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At the White Wine Festival Sabiona

Clinking glasses

Lea, from Villnösstal/Val di Funes, happily walks with her two friends through the archway of the historic center of the medieval town of Klausen. An entrance bracelet on her arm, a booklet with all the wines on offer and an empty glass in her hand: that's all she needs for the next few hours of exquisite tasting at the Sabiona White Wine Festival in Klausen.

"The idea of tasting Eisacktal Valley wines not sorted by producer but by grape variety is remarkably simple and definitively good," says Susanne Lehmann, one of the eight sommeliers. She is responsible for the Gewürztraminer presentation. A brief conversation with her is enough to get a recommendation for each guest. The wine language with expressions like "astringent," "mouth feel," "fruity," or "herbaceous" is a melodious one - everyone at Sabiona speaks it.
"The idea of tasting Eisacktal Valley wines not sorted by producer but by grape variety is remarkably simple and definitively good."
To the three friends, Susanne first recommends an "Aristos" from Cantina Valle Isarco and then, for comparison, the "Dionysos" from the Zöhlhof estate, a small organic winery near Feldthurns. Finally, they taste a Gewürztraminer from the Ebner winery. "I often go out with friends," Lea says with a laugh, "we like to drink wines from the Eisacktal Valley. But too often we rely on wines we already know because we don't dare try a new wine that we might not like. At the Sabiona White Wine Festival we can try them all!" She uses a system of crosses, ticks and hearts: "With these I mark the wines in the tasting booklet: not my taste, quite good or absolutely must buy." "Dionysos" receives a heart.

Susanne Lehmann chats happily about her job as a sommelier, the many enjoyable events where she meets such different people, and the interesting conversations. She is taking a distance learning course to become a wine academic, to further educate her fine tongue. We laugh heartily at the idea that she is sitting at her desk at home, in front of many bottles of wine, studying.
The blue twilight sets in and the mood on this mild early summer evening is cheerful and exuberant. So many tourists have attended the event, but also at least as many locals. Everyone is dressed quite chic, every age group is represented, a surprising number of young people stroll through the pedestrian area filled with the wine stands. Many of them work in the wine industry or work in gastronomy. Here the winemakers do not have to stand behind the counter and serve their wine, but are able to taste the wines of their colleagues. They analyze with their eyes, nose and mouth the prized nectar. The last few vintages have been good. People get to know each other and have much to talk about. The exchange with sommeliers is exciting, and winemakers secretly observe the reaction of wine lovers to their creations.
The alleys of the picturesque medieval town are the perfect setting for the festival. Overlooking the town for more than 400 years is the Sabiona Monastery, one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in South Tyrol and eponymous for the Sabiona Festival.

Text: Sylvia Pollex
Translation: Società Cooperativa Turistica Chiusa, Barbiano, Velturno, Villandro
Photos: Thomas Rötting
Pubblication: 2022