Driving along the South Tyrolean Wine Road it’s hard not to be distracted by the sheer beauty that unfolds around every corner and hill. Lush vineyards continuously dazzle one’s eyes as they cascade down steeply terraced slopes toward waves of vibrant apple orchards.
Beyond the natural grandeur, centuries-old castles and steeples dot the Italian landscape endlessly adding to one’s sense of wonder. Among all this medieval magnificence, you’ll also encounter modern architectural marvels that arouse even more intrigue to the mountainous skylines.
As we arrived for our tour and tasting at the Nals Margreid Winery in Nalles, a quaint mountain hamlet between Merano and Bolzano, it became clear that South Tyroleans’ love for wine may only be rivaled by their passion for erecting striking structures.
The Nals Margreid Winery impresses within and without. Designed by South Tyrolean architect, Markus Scherzer, and built in 2011 after the merger of The Cellars Nalles and Magre-Niclara wineries, the main building springs up from its natural surroundings resembling intricately engineered origami.
Massive windows reveal the winery’s inner workings. The entire wine production process is visible from the barrels, presses and vats. Peering inside it’s evident that while functionality and sustainable production was paramount to the building’s state-of-the-art design, aesthetics were not sacrificed in any way. No doubt a testament to the exceptional creative talents of hard-working South Tyroleans.
The Architect of Wine
After taking in the winery from the outside, we proceed to the main court which resembles a charming town square. We find our friend and South Tyrol expert, Reka Hukari, inside the winery’s rustic vinotheque located in the winery’s older structure. Soon, we are met by Nals Margried’s winemaker, Harald Schraffl.
Harald has been the winery’s technical magician since 2005. Upon meeting him, one can’t help wonder if he is a close relative of Brad Pitt. We mention this to him and he assures us with a good laugh that he is not! Harald leads us through the vinoteque back to the courtyard. He points out that the vinoteque, like the rest of the winery, blends modern elements with the old such as its cobblestone flooring, which dates back to 1764. Not coincidentally, we soon learn Harald’s philosophy for producing wines exhibits the same reverence for tradition and innovation.
In the courtyard we enjoy another sunlit evening as Harald tells us about the vineyards Nals Margreid relies on to produce its exquisite vintages. Today, 140 growers cultivate a wide range of local grape varieties covering more than 370 acres of vineyards, which sit at 200 and 900 meters above sea level.
Harald points to a map anchored to the side of the winery. It identifies vineyards weaving through 14 wine growing areas in Alto Adige — spanning from Nalles/Nals to Magrè/Margreid. Given this large expanse of growing areas, Nals Margeid wine expresses an incredible range of microclimates and soils.
Cultivating a Balance Between Innovation & Tradition
We move from the courtyard into the initial production facility in the winery’s new building. Here, Harald shares that a hallmark of Nals Margreid wines is their sophisticated harmonization with the natural environment. The winery employs sustainable methods wherever possible. That means no herbicides. Pests and diseases are mitigated through eco-friendly techniques This approach embodies Nals Margreid’s values and extends to the production process.
Once the grapes are brought to the winery, they are sent through the destemmer and immediately pressed. Instead of using pumps through the process, Nals Margreid utilizes the full strength of gravity. This gently ensures the preservation of all the characteristics that the soils and grape varieties impart to the wines. The winery holds 250 steel tanks to separate the grapes from their various producers.
Next, we follow Harald back outside and across the courtyard where we pause at a seemingly inaccessible cellar. Above us is a looming angular roof structure that appears to float as it juts out into the Alpine sky. Then, like an illusionist, Harald opens a massive hidden door camouflaged as part of the cellar’s outer wall. We laugh and follow him inside.
He gives us a tour through rows of stacked barrels performing their aging alchemy to transform grapes into vintages certain to wow the lips. We learn the oldest cellar on site dates back to 1764.
A View to a Swirl
After strolling around the cellars, Harald leads us up to the winery’s tasting area. We step out onto an inviting terrace that draws our eyes over an impressive vista filled with mountains and rustic roof tops. Drinking wine anywhere is a pleasure. Here, it is divine.
After inhaling the view, we join Harald at a table where he has set out three bottles of wine for us to sample.
The first is the award-winning 2015 Sirmian Pinot Bianco also known as Weissburgunder. Just as South Tyrol is Italy’s best kept secret, the same could be said for Pinot Bianco, which is a more enlightening counterpart to Pinot Grigio. Alto Adige produces the world’s best Pinot Bianco and Nals Margreid’s Sirmian should be at the top of your list. It is unforgettable. And no surprise the wine Nals Margreid is most famous for.
Once poured and swirled in our glasses, the wine reveals aromas of apple, pineapple and peach. It delightfully dances in the mouth and has a slightly acidic finish. A true expression of Alpine wine. Harald mentions that this wine is the perfect companion to pasta, risotto or fish. We can’t wait to try it at our next meal.
Next, we taste the 2015 Mantele Sauvignon, which is aged 8 months in big oak barrels. Its fresh and fruity aromas include notes of citrus, grapefruit, blooming elderflower and pepper. Harald informs us the deep gravel of the Mantele growing area provides their Sauvignon with its spiciness and body. The area’s cool evenings and the high heat during the day help imbue its fresh structure and fruity bouquet. It is a wine that goes well with starters and veggie-based dishes especially asparagus. We really enjoyed this wine and could easily make it our go-to when relaxing on a summer day.
Last, we taste the intensely crimson 2015 Lagrein, which is grown further south near Bolzano where the grape thrives in warmer temperatures. As we’ve noted in previous posts, Lagrein was relatively unknown to us so we were thrilled to be trying one at Nals Margreid. For those not familiar with Lagrein it is a centuries-old grape native to Alto Adige.
Nals Margreid’s Lagrein revealed blueberry aromas, a trace of cherry and medium-bodied with a spicy taste. As fans of wild game, this is a wine we would definitely choose when enjoying venison stew. However, we thought it was also nicely balanced and could enjoy it on its own while unwinding after a busy day.
After the wine tasting, Harald invited us to consume the view from the terrace a bit longer. We were not about to decline. When you encounter such sights you’d be crazy not to savor it just like a fine glass of wine.
A Gem Not to Miss While in South Tyrol
Nals Margreid’s star is rising in the United States. While it’s a newer market for the winery, be sure to ask for their exquisite wines at your local wine shop. We recently found a Nals Margreid 2014 Galea Schiava, which is a lighter bodied red from the winery. After pouring, it required a bit of breathing before opening up into an easy to drink wine that was truly delicious (it did not last long!). We have since gone back and purchased a few more bottles for our wine rack.
If you’re planning a trip to South Tyrol, add Nals Margreid to your itinerary. You will not be disappointed. With a rental car you can easily reach the winery, which is located on the northern end of the South Tyrolean Wine Road. If you are blessed to have Harald as your guide, tell him greetings from Throne & Vine!
You can learn more about Nals Margreid’s wines and available tours by visiting their website.