Pojer e Sandri – the spirit of innovation
Although volume production in Trentino for still wines is dominated by cooperatives, there are also quality-oriented private estates. The best-known names are Elisabetta Foradori and Elena Walch. But perhaps the most innovative and almost playfully experimental is Pojer e Sandri. The winery is perched high in the foothills of the Dolomites in the far north of Trentino in the village of Faedo. Four kilometres to the north lies Alto Adige. Having started in 1975 with a hectare each of Schiava and of Müller Thurgau, the estate has grown to 35 ha, 16 of which are in Faedo, plus further hectares in the Val di Cembra and in Grumis.
The winery is packed with evidence of a spirit of innovation.
- Pride of place in the reception area goes to the ‘grape spa’, a custom-built washing and drying machine for grapes as they arrive at the winery. Tank 1 is in effect the dirty wash, tank 2 the clean wash and then the pristine fruit goes into the air-drying/shaking unit. The resulting clean grapes have been washed of any residual copper/sulphur from spraying and this results, in their view, in fewer problems with reduction (lack of appropriate oxygen) during fermentation.
- Similarly, very early experiments with the use of nitrogen were conducted here to keep oxygen away from grapes in the press, in association with the press manufacturer Bucher.
- As fungal disease pressure can be high, there is a lot of interest in alternative, disease-resistant varieties. Three small fermentation vessels (themselves each different from the other) contain trial vinifications of Souvignier Gris (a white – actually, pink – German hybrid with Cabernet Sauvignon as one of its parents), Solaris (a white German hybrid which can reach very high sugar levels and requires zero treatments in the vineyard) and Muscaris (white, Solaris x Muscat). These are all so-called PiWi varieties. PiWi is an acronym for ‘fungus-resistant variety’ except in German. (But you probably knew that: Pilzwiderstandsfähige Rebsorten). And if the varieties are not esoteric enough for you, all three were being made with extended skin contact of up to six months.
- Finally, they use some acacia barrels for their Pinot Noir as they prefer the lower toast levels than for the more conventional oak.
All in all, it feels that they really love trying something new (or off-beat) here.
We tasted a great range of wines – Pet Nat style sparkling wines (i.e. undisgorged/unfiltered wines with bubbles from continuing fermentation in the bottle) from hybrid varieties with no added sulfur dioxide; a classic Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Trentodoc sparkler; the two local specialities Nosiola (the first genuinely nutty one tasted) and Müller Thurgau; a Rotburger rosé (Riesling x Schiava cross); classic Pinot Noir; a barrel-fermented Chardonnay/Pinot Blanc blend; a Cabernet Sauvignon blend (one year in barrels, two thirds new); and finally two sweet wines, fortified Lagrein (a first! pure black cherry in a Ruby style) and a late-harvest complex blend (Riesling, Kerner, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay – anything that is white and still in the vineyard in December!) As you can read, the standard wines are well outnumbered by the innovations and local specialities here! The quality is very good with the stars being the stony, intense Müller Thurgau which apparently can age for decades and the barrel-fermented Faye Bianco, the Chardonnay/Pinot Blanc blend. But everything is worth trying and enjoying. Here’s to experiment and enjoying playing in the vineyard and in the winery!
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