South Tyrol, with its mountains, forests and lakes, is one of the most popular holiday areas in the Alps. The privately run Vinum Hotels invite you to discover the region from a culinary point of view with their sometimes spectacular architecture and a special passion for wine.
When Andreas Huber guides his visitors through the wine cellar, the enthusiasm for his work does not go unnoticed. Perched on a slope high above Neustift Abbey near Brixen, the Pacherhof looks back on a tradition dating back to the 11th century. The farm’s vineyards, which are particularly suitable for white wines in the local Isarco valley, extend over a total of eight hectares. The vines grown here, including Grüner Veltliner, Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Grigio, are regularly honored with the highest Italian awards and are among the best South Tyrolean vineyards have to offer in terms of white wines. The farm sets a special accent with its futuristic addition to the historic wine cellar: the entrance, designed by the South Tyrolean architects bergmeisterwolf, is crowned by a polygonal tower in which there is room for wine tasting. Historic substance and modern design also go hand in hand in the neighboring farm, which now houses a hotel. On one side there is what is probably the oldest living room in Tyrol, while on the other side there is a glass cube, the front of which can be opened completely when the weather is good. A new building with spaces that jut out directly into the vineyard and blend seamlessly into nature next to the historic courtyard is scheduled to open in 2023.
Experiences around the wine
The family-run Pacherhof is typical of the South Tyrolean Vinum Hotels – an amalgamation of a total of 29 individual houses that specialize in wine. The hotels, most of which are categorized in the four-star category, are characterized by extensive wine lists, regional cuisine at the highest level and experiences related to the subject of wine. “These can be hiking tours such as the ‘Achtsam im Weinberg’ program, spa services, but of course also wine tasting and cellar tours,” explains Christoph Mahlknecht, CEO of Vinum Hotels. The 30-year-old gay South Tyrolean returned to his homeland seven years ago after graduating from a hotel management school and several years working in top international hotels, including in London, Paris and Rome, and describes himself as a “wine freak”. As a state-certified sommelier, he is very familiar with the region’s wines and is enthusiastic about the winegrowers’ passion for their product. “For me, wine is a piece of culture that simply belongs to South Tyrol.”
In the valley below the Pacherhof, you can find out how much wine has shaped the region’s culture. The magnificent Neustift Abbey, founded in the 12th century, now has a total of 86 hectares of vines with an annual production of 850,000 bottles of wine, including mainly Sylvaner, Kerner, Pinot Noir and Lagrein, known for the area around Bozen and Merano. During a tour of the vineyard and a visit to the museum, you will learn a lot about the current challenges of viticulture in times of climate change, in addition to cultural and historical contexts.
If you want to get an impression of the diversity of the wine regions in South Tyrol, you are in good hands at Vinum Hotels. “Of the 29 hotels, nine have their own winery, whose wines are also on all the menus in the other houses,” says Christoph Mahlknecht. In houses like Muchele near Meran, you can lose track of things for a moment. On the regular wine menu alone, there are over 600 wines – plus there is another special menu that will make true wine connoisseurs’ hearts beat faster. Fortunately, there are five sommeliers at the small design hotel run by sisters Martina and Priska Ganthaler who are ready to advise. If you want to taste the air of the city in addition to the mountains, you can quickly get from Muchele to the spa town of Meran, which is now known for its large thermal baths. Here you can not only shop excellently, you can also try a number of regional specialties such as dumplings, bacon or cheese. An insider tip is the small chocolate factory 58chocolate, located in a back street, where the young chocolatier René Romen demonstrates his creativity.
The Vinum Hotel Spitalerhof in Klausen also shows creativity in terms of design and accommodation for guests. While the underground car park is reminiscent of a wine cellar and you have the feeling of being in a vineyard, in addition to the common rooms, there are two oversized wine barrels where you can spend the night in style. In contrast, Hotel My Arbor near Brixen sits among the treetops. The adults-only hotel, which is quite large for a Vinum house, is located 1,300 meters above sea level and is South Tyrol’s first wooden hotel. Above all, the 2,500 square meter spa area with saunas, extraordinary infusion ceremonies and private relaxation cabins makes a visit to the hotel an experience for wellness fans.
Sauna in the forest
Ecohotel Saltus, located high above Bolzano, places great emphasis on the smallest possible ecological footprint, which convinces with the topics of sustainability, design, comfort and aesthetics. The minimalist architecture blends seamlessly into the surroundings, the cloud pool and forest sauna invite you to relax, and the rooms offer views of the magnificent backdrop of the Dolomites. Anyone arriving by train will be picked up from the train station free of charge, receive a five percent discount on accommodation and a free ticket for local public transport. In addition, mountain bikes and e-mountain bikes are available free of charge for guests to explore the unique larch meadows around the Salten peak. And of course the culinary arts are not neglected in Saltus either: the Tschögglbergerhof restaurant focuses on regional, seasonal and traditional dishes as well as a sustainable economic cycle. It goes without saying that the all-female management team provides the right wine recommendation thanks to sommelier training and personal passion.