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The storyteller

Winemaker Christof Tiefenbrunner runs one of the oldest wineries in South Tyrol together with his family. Listening to him remembering his forefathers is like travelling back in time through South Tyrol’s wine history.

The story of the small tobacco field that lit the touchpaper for what would become a great wine is one of the many that Christof Tiefenbrunner tells during the tour of his vineyard in Unterfennberg/Favogna di Sotto.

From tobacco to wine

Up here at 1,000 metres above sea level, where the road ends suddenly and the evening sun casts a wild yet romantic light on the family’s Hofstatt farm, this is where his father, the winemaker Herbert Tiefenbrunner, had a brainwave in the early 1970s. “He knew that tobacco had once been cultivated on these slopes in the past and figured that, if tobacco can grow here, wine is bound to do well too.” And it didn’t take long: by 1973, Herbert Tiefenbrunner was pouring his friends their first glass of Müller-Thurgau. They were delighted and named the wine after a family ancestor. The “Feldmarschall von Fenner” is still the flagship product of the Tiefenbrunner vineyard, which now spans some 28 hectares of vines. Tiefenbrunner’s Schlosskellerei Turmhof in Entiklar/Niclara makes high-quality wines from the family’s own grapes and those from about 55 hectares of selected sites cultivated by fellow growers.

Ahead of its time

Entiklar is a small village of 150 people nestled in the hills near Kurtatsch/Cortaccia. Christof Tiefenbrunner and his family live and work in the Turmhof, a majestic stately residence. As well as being deeply attached to his father, who passed away in 2007, he also pays the utmost respect to previous generations. He tells the story of how the winery was founded in 1848 and of his great-great-grandfather Johann, who was as enterprising as he was creative. It was he who, as early as the second half of the 19th century, had most of his wine carried by train through the Brenner Pass, where the innkeepers of Innsbruck paid him handsomely for it.

Art and water power

Johann’s flair for art, meanwhile, produced an enchanting castle park that he designed for the Turmhof. The current owner’s great-grandfather was someone else of great foresight. In 1910, he built a dedicated hydroelectric power plant for the winery, which still meets all the business’s energy needs and was supplemented by a second system in 2001.

Where tradition meets modernity

Traditional and modern – just like in its wine shop and bistro, old and new also come together in the Turmhof’s cellars. A steep staircase leads down into a room that’s around 400 years old. Though it may look like a dungeon, it’s still used as a cellar to this day because it enjoys a constant ambient temperature of 10 degrees Celsius. This stands in marked contrast to the new red wine cellar with its mighty concrete vats and computers controlling every step of the process.

Of gratitude and good fortune

Does tradition have to be followed?

Tradition preserves what’s already there. So yes, in that respect, it has to be followed. However, I also see it as a privilege to keep the tradition of my ancestors alive. Tradition can also be a constraint sometimes.

What’s your feeling towards your ancestors?

Gratitude for having the opportunity to grow up in such a unique setting. But I also feel lucky to have not only my wife Sabine but also now my daughter Anna and my son Johannes working with me in the business, continuing the tradition, in other words.


Text: Edith Runer