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Essential Winemakers of Italy ©Opening a Bottle

Valle Isarco, Alto Adige

Primary Grapes: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Sylvaner

Primary Appellations: Alto Adige/Süd Tirol DOC

American Importer: VIAS Imports



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Why Pacher Hof is Essential

Alto Adige’s high Eisacktal/Valle Isarco is where Austria and Italy overlap. In fact, one could even suggest that the only thing Italian about the valley is the flag that flies over it. Bucolic, secluded and planted to numerous grape varieties you’d expect to see in Austria — including Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Sylvaner — Valle Isarco’s wines are unique in the realm of Italian wine. And the vineyards are jaw-dropping, with verdant, terraced hills crowned by dense forest, and the not-so-distant Dolomites crowning the scene.

For years, I touted the wines of Abbazia di Novacella, and even visited this spectacular monastery in the summer of 2019. To me, they best represented the precision and refreshment of Alto Adige’s wines. And then, in the fall of 2019 on a subsequent return to the area, I came across Pacher Hof: a small family estate located on the hillside above the abbey. Pretty quickly, I realized they make even better wines (with all due respect to their neighbors who’ve been making wine since 1142). The Kerner, Grüner Veltliner and Sylvaner in particular were highlights of the enter trip, and a subsequent tasting of their portfolio of wines stateside confirmed it: this is one of the very best producers in Alto Adige. Unlike Abbazia di Novacella, which tend to be a bit reserved, there is no holding back in these wines. They wait for no one, erupting from the glass with lovely aromas that evoke nature.

Winemaker Andreas Huber keeps a very tidy and clean cellar beneath the family hotel. When we briefly spoke at a tasting event, it was through a colleague who was fluent in German. Yet I could tell from Andreas’ smile that he finds joy in his work. How could he not? This valley is heaven on earth, and he has a stockpile of white wines to savor with the view.

Wines to Seek Out

Consistently, Pacher Hof wines remind me less of Austria and more of a variety: Sauvignon Blanc. That is not because they make a Sauvignon Blanc, nor that their wine’s taste like Sauvignon Blanc. It is more about mood. For Sancerre lovers, these wines will be deeply satisfying and just different enough to break you out of the SB lane for new pathways.

Pacher Hof Grüner Veltliner

Bursting with freshness on the nose, this Grüner Veltliner conveys a spectrum of fruit and a lovely touch of baking spice. An intense, and amplified Grüner that needs to be consumed within 3 years of vintage.

Pacher Hof Sylvaner Alte Reben

Sylvaner is one of the most under-appreciated white wine grapes in the world, as evidenced but Pacher Hof’s rounded, complex and fascinating old-vine bottling. The differences between this wine and the standard Pacher Hof Sylvaner are fascinating, as the old vines seem to yield a richer, more patient wine with mandarin orange, white peach and lanolin tones.

The standard Sylvaner? So very Sauv Blanc with its grassiness and minerality.

Pacher Hof Riesling

Pacher Hof’s two towering achievements are their Kerner (see below) and this wine, the best Italian Riesling I’ve ever come across. With a bracing alpine acidity that makes the wine race across the palate, it offers depth, roundness and refreshment in all the best ways. For me it recalled orange citrus, apricot flesh, peach skin and almonds.

Pacher Hof Müller Thurgau

I’ve had a noted Trentino winemaker tell me flat-out, “Müller Thurgau is a shit grape.” Not known for yielding much (to say the least), the grape sees its best chance at memorable wines at high altitude, which it finds in the vineyards of Pacher Hof. It also finds a caring winemaker in Andreas Huber who conjures a crisp white-wine predicated on stone fruit tones and impressive minerality.

Pacher Hof Kerner

While this area’s Riesling, Sylvaner and Grüner Veltliner can be delicious, Kerner is the grape for the Eisacktal/Valle Isarco. A cross between Riesling and Schiava, it yields a wine of compelling texture and depth when grown in this sun-trap along the Isarco River. Pacher Hof’s version blitzes the nose with enticing notes recalling pineapple, orange peel, apricot and a handful of white flowers. But it is the unctuous texture that will have you coming back to it again.

Added January 2021.

Visiting Pacher Hof

In normal times, Pacher Hof offers guided tours and tastings. Contact the winery ahead of time to learn more.

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