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The wine etiquette

Are you a "winey"?

Do you feel lost and clueless when your friends talk about wine? Would you like to share your knowledge about wine with smart phrases? Don't worry, we will not let you down! We have compiled the FAQ (frequently asked questions) about wine for you!

W is for Wine

Wine philistine that I am, I am staring at the wine shelf at a supermarket in Eisacktal Valley. I want to buy a good quality product. What do I do?
I would go for a regional wine and grape variety. Eisacktal Valley is particularly wellknown for its white wines: Sylvaner, Kerner, Veltliner. Be brave! Pick something you have never tried before. And never be afraid to ask and seek some advice.

How cheap is too cheap?
Everyone has their own upper and lower limits of tolerance when it comes to prices. However, you should always keep in mind that wine production is a complicated and costly thing: it involves a lot of manual labour, especially on the steep slopes of this region, and only one vintage a year.

There is so much I can do wrong when opening a bottle of wine. How can I make it look at least somewhat elegant?
Use a good corkscrew, one with a lever. Position the screw perfectly straight in order to hit the cork in the middle. Then drive it in as far as it will go. But be careful with older vintages: the cork may already be a bit porous.

What if the cork breaks or pieces of cork end up in the wine?
Doesn’t look good, but does no harm. The wine will only be spoiled if there is something wrong with the cork, not because there are pieces of cork floating in it.

What is the one thing I can always say at a tasting, even if I don’t have any clue whatsoever?
My advice would be to say something positive. If it is a young vintage, you can always say, “Ermmm, yeeees, I think this one could stand a little more time.” And that’s true, even if it’s a very good one. For an older vintage I would recommend saying, “Ermmm, uhm, yes, it’s still open and aromatic in spite of its age.”

C is for Cork

I love wine but I know nothing about it. What are the first steps towards understanding it?
The key thing is not to be afraid of wine! Or of all the technical terms. Just try it! Dring good wine and wine that is not so good. You'll only be able to recognise differences and subtleties if you taste lots of different types.

What books or films about wine would you recommend?
The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson is easy to understand and very informative. I'm always dipping into it. I also love watching and rewatching the film A Good Year - beacause of the wine and, of course, Russel Crowe. He plays an unscrupulous stockbroker who inherits a château and vineyard, transforms himself into a winegrower and meets the love of his life.

The sommelier gives me a drop of wine and looks at me expectantly. What should I do? How can I make sure I don't make a fool of myself? And how on earth am I meant to tell if it's been corked?
Remain calm! Swirl the wine around a bit. To make sure you don't spill any, the best way to do this is to put the glass on the table and rotate it gently. Smell it and take a sip. If you like how it tastes, give your waiter a friendly nod. An actual cork taint is more difficult to detect. Before shouting out "It's corked!" make sure that you look at the bottle's seal to check that it doesn't have a screw cap or a glass closure...

Are wine bottled without a cork of lower quality?
No. These days, some fine wines from around the world are bottled using alternative types of closure, such as a screw cap - and this includes top-quality wines from the very best vinewards. 

I don't have a cellar and don't want to buy an expensive wine refrigerator. What is the best way for me to store wine?
You don't have to store wine yourself. The most important thing is to find a good wine specialist you can trust who can keep you supplied with your favourite tipples. If you nevertheless have a few good bottles of wine at home, make sure that you keep them at a constant and cool temperature. Wine bottles sealed with a cork should be stored on their side to prevent the cork from drying out. 

V is for Variety

Which varieties of wine thrive in the Eisacktal valley – and why?
Nestled between the prehistoric rock forming the Alps and the towering peaks of the Dolomites, the Eisacktal valley provides excellent growing conditions for white grape varieties, such as the Kerner, Sylvaner, Müller Thurgau, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. The high and steep vineyards at altitudes of 350 to almost 1,000 metres, the wide range of soils, locations and orientations, the ability to customise the incidence of sunlight to requirements, and the special microclimate are what make the area ideal for white wine varieties.

Why are so many varieties grown here and across South Tyrol/Südtirol?
South Tyrol is located at an intersection between Alpine and Mediterranean vegetation, meaning we have a wide array of soil formations at our disposal. The microclimate changes many times over in the space of just a few kilometres. The range of climatic, geographical and geological factors provides ideal conditions for a vast assortment of red and white grape varieties.

Increasing temperatures are forcing grapes to be grown at higher altitudes. What does this mean for local winegrowers?
South Tyrol has not evaded the noticeable effects of climate change. However, the Eisacktal valley is fortunate in that its vineyards lie at an average of 600 to 800 metres above sea level. Some are even located at altitudes of 900 to almost 1,000 metres. While the grape varieties chosen need to be suitable for these higher altitudes, these dizzy heights have several advantages, including lower temperatures, greater differences in temperature between day and night, and more intense sunlight. This has a positive impact on the constituents of the grapes and creates wines with a more distinctive character.


Texts from: COR 1, COR 2, COR 3 - The local magazine
Interviews with: Fenja Hinze, Alexandra Erlacher