Why Alois Lageder is Essential
Even by the standards of Südtirol — a region that is more Austrian than Italian — the wines of Alois Lageder are extremely Teutonic and obsessively precise. It is noticeable in the glass, and it is certainly noticeable if you ever get a chance to talk to Clemens Lageder, Alois’ son and increasingly the head of this Magré-based winery. He speaks with an urgency that underscores something greater than just wine: his changing climate at the foot of the Dolomites.
The estate has converted all 54 hectares of its vineyards to biodynamics, one of the most demanding and hands-on of agricultural practices. On top of that, they have also encouraged roughly half of the 80 farmers they work with to convert as well. Some are biodynamic, others are organic. Alois Lageder has accomplished this not through incentives for conversion, but rather by paying more for better fruit, which invariably, he believes, comes from biodynamic and organic vineyards. “The motivation should come from the head and the heart," he told me.
That fruit is increasingly getting better and better, even to a distant observer like me. I've followed Lageder's wines for several years, and they are improving year after year. But some of this improvement has to do with the breadth and focus of the family’s experimentation. Extended maceration times, different fermentation vessels, even planting Tannat, Viognier and Petit Manseng — everything is on the table to preserve the freshness in their wines despite the increased heat.
So will we be drinking Tirolean Tannat in the 2030s? To face such a prospect is like a cold splash of water. In Italy, the the “patrimony” of grapes (to borrow their favorite phrase) is sacrosanct. But as Lageder told me, there may not be much of a choice: “Where we are, at 700 feet under dolomitic limestone, we had Riesling 100 years ago. Riesling has now moved up to 2,800 feet … In the future, we need to change as well.”
That statement continues to be demonstrated: Lageder recently designed a lighter-weight glass bottle to reduce their carbon footprint, and rather than patent the design, they released its specifications as open-source for any winemaker in the world to use. We use the word "essential" a lot in this publication, but very few wineries are as essential as Alois Lageder when it comes to leadership.