Tippling with Tiefenbrunner

by artfuldiner on June 15, 2021

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

Tiefenbrunner Winery - ExteriorFounded in 1848, the Tiefenbrunner Castel Turmhof Winery owes its name to the ancient castle that today is known as the home of the Tiefenbrunner family. The winery is located in the South Tyrolean province of Bozen in the Alto Adige region of Italy.

Wine grapes have been cultivated at Castel Turmhof for over 300 years; the designation “Turmhof” becoming official under the ownership of winemaker Karl Pardatscher in 1848. In 1968, Hilde and Herbert Tiefenbrunner became the owners and immediately set the winery off in a new direction, gradually developing new markets and increasing bottled wine production.

Tiefenbrunner’s vineyards are located along the Wine Route of South Tyrol, one of the most beautiful wine-growing areas in Alto Adige. The vines are grown mainly on the mountain slopes around the Turmhof Castle, with other vines located in the flatter areas of the valley. The Mediterranean climate – moderate rainfall and cooling evening winds – allows for a substantial difference between day and night temperatures, providing ideal conditions for the perfect ripening of the grapes.

Tiefenbrunner Winery - Owners Christof & SabineHilde & Herbert’s son, Christof (pictured with wife, Sabine), was born in Bolzano in 1965. Christof attended the Commercial School in the Alto Adige region at Ora, followed by the Laimburg School of Agriculture Horticulture, and Viticulture. His winemaking training also included three months at the Castello di Volpaia in Tuscany in 1985, and three months at a winery at Augsburg, Germany, in 1983.

Today, Christof maintains complete control over all winery operations, from harvest through the transformation of the grapes into world-renowned wines. Each year, Tiefenbrunner produces a diverse portfolio of 29 wines resulting in 700 thousand plus bottles in four different lines: Selection Vigna, Selection Linticlarus, Selection Turmhof, and Classic Merus. Selection Vigna represents the winery’s Grand Cru offerings.

Tiefenbrunner Muller ThurgauTiefenbrunner’s flagship white wine – and the shining star of the Selection Vigna – is undoubtedly their incomparable Feldmarschall von Fenner Müller-Thurgau. Dr. Hermann Müller, who created the Müller-Thurgau variety in the late 1800s, indicated that this grape was a Riesling-Sylvaner hybrid; and, for many decades, this was thought to be the case. Most recent DNA analysis, however, indicates that while Riesling is one parent, the other is not Sylvaner but Chasselas.

Regardless of its beginnings, this white-wine grape is now one of the most widely cultivated varietals in Germany. Although not extensively grown in the United States, this prolific vine is planted in Austria, Switzerland, England, New Zealand, Hungary, and Italy’s northern mountain regions. Müller-Thurgau grapes produce smooth, low-acidity medium sweet wines with a hint of Muscat character. Unfortunately, because of high yields, these wines generally lack flavor, and most don’t age very well. The best wines come from Germany’s Mosel region and Italy’s Alto Adige, which are made from grapes grown in yield-restricted vineyards, hence producing vintages with highly concentrated flavor.

 The Müller-Thurgau produced by Tiefenbrunner is named after Franz Philipp Freiherr von Fenner, an Austrian field marshall who founded the Tyrolean Imperial Rifles, a regiment serving the Austrian emperor in the 1800s. The grapes composing this legend grow at an elevation of nearly 3,300 feet above sea level on the Fennberg mountain plateau next to the historic summer estate of the Feldmarschall, the highest Müller-Thurgau vineyard in Europe.

I first tasted the 2018 Tiefenbrunner Feldmarschall von Fenner Müller-Thurgau while dining at Vetri Cucina in Philadelphia; and, as I mentioned in the review, was immediately impressed. So impressed, in fact, that the moment I returned home I began an online search to see where it might be available for purchase… Unfortunately, the 2018 was nowhere to be found. I was, however, able to secure four bottles of the 2017, which was even more highly rated – 96 whopping points from the Wine Enthusiast and listed as #14 in their Top 100 Wines of 2019 – and, as one wine writer noted, it was “a stunner from swirl to finish.” In addition, wine critic James Suckling referred to it as possibly the “best Müller-Thurgau in the world”; and the renowned Gambero Rosso Wine Guide awarded it with its coveted Three Glasses prize… This is simply a fabulous wine – elegant and delicious – and well worth seeking out.

The wine’s retail list price is $45.00; but I’ve seen it priced as high as $60.00 per bottle. The best deal I’ve thus far discovered online is $43.98 from Central Wine Merchants in Flemington, New Jersey, which is where I purchased my above-mentioned four bottles.

The other members of Selection Vigna line are similarly priced… The Rachtl Sauvignon Blanc Riserva, for example, begins around $59.00… ditto the AU Chardonnay Riserva; while the limited production Toren Cabernet Sauvignon Riserva is a bit more expensive, starting around the $69.00 mark.

But Tiefenbrunner produces a number of excellent more modestly priced wines as well. Wines that are not only highly rated but also readily available from a variety of sources…

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 20192019 Tiefenbrunner Merus Weissburgunder Pinot Bianco: Received 92 points from James Sucking; 90 points from the Wine Enthusiast, plus an Editors’ Choice designation. The Suckling has described this pinot blanc as “steely,” an adjective that, according to the dictionary, refers to a certain “hardness” and/or “harshness” of character, which, in my opinion, is completely off-base. He then compounds the faux pas by throwing in the word “flinty,” which is generally used to describe extremely dry white wines, such as a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.  Well, if there is one thing this wine is not, it is “hard” or “harsh.” Light as a feather on the palate, it is fresh and elegant, wafting gently to a soft, creamy finish. The perfect wine for sipping on a warm summer’s evening.  Normally listing at $19.99, the Saratoga Wine Exchange is currently offering it online for $14.94.

2019 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio: The recipient of 91 points from the Wine Enthusiast, the 2019 Tiefenbrunner is pale yellow in color with a subtle fruity bouquet… On the palate, it is both harmonious and full-bodied with a nice round finish. And while there are numerous Italian pinot grigios that may only be described as “underwhelming,” this little beauty has its own unique charms… The mouth-feel is irresistibly juicy and the tangy acidity lifts its rich flavors right into orbit. And this is definitely a food friendly wine, pairing exceptionally well with items like light appetizers and a variety of fish dishes. The price isn’t bad either… Listing at $15.99, there are numerous bargains online: Wine Buyer, $11.99; Empire Wine, $12.99; Gary’s Wine, $12.95. Do a little shopping around, and you’re sure to save a bundle.

2019 Tiefenbrunner Chardonnay: This charming vintage received a whopping 93 points from wine critic James Suckling. The wine is pale lemon in color; and while citrusy aromas dominate on the nose, they eventually give way to subtle herb and almond notes. Those citrus notes carry over to the palate, which also displays a crisp, clean acidity and long lingering finish. And while many chardonnays – particularly California chards – suffer the deleterious effects of over oaking, the 2019 Tiefenbrunner is incredibly light on its feet. There’s just a touch of toasty oak here… just enough to hold your interest without overwhelming those fresh fruit flavors. A superior wine at a superior price point: $19.99 online from wine.com. If you’re a chardonnay lover, you can’t afford to miss this one!


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