The Pinot grape, which includes Pinot Noir, is one of the oldest and noblest grape varieties in the world. It is thought that it has been cultivated for over 2000 years. Starting from its homeland in Burgundy, Pinot Noir, also known as Spätburgunder, Blauburgunder, or Pinot Nero, has conquered wine-growing regions all over the world. In Alto Adige, the Burgundy king of red wines has been cultivated since mid-19th century. The best area to plant Pinot Nero are vineyards at medium elevation and moderate temperature, which will result into elegant and finely-structured wines. Pinot Nero is considered “the Diva” among red grape varieties: this noble variety is very demanding on climate and soil conditions and requires a lot of care and delicacy both in the vineyard and in the cellar. At Colterenzio, it is grown on 30 hectares, i.e. 10 percent of the total vineyard area, and is the Winery's most important red grape variety.
A quality project begins
Ten years ago, Colterenzio launched a new quality project for the Pinot Nero variety. The goal was to constantly raise the quality of the Pinot Nero wines produced. Winemaker Martin Lemayr explains: "We started this project by looking for the best Pinot Nero vineyards out of all Colterenzio’s property. Numerous vineyards were selected and observed, the soils were analyzed, and the grapes studied in their aromas profile. Finally, six different vineyards were selected as the top sites, and became part of the "Pinot Nero Quality Group II". The vineyards are located in Cornaiano (Girlan) and in Ora (Auer) and belong to six different winegrowers."
One of them is Andreas Mayr. His vineyard is located in Colterenzio/Cornaiano, at 470 meters above sea level and has an eastern exposure. "This ventilated hillside location is ideal for growing Pinot Nero," says Mayr. The grapes here are exposed to sunny days and cool, windy nights. This is particularly important for the red Burgundy variety, as it needs significant diurnal range to develop the finesse of the typical Pinot Nero bouquet. What characteristics does a Pinot Noir grower need to possess, we ask Mayr: "Above all, you need good nerves," he tells us smiling. "In some challenging year, the winemaker Martin
Lemayr has asked me if I still had the patience and the nerves to wait a few more days before harvesting." Crucial days where the grapes can ripen even further, which is especially important for the Pinot Nero variety. "So far, I have always been able to say yes," concludes Andreas Mayr.
A love-hate relationship
Maximilian Niedermayr, president of Colterenzio and owner of Pinot Nero vineyards, also knows the challenges of these variety: "I have a love-hate relationship with Pinot Nero," says Max Niedermayr laughing. "I love the wine and like the challenge of growing Pinot Nero, but at the same time it makes me sweat every year." To understand these difficulties, it is important to have a closer look at the grape: its skin is very thin and therefore susceptible to grey rot and fungal diseases. It is also very sensitive to climate changes: It must be neither too warm, otherwise it will ripen too quickly and there will be the threat of sun-burnt, nor too cool, as they will need to get to perfect ripeness to develop their full complexity.
In order to get Pinot Nero grapes cultivated properly, in addition to its natural characteristics, it is necessary to have a lot of passion for this grape variety. This is also confirmed by Manfred Niedermayr, a winemaker from Cornaiano-Girlan, whose family has been growing Pinot Nero in the Gschleier vineyard since mid-1980s: "The greatest challenge in growing Pinot Nero is to keep the vine in balance and to achieve optimal growth."
Why this effort?
But why do these winegrowers plant Pinot Nero grapes? The three vintners all agree on this answer. Manfred Niedermayr: "Pinot Nero is a very elegant variety and incredibly pleasant to drink. Hardly any other wine has such a broad spectrum of aromas, such as Pinot Nero. It reflects the soil, where it is grown and it shows the typicity of each vintage better than any other variety."
Also winemaker Martin Lemayr confirms, "Also for me, as a winemaker, Pinot Nero indeed fascinates me greatly. Most of all I am pleased about what we have achieved now, after 10 years since we started with the Pinot Nero quality project." Lemayr is talking about the new Pinot Nero Lafóa.