Legend has it dwarves mined treasures from the Dolomites long ago. Lucky for us they forgot to reap a bounty of nature steeping the fertile slopes below.
SOUTH TYROL REMAINS a tightly-shut treasure chest to much of the world. And that’s what makes it all the sweeter anytime we can reveal to you pearls within like the Prackfol Wine Farm (Prackfolerhof) in Völser Aicha. Such lucky finds during our wanderings are like marveling at the night sky and catching a star shooting across the horizon.
Prackfol landed on our South Tyrol bucket list after visiting the castled estate of Tiefenbrunner Winery along the South Tyrolean Wine Road two autumns ago. On that day, Christof Tiefenbrunner regaled us with a story about a special vineyard lying at the foot of the Dolomites. He shared that his premier Sauvignon Blanc arises from this fabled soil.
While we had experienced our fair share of wineries in South Tyrol, the chance to sip wine at one in the shadow of the “Pale Mountains” skyrocketed to the top of our travel plans. As you’ll discover, it should on yours as well.
Treasure of the Rosengarten
Reaching Prackfol Wine Farm is a sight-seeing adventure all its own. Tucked between the Dolomites’ Mt. Schlern and the Rosengarten Group to the east and the Latemar Group to the south, Prackfol sits at the end of a long road that descends gently into the densely forested Tiers Valley.
Gazing across the valley during our drive was like looking upon the verdant canopy of a mountain-jangled jungle. A lush mantle of pines, larches and chestnut groves painted the mountainside in broad brushstrokes of jade with the occasional gilded burst of autumn.
Before arriving, we halted at the top of a steep slope bejeweled by grapevines soaking in every beam of the wooing October sun. In the distant horizon, the titanic walls of the Rosengarten gleamed an almost silver and gold. The brazen peaks of Tschainer, Rotwand and Teufelswand stood at more than 9,000 feet dutifully waiting to perform their theater of alpenglow at dusk.
Below us, sandwiched between two mountainsides, sat the solitary farmstead of Prackfol. Perched above the valley floor at nearly 2,000 ft., the farm boasts a bucolic postcard scene among the best of any winery in South Tyrol. We fell immediately in love with their heavenly views, which were even more pronounced by the colors of the season.
Working A Land of Plenty
Upon our arrival, we were met in front of the farmhouse by Petra and Patrick Planer, a young couple who are the 4th generation to run the wine farm. They along with up to 10 helping hands during harvest carry on a 400-year legacy of producing delicious homemade wines.
Our tour began by walking past the winery directly above a sun-steeped vineyard that tumbled into the reaches of the valley gorge. As we paused to take in the panorama, Petra noted their vineyards tease elevations of 3,000 feet and total five hectares (12 acres) from which they produce 20,000 bottles each year.
Blessed by pure mountain air, steady bouts of glorious sunshine and rich, glacial-born soil made even more fruitful by Alpine snowmelt, Prackfol’s vineyards have long been recognized as producing great wines.
From its earliest beginnings, the farm has cultivated wines celebrated in South Tyrol for their liveliness and elegance. In fact, according to Petra, their ancestral vintages were held in such high regard the nobility of Prösels Castle — one of South Tyrol’s most stunning fortresses — made Prackfol the wine of choice.
Pointing to the faraway mountain peaks, Petra shared that the Dolomites contribute more than beauty to the farm. “At night, the mountains cool our vines giving them relief from very warm daytime temperatures,” she said. “During the day, our vines also benefit from hot air soaring in from the valley of Bolzano.” Such extremes radically influence the ripening of the grapes helping foster characteristics unique to Prackfol.
As we walked on, Patrick, the vintner of the wine farm, plucked a cluster of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes for us to try. We popped the green jewels of caged sunlight into our mouths and savored the burst of sweetness on our lips.
Eventually, we wandered over to a wood platform jutting out of the mountainside. While we jokingly thought that might be where Patrick orchestrates a symphony of picking order to the seasonal harvesters below, Petra informed us it is a place for guests to take in the sweeping views from a unique vantage point.
We discovered that in addition to being a wine farm, Prackfol is a farm stay. Guests can spend their holidays in South Tyrol wiling away in one of three fully-equipped apartments located in the farmhouse. We imagine waking up in a room perfurmed by the natural bloom of grapevines in the sight of the Dolomites, to be just about anyone’s idea of paradise.
As if the vines and views are not enough to entice one to stay, Prackfol also sits directly along the newly founded Oachner Höfeweg — a thematic trail teeming with natural and cultural sights of the Alpe di Siusi region.
Beyond the viewing platform, Petra and Patrick led us to an opening in a forest where the trail tunneled under a tabernacle of leaves. Petra revealed that it runs past several ancient farmsteads, mountainside taverns, as well as the Prösels Castle, mentioned earlier. Farms? Taverns? Castles? We committed on the spot to hike the Oachner Höfeweg the next day.
Where the Mountain Breathes
After touring the vineyards and receiving an overview of Prackfol’s viticultural practices, we followed Petra and Patrick to Prackfol’s winemaking operation adjoining the farmhouse. Recently expanded to give them more production capacity, Prackfol’s new facility orients to a more sustainable future while also firmly rooting itself in age-old winemaking tradition.
A new vinification cellar makes use of gravity to fill several stainless steel tanks instead of a pump. This not only protects the grapes but also embraces the forces of nature to efficiently transform them from fruit to fine wine.
Keeping the historic past a part of Prackfol’s identity was paramount to Petra and Patrick during the renovation. “Our farm was first mentioned in 1429,” said Petra as we stepped into Prackfol’s timeworn aging cellar. It was stacked with French oak barriques busily staying put allowing the hand of time to impart the wood’s wisdom into the wine. “Part of these cellar walls still hold stones from the original building.”
Patrick pulled the cork (officially known as a bung) from the stave of a barrique and used a wine thief to draw a sample of wine. He excitedly announced that he would bring their “Nuier” (young wine) to our tasting.
Before venturing to Prackfol’s tasting room, Petra led us from the aging cellar to their retired cellar in another building on the farm. Here, she showed us how Prackfol ingeniously harnesses the mountain terrain to naturally air condition the wine farm.
The old walls of the cellar held “Eislöcher” (ice holes) which channel cool air circulating beneath beds of boulders under the mountainside. Reaching into the ice holes of the cellar one can feel the mountain’s wintry breath. Petra noted they use a tunnel to siphon the roughly 13 °C (55 °F) air from the old cellar to the rest of the farm.
Tasting Prackfol Wines
Prackfol’s tasting room is entirely new and is situated along the Oachner Höfeweg inviting hikers to give their legs a break while sampling the farm’s wine. While still under final construction during our visit, the tasting room was gracefully decorated complementing Prackfol’s modern vision with an endearing eye toward the past.
Petra began our tasting with a South Tyrolean classic: Vernatsch (also known as Schiava). Labeled as Patrick Planer’s Südtiroler Vernatsch, we had to inquire about the bottle’s novel artwork before taking our first sip.
It depicts two cartoonish monks sampling the wine from a barrique. Petra relayed that all of their wine labels showcase paintings by Hans Kompatscher— a beloved Tyrolean artist with a notable collection of artwork on display at nearby Romantik Hotel Turm.
Prackfol chose the monk scene for its Südtiroler Vernatsch as the wine is popular with South Tyrolean churches. Their Vernatsch is particularly rare in the region because it is one of the few that is comprised of 99% of the grape. We found it eminently smooth like a soothing sax solo you get lost in a late-night jazz lounge.
Next, we tasted Patrick Planer’s Südtiroler Sauvignon, Petra’s personal favorite of their portfolio. This specialty of Prackfol is also the farm’s most abundantly produced wine.
As raving fans of Sauvignon Blanc, we thoroughly enjoyed Prackfol’s distinct take on the wine, from its plush bouquet to its mineralic-tingle to its lofty finish. Petra explained the wine’s riveting personality was due partly to the vineyard’s rooting in morainic terrain rich in minerals. She noted that after harvest their Sauvignon spends 5 months vinifying in stainless steel tanks and another 2-3 months in the bottle before going to market.
After delighting in Prackfol’s Sauvignon Blanc, Petra poured the farm’s Südtiroler Blauburgunder (also known as Pinot Noir and Pinot Nero). In the glass, it shimmered a crimson brilliance clearly paying homage to the red plumes of the Tyrolean eagle. Our first impression on the nose was a hint of blackberry. In the mouth, it was full and juicy — a pleaser for patios and dinner tables no matter the occasion.
The last tasting of our visit was a true treat. Patrick brought us a pitcher of the “Nuier” as promised. This young version of Prackfol’s Sauvignon Blanc hovered between juice and wine and was remarkably delicious, tasting fresh like a green-tinged banana.
Finally, with the crowning pours of the “Nuier”, we raised our glasses high finishing our fascinating tour of Prackfol. Petra and Patrick could not have been more gracious hosts. We were sad to depart such a lovely place, but ever grateful for the time they gave us — especially during the grueling hustle of the season’s harvest!
Experience South Tyrol’s Wine Culture
GETTING TO PRACKFOLERHOF: Völser Aicha, the village where you will find Prackfolerhof, is 20-30 minutes away from Bolzano by car. If you are staying elsewhere in the Alpe di Siusi region, you can be on the wine farm within 10-15 minutes.
A more adventurous way to reach Prackfolerhof is by trekking the Oachner Höfeweg, which you can begin from a parking lot below Prösels Castle. We will be covering this hike in detail for you in a future post.
WHEN TO VISIT PRACKFOLERHOF: Guests can visit the Prackfol Wine Farm on Tuesdays for tastings. Tours are also possible at times but must be booked in advance. If you’re interested in a cozy stay on the farm, the apartments are available for booking all year.
Make an inquiry on a tour or accommodations by contacting Petra and Patrick through the Prackfolerhof website.
HOW LONG TO PLAN FOR AT PRACKFOLERHOF: If you are visiting for a tasting, plan to spend an hour enjoying the wines and strolling the vineyards. If you intend to include a visit to Prackfol Wine Farm via the Oachner Höfeweg allow a half-day for the full experience.
WHERE TO PURCHASE PRACKFOL WINES: The best place to purchase Petra and Patrick’s wines is right at the farm. If that is not possible, you can find their wines throughout South Tyrol. Be sure to ask for a bottle when dining. Their wines can also be found in Germany and throughout Italy.
Besides supporting a family-owned farm, each purchase helps fortify the community of independent winegrowers in South Tyrol. The region currently has 100 such boutique producers.