Wonderful Wines of Abbazia di Novacella

by artfuldiner on September 22, 2017

in Artful Diner Review, Opinion, Wine

Abbazia di Novacella - ExteriorLocated in the Alto Adige – or Südtirol – region of Italy, bordered by Austria to the north, the Abbazia di Novacella, one of the oldest wineries in the world, was established in 1142 by Augustinian monks. Despite its long history, the abbey’s winemaking facilities are state-of-the-art. Modern in outlook, yet steeped in tradition, the abbey’s wine production is consistently world class.

Abbazia di Novacella - Clestino Lucin, WinemakerIn 2009, for example, oenologist Celestino Lucin was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Vini d’Italia, Italy’s most prestigious wine publication. The world-wide sale of wine (over 650,000 bottles annually; 2/3 white, 1/3 red), the local sale of farm produce, the tourist trade, and a small school specializing in the study of viticulture, combine to make Abbazia di Novacella entirely self-sufficient.

As you may recall, I first mentioned this winery in a previous post with reference to their 2015 Abbazia di Novacella Riesling, a delicious, slightly floral, Italian Riesling. However, the abbey is famous for other white wine varietals as well… On a recent “Road Trip,” for example, I picked up a bottle of the 2016 Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Grigio at Gary’s Wine and Marketplace in Bernardsville, New Jersey. If you’re accustomed to downing the usual generic versions of Pinot Grigio, this wine will be a welcome treat. The 2016 is structured and elegant with hints of herbs & citrus and a bright & balanced acidity. An excellent wine for the money, $19.99, it is also available online from a variety of sources.

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LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

Another wine you’ll definitely want to check out is the 2015 Abbazia di Novacella Grüner Veltliner. A relatively new wine to the American wine-drinking public, Grüner, as it is sometimes colloquially called, is quickly growing in popularity. A peppery, dry white wine that is known for its flavors of lemon, lime and grapefruit, Grüner is the perfect match for almost any cuisine; and, like Chardonnay and Riesling, ages extremely well.

Native to Austria, where it has been enjoyed for decades, Grüner did not make its mark on the international scene until 2002. At that time, British wine writer Jancis Robinson staged a blind tasting in which Grüner Veltliner scored above some of the top white wines of the world, including white Burgundies from France and Chardonnays from California. Following this event, Grüner began to appear on wine lists and in wine shops across the globe. The 2015 Abbazia di Novacella Grüner Veltliner, which just received 90 points (100-point scale) from the Wine Enthusiast, is available around the $20.00 mark.

Abbazia di Novacella - Kerner 2Then, of course, there’s the not-to-be-missed 2016 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner. Huh? Anticipating your thoughts: “So what the hell is Kerner…?” Kerner is an aromatic white grape variety that was bred in 1929 by August Herold by crossing Trollinger (a red grape also known as Schiava) with Riesling. The grape was subsequently named in honor of poet and physician Justinus Kerner, whose works included songs and poetry on wine, including, appropriately enough, Wohlauf, noch getrunken… which translates as “Arise, still drunk.”

As you would surmise, Kerner has a Riesling-like quality but with more exotic, slightly floral aromas, a mouth-watering acidity, and a slight hint of apple on the palate. As one wine writer put it: “With each sip, it reminded me of green fruits, almonds and baking spices, making it a perfect wine to uncork as we head into fall.”

While Abbazia di Novacella is best known for its white wines, the monastery also owns vineyards in the warm central region of Alto Adige that produce red grapes. These include the full-bodied Lagrein, Pinot Nero (Noir), and the lusciously sweet Moscato Rosa, Rose Muscat; the name derived from this variety’s typical scent of roses.

Wines that you may wish to try include the 2015 Abbazia di Novacella Lagrein and the 2013 Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Nero. The former (89 points, Wine Enthusiast) is rife with dark berries & spice, a lively acidity and velvety tannins. The latter (91 points, “Editors’ Choice,” Wine Enthusiast) is medium bodied and elegant on the palate.


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LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

The Abbazia di Novacella remains one of the most important religious and cultural centers of central Europe. It is home to an incredible collection of religious & secular antiquities, works of art, and a two-story library boasting more than 65,000 print volumes, especially scientific and theological works, in addition to hundreds of hand-written and decorated volumes. Included in the library’s treasures are the world’s smallest manuscript and two Gutenberg Bibles (of the only 180 produced).

Abbazia di Novacella - Basilica of Santa Maria AssuntaThe abbey, a fortified complex accessed through a small covered bridge, is made up of several buildings of different epochs and styles. The main room of the library (pictured above), for example, a masterpiece of South Tyrolean Rococo, was made by Antonio Giuseppe Sartori in 1773; the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta (pictured at the right) was entirely restored in the 18th century in Baroque style by Giuseppe Delai, retaining the Gothic presbytery. Other items of interest include the “Angelo Castle,” the historic garden, and the Renaissance well.

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LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

In addition to the above, visitors to the abbey may also tour the main winery, which produces white wines, where the grapes are crushed, matured, and then bottled and bottle-aged. Following the winery, guests may visit the monastery shop, where produce from the monastery’s estates – wines, brandies, apple juice, teas and infusions – plus two hundred other products, mainly from monasteries, abbeys and convents from all over Europe, may be purchased. Last, but certainly not least, thirsty pilgrims may pay a call at the monastery tavern, which serves the estate’s wines, as well as Tyrolean snacks such as cured ham, smoked sausages, and various cheeses & breads.

The Abbazia di Novacella is located 52 miles south of Innsbruck, Austria, via the scenic Brenner motorway. If you happen to be touring in the area, the abbey would make a marvelous cultural and libationary stopover.



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