Back to Kuenhof: Wine for the Bishops of Bressanone/Brixen

For the second time, I visited Peter Pliger’s Kuenhof, the former wine estate of the Bishops of Bressanone and owned by his family for 200 years. He and his wife, Brigitte, have a shared philosophy of working with the least intervention possible in the vineyards and in the cellar with methods that are organic/biodynamic. (Read earlier post)

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When I arrived, the Sylvaner grapes..
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And Gerwürztraminer looked tantalizingly ready, but Peter said he would be waiting for another week or two to harvest.
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As we walked through the vineyards, full of soft grass and wildflowers grown according to biodynamic principles, Peter explained that this year has been difficult because of frequent and heavy rainstorms.

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Nonetheless, his vines are strong with bright green leaves. I could see that other nearby conventional vineyards that had been sprayed with herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers had many more brown leaves.

The vineyards close to the Kuenhof (family home and cellar whose foundations date back to the 1100s) are old, extremely steep and at an altitude of about 500 meters above the Isarco River.
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A few kilometers to the west are newer, higher vineyards (600-700 meters) where Peter added retaining walls. Long ago, there were vineyards here, but they had been abandoned and overgrown by the woods.
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All of Kuenhof’s vineyards have various combinations of slate, quartz schist, both metamorphic rock with varying degrees of strength…Slate being softer..
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And quartz schist being harder.
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Both have the effect of adding crispness to all of the Kuenhof wines, which we tasted in the restored living room of the house.
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When they restored the house in the early nineties, Brigitte and Peter cleaned the original wood. A wood stove similar to one that once heated the whole house still sits neatly into the corner, next to the kitchen.
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As we tasted the wines, Peter explained that he prefers dry wines and allows his native grapes to “speak”. They are clean and crisp like mountain air, not weighed down at all with sweetness. He likes all of his wines best with meals. All fairly well structured, and have long aging capacity. The aromatic varieties pair especially well with any kind of spicy food.

Even though the wines share these similarities, each grape variety has its own characteristics and each vintage year is unique. Nothing about Peter Pliger’s wines is “standard”.
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Sylvaner: For Peter, the “prince” of his varieties: complex, full of minerality, almost salty.
Riesling: Very crisp and dry with a distinctive mineral taste.
Grüner Veltliner: Dry but aromatic.
Gewürztraminer: Very fresh and lightly aromatic.

At the end of the visit, Peter and Brigitte took me out to see the 400-year old vine growing on the side of the house. They take such care of the house and the vineyards, which they will eventually pass on to their children.
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They are an exceptional couple, growing exceptional grapes and making exceptional wine with striking humility.
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Peter and Brigitte have made a philosophical decision not to have a website.
They have a page on: Independent Winegrowers of Alto Adige/Südtirol
Località Mara 110
Bressanone/Brixen
pliger.kuenhof@rolmail.net

Their wines are available in the US from $18-30.
For listings on Wine Searcher Pro, click here.

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