Saturday, July 30, 2016

Elena Walch

It's always helpful to have a story behind the product in the wine business and in this case it's a good one.   Elena Walch is one of the contemporary giants in the wine industry.  She is renowned for her winemaking skills but she is really more of a director, manager, and visionary of her eponymously named winery.  Here's her story...

Elena was an architect in her early thirties when she was hired by like-aged Werner Walch to restore Castel Ringberg, a Renaissance castle built by the Hapsburg dynasty in 1620.  Werner Walch is the largest vineyard owner in Alto Adige in northeastern Italy and the castle lies on his property in the northern, German-speaking half of the region.  This region is also called Sudtirol and has previously been part of Austria.  The southern portion of Alto Adige is called Trentino and both lie in the Dolomite mountain range in the southern Alps, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Elena was new to her craft, having traveled extensively through New Zealand and Australia as a young adult before getting her professional training in Germany.  She was soon to fall in love with Werner and they were married two years later in 1985.  She had been raised comfortably as a city dweller in Milan so it is from her travels that her wine interests are believed to have sprung.  Architecture didn't completely leave her though as she settled into her new lifestyle.  Elena chose to involve herself in the family business by redesigning how that business would be configured and modernized both in the vineyards and the winery.

It should be noted that the family business Elena married into was a fifth generation wine family affair (est. 1869) and Werner was quite traditional when it comes to making wine.  Consequently, going forward, the business effectively became two separate businesses under one winery roof with Werner continuing to make his workman-like vino da tavola with the vast majority of the grapes and Elena making her new modern and internationally-styled efforts from her own vineyards.

  So what exactly did Elena do?  The most widely planted grape in Alto Adige heretofore had been Schiavo, a popular local red variety.  Elena fundamentally changed the direction of wine making in Alto Adige by assessing the terroir there and concentrating her efforts on the international commercially-driven white grape varieties: Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Bianco.  She also made four fundamental changes in the vineyards to facilitate a transition to sustainable farming and made a cooresponding four changes in the winery to reduce the environmental impact of the business.

Additionally she drastically reduced individual vine yields for more intensely flavored berries while at the same time planting vines more densely for more production.  The varietal clones selected were also carefully scrutinized and she modified trellising for her purposes.  After everything was said and done and time had past, her improvements were to become the norm for others in Alto Adige, now regarded as the most awarded wine region of Italy.

The Elena Walch winery is located in the village of Tramin which is the historical home of the Gewurztraminer grape.  That is the best wine produced there.  While Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay would be the most commercial wines made there, Elena prefers her Pinot Bianco, which is the one we choose to sell here at the store.   That wine is characterized as straw-colored with aromas of apple, pear, pineapple, and melon and flavors on the palate of citrus, apple, and tropical fruit.  As rich as the description sounds, the minerality therein makes this medium bodied white quite linear and food-friendly.

No comments:

Post a Comment