From Wafers to "Bio" Wine Pioneer: Tenute Loacker

Tucked under rocky peaks above Bolzano in Alto Adige is the quiet oasis of “Schwarhof”, the Loacker family biodynamic vineyard. Rainer Loacker worked for twenty years in the family chocolate wafer business before deciding to change his lifestyle completely and make organic wine.

In 1978, when he bought “Schwarhof”, he was a lone organic pioneer. Modern farming with chemicals was all the rage, and he was criticized for going against the grain. Gradually he changed to biodynamic farming. He now only uses homeopathic treatments on his vines. This narrow lane leads to the farm.

Entering the courtyard is like stepping back in time. The original farmhouse dates to 1334.
cellar outside close

The spring still gushes fresh, cold mountain water.

And the palm trees reveal one of the secrets of this remarkable location.
palm cellar

Even at relatively high altitude amongst snow capped peaks, the south facing hillside is protected in an unusual way, and the climate is mild. The soil is a combination of sand, clay, limestone and pebbles left by glaciers. It drains quickly and is rich in mineral from glacial deposits.
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Franz Josef, Rainer’s son, took me out walking in the vineyards. He manages commercial aspects of the four Tenute Loacker vineyards (Schwarhof in Alto Adige, two others in Tuscany and one in Austria). His brother, Hayo, who trained in France, South Africa and the US, is responsible for the vines and the wine making. A third brother runs Loacker Remidia, a company founded in 1983 to make homeopathic remedies.
vineyard row

On the day that I visited, vineyard workers were applying a “500” biodynamic treatment (water mixed with cow manure that has been placed in a cow horn then buried). I watched while the water was “dynamited”, spun in a vortex first in one direction then the other with a wooden stick. I couldn’t photograph because the energy of cameras or phones disrupts the process. Afterwards, the water is put into backpacks or buckets to be distributed.
biodynamic spray

The objective is to make the soil healthy, which in turn makes the plants healthy and removes the need for chemical treatments. Likewise, in the cellar, intervention is minimal. Fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts, and sulphites are only added in tiny amounts at bottling. 2014-10-24 15.32.53

After a long walk through the vineyards with views of the valley below, we went back to the house to taste.
valley view

Loacker Schwarhof makes a large range of wines including both native and international varieties. My favorites are the natives: “Morit” and “Gran Lareyn”.

Loacker Schwarhof “Isargus” Pinot Grigio Vigneti Dei Dolomiti IGT 2013 (14.5% alcohol)
A full-bodied, complex version of Pinot Grigio. A typical Pinot Grigio has 12.5-13.5% alcohol but Loacker’s is 14.5%. The wine has acidity and minerality (structure) to balance the alcohol. The wine is fermented in steel and clarifies naturally over the winter as sediments sink with cool temperatures. “Isargus” was the Latin name for the Isarco Valley.

Loacker Schwarhof “Tasnim” Sauvignon Blanc Vigneti Dei Dolomiti IGT 2013 (13.5%)
Elegant version of Sauvignon Blanc. 5-8% of the grapes ferment and stay the winter in barrique while the rest are only in steel containers. Pairs with simple dishes. “Tasnim” was the name of the spring in Paradise.

Loacker Schwarhof “Atagis” Gewurtztraminer Vigneti Dei Dolomiti IGT 2013 (14%)
A full-bodied, elegant version of the wined. Not too fruity. Pairs well with spicy dishes. “Atagis” was the Roman name for the Isarco River.

Loacker Schwarhof “Morit” St. Magdalener Classico Alto Adige 2013 DOC (12.5%)
Made 90% with the native variety, Schiava, with 10% Lagrein added. Exceptional version of a traditional wine of this area: light structure but lovely aromas. “Morit” refers to the Counts of Morit, who controlled the entrance to the city of Bolzano. Pairs easily with just about anything fish, meat, antipasti, cheese.

Loacker Schwarhof “Gran Lareyn” Lagrein Alto Adige DOC 2012 (13.5%)
“Gran Lareyn” was the name of an ancient, historical figure, who was famous for singing. The wine made 100% from the native Lagrein grape definitely sings. 98% of the grapes ferment in steel with 2-3% in aged barrique. The result is a clean, fresh, medium-bodied wine with all the personality of this area.

Loacker Schwarhof “Norital” Pinot Nero Vigneti Dei Dolomiti IGT 2011 (14%)
A lovely Pinot Noir but not a signature wine of this area. “Norital” was the administrative name of the area around the year 1000.

The wines sell for 10-20 euros in the EU. For now, Tenute Loacker wines from Schwarhof are not sold in the US. Wines from the Montalcino and Maremma estates are and locations for sale can be found on Wine Searcher Pro.

Loacker is part of Renaissance-Italia, a group of natural winemakers in Italy and France founded by biodynamic pioneer, Nicholas Joly.

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