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.
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