Kuenhof – Peter Pliger
Province of Bolzano
Owner: Peter & Brigitte Pliger
Winemaker: Peter Pliger
Production: 27,000 bottles
Hectares under vine: 6
Meeting Peter Pliger is an experience. One first has to get to Italy’s most northerly DOC zone, the Valle Isarco (or Eisacktaler), and make for Bressanone, past mountain streams and up glacier-sculpted sub-alps towards Mahr. When one sees restored vineyard plots supported by traditional dry stone walls, low pergolas, a 12th century heritage-listed cellar and some happy dogs, the nirvana of Germanic varietals expressed Italian-style has been reached. Then, a warm handshake from the man and a glint from eyes that are as blue as the sky above.
Here, at Kuenhof, the former Zen student is leading Italy’s way in sustainable viticulture, a man at one with himself, eschewing rigid ideas or supposed truths in favour of exploration and experimentation. Peter has the courage of his convictions and the sensitivity to work in the least invasive way and to capture that which nature offers. What is sustainable? Organic; biodynamic? He is neither and he’s . . . he’s very hard to categorise. Peter is himself. He uses wild yeasts, but if they don’t do the job, he adds selected ones. Fermentation temperatures are natural, grass grows between the rows and no chemical synthetic products are used, but some copper sulphate in the vineyards and sulphur dioxide in the cellars are considered necessary.
Peter’s wines are stunning and some of the most sought after in Italy. They are bone dry, but loaded with pure, rich fruit, and plenty of extract and alcohol. They cut across the palate like a sword, but the complexity and structure is compelling. In many ways, the wines reflect Peter’s admiration for Rieslings of the Mosel and Veltliners of the Wachau, but they are distinctively Italian, displaying a stony minerality that is expressive of a unique terroir. The winemaking is the same for all varieties: they are aged in a combination of stainless steel and acacia botti with no malolactic and they age superbly.