye out for Elena Walch wines!

  31. I’ve been trying to explore some less well known grapes so I’m excited to look or the Lagrein next time I go out shopping. Thank you for this post and now that I know about your blog I’m really excited to keep up with it.

  32. What a beautiful winery with a fascinating history! Sounds like it’s definitely worth a stop-off. Plus, wine!

  33. I love this post! Everything about it, starting from Elena Walch’s vinegar (definitely need to visit NOW) to your experience at the vineyard and the beautiful pictures you have taken. Spectacular.

  34. Gorgeous Vineyard, looks like a must visit place for any wine lover. I personally don’t really drink alcohol very often as don”t like the taste, but would visit this place because it looks really nice!

  35. You are so right that it’s a rare thing to see a woman lauded for bringing innovation and quality into a very tradition-bound and male-dominated industry, so it’s lovely to read about Elena Walch’s success. The local area looks fairy tale beautiful and the wines sound like they match up to it!

  36. Yesss, love this post! I’m in Italy now and I wish I had time to go visit these places.

    Next time!

  37. Your photos are gorgeous and your way of describing the wines makes me feel like I can taste them! Now I’m off to research where I can buy Elena Walch wines locally, because they sound divine.

  38. The photos are INSANELY gorgeous – as I’d expect from such a beautiful region of the world – but even more so when you know the story behind the vineyard! So cool – thank you for introducing it to us! Also, I really enjoyed your writing!

    • Thank you Robin for the kind words! Glad you enjoyed the article. Hope you enjoy the wine even more!

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