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From outsider to ambassador

Apples: Is there anything they can’t do? In addition to growing fruit, Martin Pichler is also a refiner, and in doing so has branched out in new and exciting ways. A visit to the Apfelhotel Torgglerhof in the Passeiertal valley.

Martin Pichler likes to spend his time by the campfire. Up on the slope, he lets guests taste his products. From there he also has a good view of his family's farm and hotel: of the vineyard, the vegetable garden, the apple orchards and the group of buildings at the gateway to this small natural paradise. This is where the farm’s holiday guests are accommodated and it is no coincidence that it bears the name "Apfelhotel" (apple hotel).

Experience the variety

Martin Pichler is a passionate host and farmer. Although admittedly, however, his passion for the latter outweighs the former. However, there are also his parents, his sister and his brother-in-law, who run the shop or the hotel while Martin takes care of the farm.

13 apple varieties thrive at the Torgglerhof farm in Saltaus/Saltusio: In addition to classic varieties such as Golden Delicious, Granny or Morgenduft, there are also red-flesh varieties such as Baya Marisa, modern ones like Kanzi® and even those with curious names like “Sommernachtstraum”.
"The variety that we grow makes it possible for us to offer guests fresh apples from the trees from the end of July until late autumn,” says Martin Pichler. Guests are also encouraged to help him with the harvest, as forming a direct connection to the consumers is important to him: "It promotes appreciation for our product."

On-site farmer’s shop

At the farm's own shop, that which grows at the farm is available for purchase, largely in a refined form. In addition to jam, elderberry juice, wine and other delicacies, there’s also apple juice, dried apple slices and apple cider.

Cider? Sounds more British than South Tyrolean! But since Martin Pichler is by nature a creative person, he was not satisfied with just making apple juice when refining his apples. He wanted to offer something sparkling as well, so he created his own cider. At first, he felt like an outsider. Together with five other producers, however, Martin founded the South Tyrol Cider Association, and in November 2021 locally produced apple cider was even added to the group of products bearing the South Tyrolean seal of quality. This is another area where Martin Pichler has succeeded. The former outsider has now become a sought-after ambassador for the South Tyrolean apple, an authentic example of the synergy between hospitality and agriculture in action.

Refreshing enjoyment

Where does your passion for refining apples come from?

South Tyrol produces an average of almost one million tonnes of apples every year. So it makes sense to refine some of them and, just like with wine, to bring quality products made from apples to market. Even during my school days, I had heard about cider, for example. The idea never left my mind.

What is apple cider made of?

It is made from 100% apples. The juice is fermented with specific yeast cultures until it becomes a mildly fizzy cider during a lengthy process. By adding some fresh apple juice, I reduce the alcohol content to about five percent and achieve that fruity, delicious flavour.

Text: Edith Runer
Photos: Armin Huber