Thomas Niedermayr

Italy / Alto Adige

Producer Info

Thomas & his family are producing deliciously pure, expressive white & red wines of the Alto Adige region, both from hybrid PIWI & conventional grape varieties, at their small 5ha ‘Hof’ (farm) close to Ste. Michael Eppan/San Michele Appiano, & to Bolzano, in the high valley that leads to Kaltern/Caldaro. Here the bedrock is pink porphyry, overlain with calcareous sedimentary stones.

Thomas’s parents, Rudolf & Maria were both born in Appiano. Their farm, Hof Gandberg, which also grows apples, was built in the 1960s at 500-530 metres asl, below the towering peak of the Gand Berg (mountain). The first vine was planted in 1976 & it was (non PIWI) Weissburgunder/Pinot Bianco, supplying the local cantina sociale; their first wine was made in 1993. It was Rudolf in 1994 who ventured to Germany, to Freiburg, in search of more robust, resistant grape varieties to grow to combat the high fungal pressure of the region. There he came across the hyrbid PIWI (Pilzwiderstandsfähig) varieties.

Developed in Germany, at Freiburg, since the 18th century, PIWI grape varities are a natural hybrid (cross pollinated) – as opposed to being genetically modified – between a vitis Vinifera & wilder Rupestris varieties to give the grape innate resistance to diseases such as downy & powdery mildew. Hyrbid PIWI varieties have enabled the Niedermayr family to cut copper & sulphur treatments by approx. 85%, thereby reducing substantially the amount of pesticide residuals in the soils, reducing ground compaction & (tractor) CO2 emissions. Cleaner fruit also means less sulphur is required.

Rudolf returned from his travels in Germany following the 1990s & proceeded to plant the Niedermayr’s farm Hof Gandberg with resistant PIWI varieties: Sonnrain was planted in 1999, Bronner in 2004, Souvignier Gris in 2006, Cabernet Cantor & Cortis in 2011, Solaris in 2014. And since 2005 they have been creating their own PIWI varieties.

Thomas, one of five children, is a carpenter & trombone playing graduate of the Laimburg wine school in Alto Adige who took over the running of the cantina in 2012. Along with his wife Marlene (& daughter Heidi), they converted to certified organic immediately, stopped vine trimming, started using wild yeasts, & neither clarifying nor filtering their wines.

In 2017 he built a new (wood lined!) cantina under the farm. Vinification is classical, taking place in both stainless-steel & 500 Litre & 12HL oak barrels, notably from the excellent local tonnellerie, Mittelberger. All the whites go through natural, malolactic fermentation & so complete the wines. They have been using the stelvin closure since 1994, but from 2016 Thomas chose to mobile bottle. Total SO2 levels are at between 25 – 45 mg/litro. The crisp, bright wines are fermented close to bone dry. They are labelled as ‘Mitterberg IGT’ as PIWI grape varieties cannot qualify as DOC Alto Adige!

Irrigation is used only in case of emergency.

The year of planting the respective grape/vyd is featured on the front labels as ‘TN’14’, meaning the PIWI grape Solaris was planted in 2014, for example.

Wines

TN16 Souvignier Gris, Mitterberg IGT

TN14 Solaris, Vigneto delle Dolomiti IGT

TN04 Bronner, Mitterberg IGT

TN99 ‘Sonnrain’ (Solaris, Muscaris & Traminer), Mitterberg IGT

TN06 ‘Abendrot’ (Souvignier Gris), Mitterberg IGT

TN76 Weissburgunder/Pinot Bianco (non PIWI), Mitterberg IGT

TN11 ‘Gandfels’ (Cabernet Cantor & Cortis), Mitterberg IGT

 

 

Tasting Notes

2017 TN16 Souvignier Gris, Mitterberg IGT
Tasted 20th June pre-August bottling, a third vinified in wood, two-thirds in stainless-steel; 13%, Souvignier Gris was born in 1983 & is a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon & (PIWI) Bronner. Very bright & supremely aromatic, light on its feet, with vibrant, lifted lemon spremuta/pressee & minerally notes, silky & sapido! First bottled as such in 2015. Circa 2k bts produced/anno.
 
2017 TN14 Solaris, Vigneto delle Dolomiti IGT
Solaris’s parentage is slightly more complex: born in 1975 of a cross between Merzling (itself a mix of Riesling & Pinot Grigio) & GM6493 (the offspring of Zarya Severa & Muscat Ottonel)! It was planted by the Niedermayrs in 2014. Tasted 20th June, pre-Aug. bottling; 14% abv. Compared to the Souvignier Gris, it’s clearly got more ‘stoffa’ (substance), more pulp & weight (& alcohol), along with a crunchy lemon peel feel. Its profile reminds more of a Grillo/Chardonnay. Circa 2k/anno produced.
 
2016 TN14 Solaris, Vigneto delle Dolomiti IGT
Tasted 20th June from bottle (bottled Aug’17); 14%; distinctly citronelle focal point, along with richer notes of mature pesca gialla (yellow peach), mango even. It’s distinctly richer, leesier, more grasso (fatter) than the 2017 version yet at its core an energetic, Tartaric acid of 6, sherbet dip zing to it. Perfect with ‘Krapfen’, the local (puff) pastry filled with apricot jam or sugar-coated aniseeds! Vinified, as ever, in 1/3 wood (500L & 12HL) & 2/3 stainless-steel. Chablis-esque in profile? Max. 45g/litro of total suphur. Stelvin screwcap.
 
2017 TN04 Bronner, Mitterberg IGT
The ‘nonno’ of PIWI grapes, whose origins date back to 1828 & a crossing of Aramon & Tenturier du Cher (of the Loire?). Eight generations, eighteen crosses later – including Grenache, Piquepoul, Riesling, Rulander – & Bronner was officially born in 1975 of Merzling & GM6494 parentage. Core to the Niedermayr cantina, planted at Hof Gandberg in 2004, their Bronner is broad & emphatic, conjuring up an image of local favourite Kerner. Not as spritely as Solaris, due to a lower acidity, the 2017 Bronner has a water-pure, minerally raciness to it. Tasted in June’18, pre-August bottling. Circa 8k bts/anno.
 
2016 TN04 Bronner, Mitterberg IGT
Tasted from bottle June’18; 13% abv. Located in the shade of Gandberg (Mt. Gand), at circa 500m asl, it’s perhaps of no surprise that this wine should show a scree-like mountain freshness, a flinty, crushed mineral nose followed by more colourful notes of verbena, & the even stronger San Pietro herb. To taste, it’s broader than the others, fatter, leesier, yet still clean, sapido, with smoky Kerner, soap-stone, & petrolly citronelle flavours. Aged for 3-4 months in a combination of 500litre & 12HL wooden barrels, including those of the excellent local tonnellerie, Mittelberger. Max. 45g/litro of total suphur. Stelvin screwcap.
 
2017 TN99 ‘Sonnrain’, Mitterberg IGT
Sonnrain is a cross of Solaris with Muscaris & Traminer (Fr5064), planted at Hof Gandberg in 1999, but here tasted on June 20th 2018 prior to an August bottling. 13.5%, Sonnrain’s parentage shines through with its distinct musky Gewurz aromatics & beautiful sense of place. Aged for 12 mths in 500litre barrels.
 
2016 TN99 ‘Sonnrain’, Mitterberg IGT
Tasted from bottle June’18, 13.5%abv, a blend of Solaris, Muscaris & Traminer (3 aromatic varieties); the 2016 vintage expression is a pretty translucent yellow/lime, it explodes with a really distinct lemongrass, candied lemon/lime fruit meets rocky mountainous perfume, reminiscent of Etna’s Carricante wines with their volcanic, smoky, cedro fruit & pulsating streak of acidity! Or is there a sense of Champagne about it…it’s certainly a great aperitivo! Fabulous musky, traminer, citrus notes, racy lemon/lime cordial juiciness, crystal clear & refreshing, salty minerality, snow pure, sherbet space dust tang (!), 20% wood fermented, layered, lime skin, bitter lemon finish, perfectly balanced & deliciously drinkable at 13.5%abv, I’m loving these lifted Alto Adige cool fruit expressions!…circa 3k bts produced. Max. 45g/litro of total suphur. Stelvin screwcap.
 
2016 TN06 ‘Abendrot’ (Souvignier Gris), Mitterberg IGT
Thomas’s ‘orange’ wine, fermented for 100 days on the skins & stalks! ‘Abendrot’ means ‘dusk’ in dialect, & reflects the colour of this individual wine. But compared to many other ‘orange’ wines, here Thomas & Marlene have kept the fruit. In this case, tasted in June’18 from tank, the grape is Souvignier Gris, hence the abundance of lots of tight white currant fruit. The nose is more mandarin & orange peel, but the palate remains true to the fruit!
 
2016 TN76 Weissburgunder/Pinot Bianco (non PIWI), Mitterberg IGT
The vineyards around Eppan/Appiano are famous for the quality of their Weissburgunder/Pinot Bianco. The Niedermayrs planted their tiny plot (5% of the estate!) in 1976. Whole-bunch fermented in 2016, they then aged it for two years pre-release: one year in 50% stainless-steel, 50% in 500litre barrels, followed by a year in bottle. Pale & bright, recalls the white pepper of Gruner Veltiner yet is more intense, more focused, more porcelain, with white currant aromas. Very fine, taut, entwined, sapid. Impressive. Tasted from tank, pre-Aug bottling.
 
2015 TN76 Weissburgunder/Pinot Bianco (non PIWI), Mitterberg IGT
Such was the hot weather & drought in 2015 that they were obliged to treat their vineyards 14 times!! (vs 3 for the PIWI varieties!) Hence 50% lost, & only 1,000 bt produced. Rich lemon skin, pure, lovely & linear, yet accessible, generous already. (the Niedermayrs have decided to release the more complex 2014 after the 2015!) Max. 45g/litro of total suphur. Stelvin screwcap.
 
2016 TN11 ‘Gandfels’ (Cabernet Cantor & Cabernet Cortis), Mitterberg IGT
Named after the peak that looks down on the Niedermayr’s farm (Hof), this is a blend of two PIWI clones: Cabernet Cantor & Cabernet Cortis. The 2016 vintage was tasted in June’18 from tank pre-Aug bottling: very fine, beautifully transparent & already at ease with itself, with notes of black pepper, blackcurrant, hedgerow fruit…13% abv.
 
2015 TN11 ‘Gandfels’ (Cabernet Cantor & Cortis), Mitterberg IGT
Tasted June’18 from bottle; 14%. Wow! Such a vivid violet meets intense, smoky Cab Franc-esque nose of graphite, blackcurrant leaf perfume, with distinctly minerally, (Dolomite?) rocky & blueberry notes! So precise, yet so at ease in its own skin. Unico! Love its weightless, svelte, inky, juicy blackberry coulis fruit. Very classy, beautifully fine, woven texture, silky invisible tannins, layered, detailed as to be St.Emilion-esque?! No hint whatsoever of the 14%, so light is it (are they!) on their feet! A great surprise! Max. 45g/litro of total suphur. Stelvin screwcap.
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