Castel Sallegg is a family-run firm of winegrowers located in Caldaro, Alto Adige (Italy) that is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the winemaking culture of the region. With a storied history and a tradition of commitment to excellence, the von Kuenburg family has ensured the production of quality wines from Castel Sallegg for over a century. While the winemaking team has great pride in its past they are focused on the future and the challenges that must be navigated to maintain its high standards in all phases of the operation.
For answers about how they are addressing these problems and what we should know about Castel Sallegg, I asked its Director Ulrike Platter to share her thoughts with my readers and me.
1. The wines of Alto Adige are famous for being able to express their terroir. What methods and technologies does Castel Sallegg employ to ensure this “Sense of place” is preserved in your wines?
“Oltradige, the epitome of the wine-growing tradition in Alto Adige, lies at the foot of the Mendola Mountains in the hills of the western Adige Valley between Bolzano and Termeno. Vines have found ideal conditions in this delightful landscape for thousands of years. The winegrowing region of Alto Adige is one of the oldest in Central Europe and the entire German-speaking world.”Oltradige, the epitome of the wine-growing tradition in Alto Adige, lies at the foot of the Mendola Mountains in the hills of the western Adige Valley between Bolzano and Termeno. Vines have found ideal conditions in this delightful landscape for thousands of years. The winegrowing region of Alto Adige is one of the oldest in Central Europe and the entire German-speaking world.
The Alps form a protective barrier against cold winds from the north, while the southerly Ora wind from Lake Garda has a mild Mediterranean influence. Our wines benefit from the cool downslope winds coming off the Mendola Mountains. The vines flourish here thanks to an average of 1,800 hours of sunshine per year and average temperatures of almost 17 degrees Celsius during the vegetation period.
The family-owned vineyards are located in 3 historical vineyards in Caldaro:
✓ Preyhof / vineyard Prey: 550 m above sea level and situated in the Caldaro district of Paese di Mezzo.
✓ Leisenhof / vineyard Leisenpuiten: 500 m above sea level. Central location in the village of Caldaro.
✓ Seehof/vineyard VIGNA Bischofsleiten, vineyard Nussleiten: 230 – 280 m above sea level. San Giuseppe al Lago, Caldaro.
Due to the vineyards, which range from 230-550 m above sea level, Castel Sallegg identifies the best conditions for each grape variety and tries to make optimum use of this diversity.
Best practice: Our VIGNA Bischofsleiten Lago di Caldaro scelto classico superiore DOC: VIGNA (What is a Grand Cru for the French is a VIGNA for the Italians and for us South Tyroleans.) guarantees our customers that the grapes for this wine come 100% from this vineyard. In order to preserve these 50-year-old vines, the vines that fall out due to age, illness, etc., will be replanted with our own clones.
The goal is to produce top-quality wines in harmony with the terroir we have.”
2. With Alto Adige containing so many different microclimates and growing conditions in its vineyards, have the vineyard managers noticed any changes as a result of climate change? If they have, what can you tell us about them and how are you planning for your future vineyard management?
“Our vineyard manager noticed the changes, especially this year, which was hot and dry. Since Castel Sallegg is more of a red wine winery (we produce 58% of red wines) and we often had difficulties in the past years, with the red grapes, such as Lagrein, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon fully ripening, so 2022 was a great year for us.
In addition, 80% of our vines are 30-50 years old, which means that the roots are growing very deep to get enough water for themselves even in a very hot season. These vines are stable.
Problems can be seen in younger plants or new plants.
For this purpose, we invested in a project for the next few years, which will digitize needs-based irrigation. This means that the humidity of the soil is measured by soil sensors and the vines in different places were partially watered by a targeted system.
Since we have some vineyards on a slope and the vines get less water at the top by draining and the vines at the foot get more water we can irrigate more targeted and water-saving.
We have also noticed increased hail in recent years. For this reason, we will place our most important vineyards under hail nets in the next 2-3 years.”
Thank you to Ulrike for sharing her time and down-to-earth expertise in the mindset and operations at Castel Sallegg.
My review of the 2019 Castel Sallegg Lagrein will be posted soon.
All images Photo Credit: Castel Sallegg