Weingut Nusserhof

Nusserhof is situated in a spectacular, anomalous fashion, high up in the South Tyrol mountains of the Alto Adige, actually in the ancient capital city of Bolzano. It is a mere 2.4 hectares of certified-organic vines, owned by Elda and Heinrich Mayr, whose family has worked the same land going back at least as far as 1788. The city has grown explosively since WWII and now surrounds what used to be remote vineyard in a remote land. The winery’s name “Nusserhof means “nut farm”, for the old hazelnut trees which lined the path by the Mayrs’ house until being cut down to make way for a bikeway.

The encroachment of “civilization” has certainly impacted but ultimately not deterred Heinrich and Elda. With occasional run-ins with local authorities, they continue to work their vines of only indigenous varieties—mainly the rare white Blatterle and the powerful red Lagrein, with small amounts of Schiava and Teroldego—on steep hillside parcels along the Isarco River. The soils are alluvial, sandy and rich in porphyry, a mineral-rich decomposed granite. The climate is warm thanks to the intensity of the high-alpine sun, balanced by cold nights throughout the growing season; irrigation is occasionally employed mid-summer. The vines are trained in a 50/50 mix of typical South-Tyrol pergolas and guyot. The farming is completely organic and the harvest is by hand (machines would be impossible to use here).

The cellar work is straightforward and traditional, with modernity only in the form of some steel tanks and temperature control. Fermentation is with native yeasts only for all wines. Their tank-aged Blatterle is a true rarity, from nearly extinct grape with only 1.5 hectares and 3 producers of it remaining, Nusserhof being the largest of them. The reds have extended macerations in tank and are then aged mainly in well-used Slavonian oak botti for a year or two, followed by years in bottle before release. The ancient Lagrein grape is the mainstay. Nusserhof aims to feature its naturally dark, smoky, tannic, woodland-berry character to its fullest, so they never did cave to the temptation of a more Bordeaux-influenced “international” style like many in Trentino-Alto Adige did the 1970’ and 80’s. Historically, Lagrein was used in the region mainly for rosato, not red, and the Mayrs do that as well, in a tiny-production, late-release version.

The labels can be a bit puzzling but there is a reason: until 2011, the regional wine laws did not allow grape varieties to be on the label. So the Mayrs decided to thumb their nose at the authorities and feature them anyway, just slightly tweaked: hence “Blaterle” or "B...: instead of “Blatterle” and “Tyroldego” or “T…” instead of Teroldego. Elda Mayr’s name graces the Schiava label without any indication of variety; the Lagrein name is simply itself.

The Mayrs continue to defy the odds stacked against them by development and to produce singular, pure wines reflecting the true character of the Alto Adige’s native varieties. Wine critic Antonio Galloni summed it up well: "Nusserhof is one of the most remarkable estates I have ever visited. Located right in the center of Bolzano, it looks as if this bustling, growing city is literally going to gobble up the estate in any minute. Mayr has already lost some of his vineyards to the adjacent highway through a claim of eminent domain, something that seems to be a constant struggle here. Within the vineyards, all is calm. The fruit I tasted prior to the 2012 harvest is a testament to just how special this site is. And the wines? Well, they are pretty special, too. Mayr has a way of coaxing unusual richness and power from Schiava for his Elda bottling, while the Lagrein and Teroldego are well worth checking out. Mayr also makes a rose Lagrein that is compelling. Nusserhof remains one of the stars not just of Alto Adige, but of Italy."