Saturday, May 16, 2009

Abbazia di Novacella Sylvaner Praepositus Alto Adige Italy

Abbazia di Novacella Sylvaner Praepositus Alto Adige Italy

The Alto-Adige borders on Austria where mountains dominate the landscape of this Tyrolean region, leaving space for vineyards only on the banks of the rivers Adige and Isarco, around lakes such as Caldaro and on slopes of porphyritic soils of volcanic origin at the foot of the mountains.

Located in Alto Adige, Italy’s most northern part touching Austria to the North, and surrounded by Veneto from East to South and Lombardy to the West, Abbazia di Novacella has many faces: it is a winery, but also a Monastery or Abbey, a farm, and a scenic stop for many tourists.

Above Bressano, more precisely in Varna, a small Abbey-village of the beautiful Isarco Valley overlooked and protected by the foothills of the alps, Abbazia di Novacella is specializing in cool-climate white wines, many of which are made from German and Austrian grapes like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner and Kerner.

Part of the Sud-Tirol–Trentino-Alto Adige patrimony, the Abbey was founded in 1142 by the Augustinian order of monks. As of today, the Abbey-monastery-farm-winery is still run by the Augustinian monks, about 25 of them included with the many other employees and
seasonal workers. Despite producing wines and growing apples, they also grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables.

Abbazia di Novacella's most planted grape variety is the Sylvaner. They also produce a great Kerner, both wines are highly preferred and suggested as the perfect examples of what the Abbey can do by Urban von Klebelsberg, the Administrator of Abbazia di Novacella.

Other white varieties grown include Müller Thurgau, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, and Veltliner (also known as Grüner Veltliner). All of these varietal whites are labeled under the DOC appellation, "Alto Adige Valle Isarco".

Abbazia di Novacella also produces a blended white wine made of Sylvaner, Pinot Grigio, and a touch of Chardonnay, called Weiss.

The steep hill slopes soil consists mainly of granitic schist under only a few inches of dirt, created by ancient glaciers. With ever-changing microclimates and rough diurnal temperatures, in addition to little space for their roots and small amount of dirt to hang on to for nutrition, the vines do not last as long as in more temperate climates, 35-40 years at the max. The high altitude vineyards’ rugged soil and extreme climate changes produce low quantity of fresh, aromatic, vivid yet rich and mineral, inviting, summery white wines.

Abbazia di Novacella produces many whites divided in two categories of wines: the standard category and the premium category, labeled under the name of Praepositus, usually more expensive than the former. Compared to the standard category which only undergoes his vinification in stainless steel tanks, the Praepositus category can sometimes be aged afte fermentation in old, large oak fut (or foudres or bottes) to add more dimension, character and fullness to the wines.

Difficult grape to grow, Sylvaner is often called "the white Pinot Noir" for its weather affected moody attitude. The German examples of Sylvaner are usually quite simple and often lack in complexity.

2007 Abbazia di Novacella Sylvaner "Praepositus" Alto-Adige Italy
Suggested retail price $28-$31
Distributed by Vias in NYC

The 2007 Abbazia di Novacella Sylvaner "Praepositus" is an excellent, fresh, mineral and crisp white wine. Dry, yet viscous, well rounded and packed with zesty, rich yet vivid white fruits and mineral flavors, this beautifully crafted Sylvaner will surely enhances all of your summery salads and nicely complement any fish and white meat dishes.

You should also try the 2007 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner which is also a great summer white in the same tone of aromas and flavors, yet a touch brighter and juicier than its sibling Sylvaner (in my opinion).


LeDom du Vin

Info partly collected from the distributor website and partly translated from the Italian from the winery website at

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