From Powder to Pinot: The Alpine Sommelier on Wine & Wilderness in South Tyrol


Kate + Vin

David Senoner, The Alpine Sommelier
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South Tyrol’s ancient wine culture is as enthralling as its landscapes. Here, you don’t just taste wine; you taste 3,000 years of history, tradition, and the passion of people like “The Alpine Sommelier”, David Senoner, who lives to connect the past and present one sip at a time.

Spend any time at all along the oldest wine road in Italy, the Südtiroler Weinstrasse (Strada del Vino), and you’ll quickly realize that wine in South Tyrol (more commonly referred to as Alto Adige in the wine world) is far more than a wonder of the vine — it’s an anthem to the land. This is a place where the Alps and the Dolomites are not mere poetic backdrops but active participants in the character of the wine — influencing its soul with every sun-soaked day and cool, crisp night.

Every drop of wine here strikes a balance between the wild and the cultivated, the ancient and the modern. A sip of Gewürztraminer may evoke whispers of Roman legions passing through these valleys, while a glass of Pinot Noir sings ballads of medieval lords and ladies.

As we discovered, nothing brings to life this vibrant story of history and flavor like enjoying wine with a sommelier from the region. When you sip wine with a local sommelier like David, it transcends the act of drinking. It becomes a journey through time and terroir, guided by his expertise and passion. 🍷 So pour yourself a glass and let’s dive into our conversation with the “The Alpine Sommelier” himself.


Can you share what inspired you to become a sommelier?

Since the age of 15, I’ve been immersed in the hospitality world. Often, I’d find myself quizzing sommeliers about wines, gradually realizing my own knack for tasting well. Initially, I aimed for a university degree in enology, but life’s twists took me to Australia. There, my passion for wine deepened, so much so, that I thought, ‘Why not make a career out of this passion?’ when I returned to South Tyrol.

In your opinion, what makes South Tyrol wines unique compared to other Italian wine regions?

South Tyrol stands out as Italy’s most diverse wine-growing region. We are renowned for our exquisite whites, but we also possess a unique climate where heavy reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon ripen very well. Unlike many other regions in Italy, the wineries here proactively embrace cutting-edge practices. This ensures that the quality of our wines not only meets but often exceeds contemporary standards.

What’s also particularly fascinating about our region is its pioneering approach to cooperative winemaking. This model allows small-scale farmers, often working with less than a hectare of vineyard, to contribute their harvest to a collective town winery. The resulting wines are marketed under a unified label, ensuring quality and consistency. This system not only supports the livelihood of numerous local families but also allows wine enthusiasts to experience a broad spectrum of what South Tyrol has to offer through a single bottle.

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Among the variety of grapes grown in South Tyrol, which ones do you personally favor, and what styles of wine do they produce?

I personally enjoy elegant, well-crafted wines that truly reflect the essence of their terroir…those that capture the vineyard’s unique character without being overshadowed by excessive oak usage during aging. Pinot Noir holds a special place in my heart for its elegance and complexity. I also have a deep appreciation for Vernatsch, a grape variety native to our region. It produces wonderful easy-drinking wines. Beyond those two, I’m also a fan of the nuanced expressions of Pinot Blanc from South Tyrol.

How does the terroir of South Tyrol influence the flavors and characteristics of your favorite wines?

I find that the terroir here is very balanced, particularly favoring wines with savory notes and a distinct chalky minerality, especially in vineyards facing east. This balance brings out exceptional expressions in our red wines such as Lagrein and Vernatsch, but also elevates the profiles of our Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. It’s this precise terroir that imprints South Tyrolean wines with their characteristic complexity and aromatic intensity.


Could you share some of your personal favorite South Tyrolean food and wine pairings?

Absolutely, one of my all-time favorites has to be Vernatsch paired with beetroot dishes. The combination is sublime…the earthy sweetness of beetroot harmonizes beautifully with the light, fruity notes of Vernatsch. For heartier South Tyrolean fare, red meats and local wild game find their perfect match in the robust flavors and velvety feel of Lagrein and even Merlot. Both wines enhance the rich, savory elements of the dishes. Gewürztraminer also pairs wonderfully well with the tanginess of sauerkraut.

david senoner south tyrol wine travel

For someone new to South Tyrolean wines, what advice would you give for selecting a bottle that encapsulates the essence of the region?

If you’re venturing into South Tyrolean wines for the first time and looking for a bottle that truly represents the heart of our region, I’d suggest starting with a Lagrein if you’re inclined towards reds, or a Gewürztraminer for whites. Both varieties are quintessential expressions of our unique terroir and each one tells a story of our land. In fact, recent studies show that Gewürztraminer traces its roots to the ancient wine village of Tramin, which sits on a mountainside above the Südtiroler Weinstrasse.

Are there any lesser-known wine types in South Tyrol that you would recommend to enthusiasts?

Absolutely! For those looking to explore beyond the well-trodden path, I highly recommend trying St. Magdalener. It’s an easy-drinking blend originating from the Bolzano area. This wine seamlessly marries the soft, fruity characteristics of Vernatsch with the depth and structure of Lagrein. It is a great choice for pairing with meals.


What is your favorite go-to wine to enjoy casually after a hike or ski outing?

Following a strenuous day hiking or skiing, I don’t think there is anything better than unwinding with a wine that’s both refreshing and easy to drink. Personally, I gravitate towards the crisp and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc, Sylvaner, or Kerner from the Eisacktal (Valle Isarco) area in South Tyrol. Each of these whites offers a rejuvenating burst of flavor that’s perfect for relaxing and reflecting on the day’s adventures.

Before launching your career in wine, you were a professional skier. For the skiers in our audience, what is your favorite skiing destination in South Tyrol?

When it comes to skiing, nothing beats the Dolomites. I have skied all over the world except for Japan and South America, and I believe that no other ski region offers offers such a unique combination of dramatic scenery and incredible terrain. Skiers here can enjoy endless, well-prepared slopes, and sweeping panoramas, along with modern chairlifts that are fast and efficient. I recommended spending several days here in the winter to be able to explore the whole ski region.

dave senoner alpine ski race
Before becoming a sommelier, Dave was a professional skier for Italy’s National Alpine Ski Team and a ski coach at the Olympic level.

How about a favorite hiking spot in South Tyrol?

You cannot go wrong hiking anywhere in South Tyrol. The entire region is excellent. I personally enjoy some intense hikes north of Merano in the Ridnauntal Valley (Val Ridanna) which leads you up to over 3,000 meters in altitude. But I am not always seeking a challenge. I also enjoy easy walks around the wine villages of Kaltern and Eppan. There you can enjoy lakes surrounded by vineyards and historic estates. Plus, it is almost always sunny.

If you were stranded on an island and could only take one case of South Tyrolean wine with you, which would it be?

This is a very tough question! I would go with the TWC Pinot Noir from Kellerei St Michael- Eppan or the Doran Chardonnay from Kellerei Andrian.

Bonus question! If you could only take one album with you, which would it be?

Another tough question! I would have to choose between the following albums: May Day by Matthew Ryan, Reckoning by the Grateful Dead, or Where The Spirit Meets the Bone by Lucinda Williams.

Experience South Tyrol’s Wine Culture with David

We’ve teamed up with David to bring you an exclusive half-day private tour of the South Tyrolean Wine Road. Under David’s expert guidance, you’ll explore two prestigious wineries, roam through vibrant vineyards, discover historic cellars, and indulge in tastings of their celebrated wines. The journey continues at a charming local tavern, where you’ll taste additional wine varieties and enjoy regional delicacies. Discover more about our private wine road tour.

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