How the custom began
What are the origins of Törggelen? Regional expert Christoph Gufler examines the origins of this tradition, which is inextricably linked to autumn in South Tyrol.
How did the custom of Törggelen first begin?
Christoph Gufler: In autumn, wine lovers visited local winegrowers to sample the year’s yield of wine. Even the innkeepers, who received their house wines directly from the producers, felt obliged to test the quality of the wines produced that year directly from the source. At that time, the visitors themselves brought their own food and before long, their hosts began to serve typical delicacies like chestnuts, meat platter and sausages with sauerkraut, and barely soup.
Where does the term “Törggelen” come from?
Sampling the new wines first took place in the wine cellars. The wooden wine presses were called “Torggl” from the Latin word torquere, which means to press.
Why was the chestnut tree so important to South Tyroleans?
Thanks to tanic acid, chestnut trees are especially durable and the wood was, and still is, used as support framework for the vines. Even edible chestnuts were an important component of bread making for the poorer population.
What were the early forms of Törggelen like?
In principal not a whole lot has changed. In autumn, people passed by chestnut trees as they strolled to mountainside vineyards in order to sample the “new” wines of the season. At the various Buschenschank farmhouse inns they sat together and enjoyed the fruits of the harvest before they walked back down into the valley. In 1845, it was reported “that the roasted chestnuts were especially flavourful in combination with the wine enjoyed by the people of the Etsch valley.”
There are many stories that surround the custom of Törggelen. Are there any of particular interest?
There are three statues of holy figures on the gables of the Cathedral of Bressanone/Brixen. The figure in the middle points upward, the second looks up questioningly, and the third has placed his hand on his heart. Residents of Bressanone say of the trio: Ingenuin asks Kassian: “Who has the best new wine?” Kassian points to Tiles/Tils, a well-known wine area, and says: “That way!” Albuin puts his hand on his heart and sighs, exclaiming: “Ah, it tastes so good!”
Any tips to ensure that the experience of Törggelen will be particularly memorable?
Nothing compares to the first sip of Suser grape-must after strolling through the autumn landscape. It’s particularly important to visit a winegrower as true Törggelen can only be experienced where the grapes are grown and the wine is produced.
Christoph Gufler was a teacher, director and mayor in his hometown of Lana. His local knowledge is frequently shared in local media.