Let’s first get some nomenclature out of the way. The formal name for Santa Magdalena is: Kellerei Bozen (in German) or Cantina Produttori Bolzano (in Italian). As if Italian wines weren’t confusing enough, wines from Alto Adige (formerly part of Austria) generally have labels written in German OR Italian OR BOTH. In fact, German reigns in Alto Adige (called Südtirol in German). Truth be told, Italian is a second language at best. Names like Klaus Sparer (the winery’s Director), Wolfgang Kager (the winery’s resident Sommelier, in charge of marketing) are as common as can be. WorldWide Cellars refers to the winery informally as “Santa Magdalena” or simply “Magdalena” because before the merger in 2001 of Cantina Santa Magdalenna (Maddalena in Italian) with Cantina Gries (also in Bolzano), that is indeed how most of the wines were known, and because nowadays all the wines carry the brand-name “Santa Magdalena”.
Santa Magdalena’s wines have been at the pinnacle of Alto Adige’s production qualitatively for a very long time. The current Kellermeister (winemaker) Stephan Filipi, enjoys a huge reputation in Italy and abroad, and has served, proudly, since 1988. Before him his father was Kellermeister - father and son have served for a combined total of about 55 years. Talk about continuity! The reason a top-quality cooperative is so important in Alto Adige is because individual growers’ plots average about 1 Hectare (about 2.5 acres) in this enormously expensive, and beautiful, viticultural area. Growers must pool their resources to produce quality wines. Santa Magdalena’s member-owners (about 170, all told) account for some of the best vineyard area on either side of the valley and even up the valley in Valle Isarco – a more and more well-known area for some of the best white wines in all of Italy.
Alto Adige, as its name implies, is a very high place for grapes to be found. The vineyards sweep 600 and more meters up the enormous Alps on either side, and between them runs the Adige river. Bolzano town is gorgeous, and is the home of the famous “Ice Man”, chiseled a few years ago from melting ice in the Dolomites just to the north, and now resting peacefully, we presume, in his museum home.
Santa Magdalena’s most famous wine is the Taber Lagrein. It is grown in the valley floor, practically in the town of Bolzano. The vineyard is 100 years old – truly “old vine Lagrein!” – and is without doubt worthy of Cru Status. It has been called by the Gambero Rosso one of Italy’s 50 most influential wines. It has earned many, many Tre Bicchieri. But Taber is not the only wine from Santa Magdalena. Their white wines absolutely sing – purity, expressiveness, balance, harmony. Even the basic Pinot Grigio defies it’s ho-hum category; it’s thrillingly pure, delicately mineral, memorable.
Winery: Cantina Bolzano / St. Magdalena
Region: Alto Adige
Locale: Bolzano, Italy
Farming: Sustainable practices