Girlan (Cornaiano). Südtirol (Alto Adige)
The mountainous Alto Adige is breathtakingly beautiful and has the classic ingredients of hot days and cool nights required to cultivate some of the worlds’ more awkward grapes.
It is not an easy region to understand, over 80% mountainous, German is the first language and it is often confusingly twinned with its Italian speaking neighbour the Trentino. Signs and labels are bi-lingual, the local preference is for German rather than italian and out of respect we defer to this.
Emma and I first imported from Girlan in 2001, I had long considered their ‘Art Series Lagrein’ to be one of the best and couldn’t believe how friendly and helpful they were in dealing with a tiny firm like ours.
Girlan is quite a large cooperative, founded in 1923, a time when wine was becoming commercialised.
The average vineyards holding is tiny so uniquely quality-driven institutions developed that have adapted with time and are stronger than ever.
Girlan’s early fame was built on being a cooperative that paid for the quality and not quantity of grapes received, and for being the first company to produce a great Vernatsch (Schiava) in Fass 9.
Recently there have been major changes with the overhaul of the cellar and personnel changes within it: Oscar Lorandi taking over the sales and Gerhard Kofler being appointed as cellarmaster.
Notably the number of wines made has been streamlined and their dominant plantings of Vernatsch / Schiava have been embraced, whereas for many years the grape had been seen as a work horse and a liability.
The cooperative consists of 230 members (total vineyard is just over 200 hectares) who supply the grapes and vie to be paid the premium offered when the grapes are deemed fit for the top wines.
Girlan also has the second largest plantings of Pinot Noir in the Südtirol with 25 hectares, 10 of them in the prized Mazzon Cru.