In The Vineyards With: Thomas Niedermayr


Shortly before Christmas, I drove for an hour or so north, from Verona up to the Alto Adige. If you’re familiar with Verona, you almost certainly have seen the river which encircles the historic city, the river Adige. Alto Adige is the mountainous region, where that river originates. This area is also widely known by its German name, South Tyrol, because approximately 60% of the local population are native German speakers, whilst only 20% grew up speaking Italian.

It’s a dramatic and interesting route to drive because once you’ve left the fog of the Verona plains behind, the mountains creep closer and the road you are travelling along becomes dwarfed by the rocky landmasses on either side.

Leaving Verona / Lake Garda behind and heading towards the Austrian border

Head into the foothills above the city of Bozen / Bolzano and you find yourself lost in wine country. The roads are windy and impossibly narrow for oncoming traffic, and the villages have remain untouched since yesteryear.

It’s here, at approximately 500 metres above sea level, that you find Thomas Niedermayr. Thomas manages 5 hectares of vineyards (part owned, part rented) at this family-run winery. His father has been cultivating grapes and making wine, organically and with a strong emphasis on biodiversity, since the late 80s but it was more a side-project than a viable business.

Having decided to pursue winemaking as a career, Thomas, who originally studied carpentry, enrolled at the reputed Laimburg research centre to learn oenology. 2012 was the culmination of those studies and it was to prove a defining year; several months of work experience at a biodynamic farm in Austria and then a placement to learn English in London gave Thomas the drive and direction that is so valuable at the start.

It’s still very much a family effort; when we arrive, Thomas’ dad, Rodolf, is cutting back a hedge and his sister is pruning in the vineyards. Meanwhile, a menagerie of animals cluck, peck, sniff and hop around us.

Ducks, geese, chicken… all foul run loose at Hof Gandberg

It’s cold out so after a brisk walk through the vineyards, Thomas shows us his brand new cellar, which he’s made himself, almost entirely from wood – a doth of the hat to his previous passion for carpentry. In that cellar you find a range of white and red wines; some aged in stainless steel, others in wooden barrels of varying sizes…. but not from the grape varieties that you might expect! The most notable aspect that differentiates Thomas from others is his dedication to PIWI grape varieties.

PIWI varieties are hybrids, made from crossing commonly found European grape varieties with a resistant American counterpart and creating a result which is resistant to downy and powdery mildew. The advantage of PIWI varieties is that they remove the need to treat with copper and sulphur and therefore pollute the environment far less than conventional and even organic agriculture. You can find more information about PIWI varieties on this website.

Varieties that Thomas works with include Solaris, Bronner and Souvignier Gris. Each has its own completely different aromatic profile and my resolution for 2019 is to become more familiar with their typicities.

As we leave the cellar, there’s a small table off to one side which is practically hidden by the quantity of bottles, demi-johns and contraptions which lie atop. It turns out that these are Thomas’ many, many micro-vinifications. His first harvest (picked, vinified and bottled) was in 2013 but he admit that he’s still learning and still experimenting.

“If we don’t experiment, how would we know what works and what doesn’t?” Touché.

Thomas’ experimentation.

Thomas Niedermayr website

Visit: 21st December 2018


Franz Haas Moscato Rosa 2012


According to Wine Grapes, the Moscato Rosa grape variety is an Italian cousin of the Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains. It is therefore more closely related to Aleatiko than with Muscat of Hamburg (aka Black Muscat.)

It’s a curious grape because it has an above-averagely high sugar content and exhibits the typical musky aromatic characteristics that we expect from the Muscat family but it is red grape varietal local to the Trentino area in north-eastern Italy. It is relatively thin-skinned and can often be prone to rot.

You may have seen Moscato Rosa wines coming from other corners of the world. I remember trying (and liking) the very frivolous Innocent Bystander sparkling pink moscato a few years ago. This is confusing state of affairs – and totally misleading – as the true Moscato Rosa is only found in northern Italy. Any other “pink moscato” is either a blend of Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains with a dash of red wine added or a rosé de saignée made from the black-skinned Muscat of Hamburg.

Franz Haas took over his family vineyard, located in the Alto Adige, in 1986. Established in 1880, he was to become the 7th generation of his family to work these 55 hectares of vines. His main mission was apparently to increase the quality. I already knew his Pinot Noir but this was my first time trying the Moscato Rosa.

The Moscato Rosa vineyard is situated at 250m above sea level, making it the lowest at this winery, where the highest vineyard is at a startingly 1150m.

Harvest occurs before the grapes are able to overly ripen. Botrytis is not a problem here because the constant wind never lets humidity set in.

Maceration only lasts a few days. Fermentation is then prematurely stopped by reducing the temperature. The wine is racked and left in tanks to rest until bottling. It will wait another six months before being released. The estate makes between 12,000 and 18,000 btls of this wine per annum.

They recommend that it be served between 14-16 deg.

Franz Haas Moscato Rosa 2012 12%, 375ml

There is a theory that the Moscato Rosa del Trentino varietal got its name because of its strong fragrant qualities. Certainly, for this wine, it appears to be justified; the dominant aroma is one of sweet, red rose petals. Secondary characters are of Turkish Delight, cloves and orange peel. A gorgeous deep, morello cherry colour.

The palate is interesting. The soft red berry fruit notes give way to fresh litchi and sweet blood orange steeped in Christmas mulling spices. It’s sweet, but not cloyingly so. After the bottle has been open for a few days, it becomes somewhat reminiscent of a very pleasant cough syrup but when fresh, the acidity and tannins hold their own nicely.

It is a substantial wine with a medium-long finish; the sugar doesn’t give in to the acidity straight away. There’s a balanced elegance to this wine that I find most beguiling. A wine for winelovers. It would lend itself well to food and be a perfect way to finish a decadent meal.

Pair with a light, delicate sweet dessert. A meringue pavlova with billous whipped cream, topped with raspberries. Alternatively, a white chocolate nest filled with strawberries, redcurrants and a hint of a mint leaf. Just an idea!

Price: €€

Rating: ****