Nusserhof Elda Schiava 2014

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The Wine:

85% Schiava/15% other. Known locally as Vernatsch, Schiava is a thin-skinned grape native to the Alto Adige and on the decline plantation-wise (about 200 ha. currently per Gloria Mayr). Nusserhof has a steep, certified-organic hillside plot of 90-year-old, pergola-planted Schiava vines on porphyry-rich volcanic soils a few kilometers from its home property in Bolzano. There are other vines mixed in, some identified as likely to be Lagrein and Merlot and the rest, both white and red, not identified at all. The fruit is manually harvested together, destemmed and co-fermented with natural yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Maceration lasts from 4-6 weeks. The wine is aged in 20-hectoliter French oak botti for about 20 months, bottled with a light filtration and aged up to 2 more years before release.

Named for vignaiolo Heinrich Mayr’s wife Elda, this Schiava is of a much more robustly tannic and joyfully aromatic character than is typical of the variety. The local Santa Magdalena DOC allows yields of up to 150 hl/ha, so the Mayrs opt out of it for this more structured and complex 30hl/ha beauty. “Elda” is classified as a Vino Rosso and thus cannot indicate grape or vintage on the label (a lot number discreetly indicates vintage).

The Winery:

Nusserhof is situated in the South Tyrol mountains of the Alto Adige in extreme northern Italy, actually right in the regional capital city of Bolzano. It is owned by Heinrich and Elda Mayr, the family having worked the same land going back at least as far as 1788. Bolzano has grown explosively since WWII and has enveloped their property. The encroachment of civilization has certainly impacted but not deterred them. The winery’s name means “nut farm”, for the old walnut trees which used to line the path by the Mayrs’ house (until being cut down to make way for a bikeway). The wines feature indigenous local varieties exclusively.

The main vineyard is 2.4 hectares surrounding the family home. Here the Mayrs grow Lagrein, Teroldego and Blatterle. It is a flat site of sandy alluvial soils near the Isarco River. The farming is certified organic and the harvest is by hand. The vines are trained on wires, mainly in Guyot (plus a little in Casarsa). The family also owns one very small parcel 3 kilometers from Nusserhof: it is small, steep, rich in decomposed porphyry and is home to old, pergola-trained Schiava vines. The climate in the Alto Adige is warm due to the high elevation under the alpine sun, though balanced by cold nights throughout the growing season.

The cellar work is straightforward and traditional. Fermentation is natural. There is no temperature control. The reds are made with long macerations and long aging--a minimum of two and a half years—in French oak botti. All are then aged in bottle for at least two years before release. The ancient Lagrein grape is the mainstay. Nusserhof features its naturally dark, smoky, tannic, woodland-berry character to its fullest, never having succumbed to the fashion of more “international” style for this big red like many producers did in the 1970’s and 80’s; their Teroldego and Schiava are made in a similarly unadorned style. Historically, Lagrein was used mainly for rosato, not red, which is done here as well in a late-release, botti-aged versionl. Their tank-aged white from the Blatterle grape is a true rarity, a nearly extinct variety with plantings of only 1.5 hectares left in existence, Nusserhof being the largest of the 3 growers of it.

The Mayrs continue to defy urban development and to produce singular, pure wines reflecting the true character of the Alto Adige’s native varieties. Wine critic Antonio Galloni summed it up well: "Nusserhof is one of the most remarkable estates I have ever visited. Located right in the center of Bolzano, it looks as if this bustling, growing city is literally going to gobble up the estate in any minute...Within the vineyards, all is calm. The fruit I tasted… is a testament to just how special this site is. And the wines? Well, they are pretty special, too…Nusserhof remains one of the stars not just of Alto Adige, but of Italy."