Inaugurated in 1964, The South Tyrolean Wine Road (Strada del Vino/Weinstrasse) is the oldest wine road in Italy. It begins (or ends) north of Bolzano in Nalles (Nals), meanders past Terlano (Terlan) through Upper-Adige (Überetsch) and Lower-Adige (Unterland) until it reaches Salorno (Salurn). Native grape varieties, including Lagrein, Vernatsch and Gewürztraminer, line the route alongside well-adapted imports like Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet.
From Bolzano, the culturally intriguing capital of South Tyrol, where German and Italian tastes interfuse, the best way to reach the Wine Road is by car or bike.
For cycling enthusiasts (the Lycra kind), the region’s dry, mild climate and frequent sunshine provides ideal conditions for a generous 23-45 km bike ride, depending on the route you choose. The picturesque Wine Road offers three different voyages for cyclists – the Northern, Central or Southern Route. Each one follows a trail that winds through breathtaking landscapes with opportunities to stop and see castles or visit wine cellars along the way. For those behind the steering wheel, the journey is equally majestic.
The first stop on this tour is Nalles/Nals, situated in the sunny Etsch valley about 14km from Bolzano/Bozen and 16km from the spa town of Merano/Meran. Nalles offers a charming backdrop of rotund green hills lined with towering vineyards and apple orchards. Hiking and mountain biking are popular activities in this quiet town with only 1,600 inhabitants. Be sure to sample the wines at Nals Magreid Cantina before you drive or cycle on.
The next stop is the tiny town of Andriano/Andrian with its petite piazza and plentiful apple orchards. Andrian’s Winery, founded in 1893, is the oldest wine producers’ cooperative in South Tyrol. The cellar offers a traditional selection of 13 individual DOC wines characteristic of the terrain, as well as four varieties of select wines, which are late-harvested and hand-picked from the older vineyards of Andriano with a minimum age of 15 years. If you opt to do a tasting (don’t even think twice) ask for the select Gant and Tor di Lupo, which are allowed to mature in small oaken barrels, or try the Andrius and Movado, which achieve their greatness in stainless steel tanks.
From here, head on to Appiano/Eppan, the largest wine-growing community in South Tyrol with 1200 hectares of vineyards stretching from 200m above sea level to 1600m above sea level on the Mendel ridge. This community includes nine wine hamlets: St. Michael, Girlan, St. Pauls, Frangart, Missian, Unterrain, Perdonig, Gaid and Montiggl. Take a coffee break in one of the many cafés that line the main cobblestoned street in Appiano centre or indulge in some boutique shopping. Die Nische is great for unisex knitwear and men’s accessories, but you’ll need deep pockets to do more than just browse. A tip for the gastronomes: Appiano is home to Restaurant zur Rose, the eatery of famed chef Herbert Hintner who is well-known throughout the region for his creative and innovative preparation of traditional cuisine with regional products. If hunger calls, this is a luxurious lunch option.
If you are visiting the Wine Road from April to October, one of the loveliest attractions is Lake Kaltern. At the heart of the Kaltern/Kaldaren region, Lake Kaltern is the warmest bathing lake in the Alps.
While the southern edge of the lake bears untouched nature, there are three beaches on the northern shores, which are accessible for swimmers and water sport enthusiasts. The public swimming areas are generally open from mid May to the end of September. If you want to traverse the lake, but full immersion in the chilly crystal waters is overwhelming, explore the bay by pedal boat. Wind surfing on a breezy afternoon is also an option; perhaps best with a certified wind surf instructor from the nearby Gretl am See, which also happens to be a restaurant with the best dining view in the area. While away your afternoon over a long lunch and a glass of wine or two.
After lunch and wine, it’s time for more wine. Next stop: Cantina Tramin.
This gorgeous geometric green edifice, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a view out onto jaw-dropping mountainous vineyards, is home to the great Gewürztraminer. The Gewürztraminer thrives in an Alpine-Mediterranean climate that is typical of South Tyrol: plenty of warmth during the day, but cool during the night to allow the wines to retain freshness and develop their unmistakably spicy aromas of rose, lychee and cloves. Cantina Tramin offers three different Gewürztraminers: Gewürztraminer Alto Adige DOC, NUSSBAUMER Gewürztraminer Alto Adige DOC, and TERMINUM Gewürztraminer late harvest Alto Adige. This wine is an impressive partner to a wide range of culinary styles, so be sure to pick up a bottle or two before you head out the door.
If after Cantina Tramin you are craving more Gewurztraminer or simply other delectable drops, drive on through to Cortaccia/Kurtatsch, and then onto Magre. This quaint village is replete with architectural elements typical of the South Tyrolean style: arched doors and double lancet windows, loggias and bow windows, wrought iron window grilles and stone fountains. It is here that you will find Vineria Paradeis. Take a seat at the long communal table, crafted from the wood of 250-year-old-oak tree, for a wine tasting and lunch with dishes prepared using regional and seasonal ingredients by chef Alessandro Miragoli. This is the biodynamic winery of fifth generation winemaker Alois Lageder. Whites – highly finessed, almost German in style but shot through with the warmth and verve of an Italian summer – are the money here: over 70% of production is devoted to Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. Even so, Lageder’s Pinot noir and local Lagrein are also highly regarded.
Take a postprandial stroll through the historic village of Cortina/Kurting before driving through to Salorno/Salurn – the final stop of the tour. This southern most village of the region sits just above the neighbouring province of Trentino – the unofficial German-Italian language border, and one of the few villages in South Tyrol in which the number of Italian citizens exceeds the number of German-speaking inhabitants. Splendid renaissance and baroque architecture envelops the city, and its striking emblem – the remains of the Salurn (Hederburg) Castle – sits atop a limestone cliff overlooking the town and cascading vineyards.
The South Tyrolean Wine Road is a treasure trove of impressive lodges, ancient castles, traditional manor houses and grand lakes, all snugly nestled among abundant apple orchards and vineyards. The majestic scenery and delectable pit stops make for an exciting road trip with a loved one or a handful of friends who adore a good tipple.