Saturday, September 23, 2023

Cantina Tramin: One of Italy's Oldest Wine Cooperatives

This week we explore the Alto Adige region of northern Italy featuring one of the established cooperatives found in Italy, Cantina TraminI had the opportunity to ask some questions of Cantina Tramin that I’m sharing today along with a few of their wonderful white winesI wish I ventured to this winery the last time I visited Verona some years ago as it’s about 100 miles to the northThe architecture of this winery is eye catching as you'll see below.  It was was architected onto the original wine cellar by Werner Tscholl in 2010 for energy efficiency.

Cantina Tramin Alto Adige

The Winery – Cantina Tramin 


Cantina Tramin is located in the Alto Adige wine region of northern Italy also known as SüdtirolThe winery is situated on the south side of the Alps named after the town in which it is located, Termeno, which in German translates to TraminWith many of these bordering regions in Italy, as we have seen time and time again, that there are many cultural influences as it relates to their history, food, wine and overall cultural traditionsCantina Tramin is only 60 miles from Austria.


The winery sits in a glacial valley that helps traps sun and also block the vineyards from the cold northern winds as well as the winds from Lake Garda.  This area sees large fluctuations in temperature between day and night that contributes to the wines structure and elegance. 

Cantina Tramin vineyards

Today Cantina Tramin consists of about 170 families that stay true to the philosophy of “accuracy, commitment, trust and creativity” and to produce wines that reflect their landscapeTheir acreage totals about 620 acres in the areas of Tramin, Neumarkt, Aver and MontanThey produce about 1.9 million bottles with about 30% of their production exported globallyThey are 3rd oldest cooperative in the southern Tyrol.   


Interview with Cantina Tramin 

I had the opportunity to ask some questions to winemaker Willi Stürz and the sales director Wolfgang Klotz. I hope you enjoy their insight!


How was the idea of the coop created? 

Cantina Tramin was founded in 1898. The end of the 19th century were difficult years for local agriculture. The sale of the grapes was difficult, and the winegrowers were completely dependent on the private traders and the privately owned wineries. With the establishment of a cooperative, the freedom, security and dignity of small winegrowers was secured. Established by Christian Schrott, parish priest of Tramin and later member of the Austrian Parliament, Cantina Tramin is one of the oldest growers’ cooperative in Northern Italy.


What is it about the terroir that makes Gewurztraminer so successful there? 

The Alto Adige/Südtirol Gewürztraminer, and especially that of Tramin, differs from that of other places in the world for its elegance and freshness, deriving from the fact that its maturation takes place on gravel and clay soils, at particularly high altitudes with strong temperature variations between day and night. Gewürztraminer depends on warm days to develop its unique aromas, on the other hand cold nights to preserve freshness. More than 30 years ago, we began to plant only those grape varieties in each of our microzones that have the climatic and soil-specific conditions to exploit their full potential. That's why our Gewürztraminer grow at an altitude of 350 - 500 m above sea level. Here it offers extraordinary aromas, a wine rich in silky, mineral, and structured texture, with elegant and intense aroma of nutmeg, rose petals, cinnamon, spices and oriental fruits. 

 How do you manage such a large amount of growers and what are some of the main requirements of being a partner/grower with Cantina Tramin?   

Today’s situation is the result of the proceedings that began 50 years ago. Much of what was unthinkable decades ago has become "culture" today. Much of what started as an innovation and used to be a huge challenge has long since become the standard today. The strength of the cooperative is its networked structure. Our member families are small landowners. Despite its size, the company has the opportunity to operate like a small winery, which allows high flexibility and quick decisions. As needed, the vines and grapes are given individual care throughout the year until they are harvested quickly in autumn at the best time. The large number of co-owners guarantees individual, intensive vineyard work and precise harvesting with optimal physiological ripeness. An agronomist supervises and advises the member families throughout the year, and there are also regular training courses for the winegrowing families. Scientific findings also play an important role. With the rich experience and the prudent and clear specifications/instructions of winemaker Willi Stürz provide the basis for the consistently high quality of the wines. The detailed cooperation and the effort to continuously improve quality are deeply rooted in the minds. Further details for quality improvement are continuously being worked out and implemented.  

Willi Stürz winemaker for Cantina Tramin
Willi Stürz, winemaker for Cantina Tramin

What does the winery pride themselves on? 

The families are co-owners and producers of the cooperative of the village of Termeno, they have lived in Alto Adige/Südtirol for centuries. They are literally rooted in their land and the nature that prevails here. They see themselves as part of the landscape. The structure of Cantina Tramin has therefore grown organically, the formerly small mountain farmers have joined forces to work more efficiently and ensure its preservation. This gave rise to today's Cantina Tramin, which sees itself as a kind of big family that sticks together and passionately pursues its goals together. The winery has become one of Italy's leading white wine producers, and the wines also enjoy the greatest international recognition. An example of this is Wine Advocate's 100 points for Epokale Gewürztraminer. It is the first time that Robert Parker has given maximum recognition to a white wine in Italy.


What do you feel are the unique qualities of the wines produced at Cantina Tramin in comparison to other producers of the region? 

Our wines are intensely fruity, fresh, complex and have an extremely elegant structure. In every bottle, our territory is recognizable. The same applies to the grape variety, the style, the attitude of the Cantina and the peculiarities of the vintage. 

Any current project or future plans for Cantina Tramin at this time 

After the success with Gewürztraminer, in recent years we have placed Chardonnay at the center of our perception. We have dedicated many studies to it and thoroughly studied the great potential of this vine in the Alpine region and continuously expanded it as part of a comprehensive oenological project. The calcareous soils and the prevailing climate offer endless possibilities for the development of this grape variety. Our Chardonnay should be characterized by the unmistakable expression of the alpine area, should speak the language of the alpine valleys. In this project we have also penetrated to unusual altitudes (500 – 550 meters) with the variety, because complex Chardonnays from high altitudes are a rarity, but that's exactly the appeal for us. 

The Cantina Tramin Wines 

I sampled a few of the white wines of Cantina Tramin that I wanted to share today with their Nussbaumer Gewurztraminer and Pinot Bianco being my top picks.


The 2022 Cantina TraminMoriz” Pinot Bianco Alto Adige DOCThis wine is made from 100% Pinot Bianco grapes with low yieldsThe name Moriz for this wine is named after the patron saint, St. Mauritius of the village of Sella, which is situated in the hills above Cantina Tramin where these grapes are grown at about 820-1,640 feet on clay and gravelly soilsThis wine spends time on the lees and is aged in small stainless steels and 20% in big oak casks for 6 monthsThe wine was pale straw, almost clear with green huesPretty aromatics of white peach and citrusLight-bodied and dry on the palate and crisp with mouthwatering acidity showing more notes of citrusABV 13.5% SRP $23

2022 Cantina Tramin “Moriz” Pinot Bianco Alto Adige DOC

The 2021 Cantina Tramin Unterebner Pinot Grigio Alto Adige DOC is named after the Unterebner vineyard where the grapes are grownIt is fermented partially in oak barrel and partially in tonneaux with malolactic fermentationIt is then aged in large oak barrel with a smaller part aged in tonneaux on the leesIt spends 3 months in the bottle with a total of 14 months aging.  Pale straw colored this wine had fresh aromas of some citrus, apples and pears that carried through to the palate. Light-bodied with crisp acidity with a hint of vanilla and salinity. I was expecting more body and a different profile with the wood contact, but it was barely noticeable, which I think in a Pinot Grigio is a good thing. ABV 14.5% SRP $39

2021 Cantina Tramin Unterebner Pinot Grigio Alto Adige DOC

I was thrilled to try the 2021 Cantina Tramin Nussbaumer Alto Adige DOC for a couple reasonsThe first is that I’m a big fan of the Gewurztraminer grape from my days of touring the Finger Lakes wine region of upstate NYNussbaumer is made from 100% GewurztraminerThe other reason is that this wine is the most awarded Gewurztraminer in the Gambero Rosso, the organization that prides itself on being in the know for Italian food and wine, and also has received 20 consecutive Tre Bicchieri awards from Gambero Rosso, their highest honorCantina Tramin is well known for their quality Gewurztraminer that they produce including their Epokale, which is the first Italian white to receive 100 points from the Wine Advocate.   

Gewurztraminer, also known as Traminer locally, is one of the oldest grapes in the world and grows particularly well in the area surrounding Cantina TraminThe Nussbaumer is fermented in stainless steel and ages in small steel tanks with lees contact with 3 months in the bottle also totaling 14 months of aging.  This wine was straw colored. The aromas and texture of this wine along with it’s complexity is what stood out the most. Such exotic aromas, floral with spice and lychee. It had a silky, textured body a silkiness with lots of ginger and spice. Quite an interesting Gewurztraminer! ABV 14.5% SRP $43

2021 Cantina Tramin Nussbaumer Alto Adige DOC

Have any of my readers been able to visit Cantina Tramin or the Alto Adige region? 

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.

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