The "Traminer vine"
The Adige Valley – or Etsch Valley as it is known locally - was settled long before our modern era and the valley’s wines were first mentioned in 400 BC. Modern agriculture was introduced into Italy by the Etruscans and one of their tribes, the Rhaethians, settled in the southern Alps. The wines became popular during the Roman occupation and Emperor Augustus Caesar was a great lover of Rhaetian wines. By the Middle Ages South Tyrol’s wines enjoyed great popularity among the nobility north of the Alps while by the 20th century South Tyrol had become the most prestigious supplier of red wine to the Austrian court in Vienna. During the Council of Constance (1414-1418), fed up with the coarse local wine, the last German minstrel, poet, minnesingers, knight, adventurer and consul Oswald von Wolkenstein wrote about his longing for a draught of “Traminer” from his native South Tyrol.
The Traminer vine was first mentioned in a document dating from 1145, quoted as originating from vineyards close to the village of "Tremine", from which it obviously took its name. By the 19th century the vine was thriving in most warm German-speaking winegrowing regions, including Alsace. Traminer is prone to mutation and one variety with an especially intense aroma became known as ‘Gewürz-Traminer’ or ‘spicy Traminer’.
In South Tyrol this "scented" mutation yields elegant, dry wines with firm acidity. After all, the world’s favourite aromatic grape is named after Tramin and it is there that the pale red "white" grapes produce their finest wine with the most opulent aromas which are never overblown or cloying. As early as 1535 the village council appointed two officials – one wine valuer and one measures inspector – in order to check the precious produce of the vineyards. To avoid adulteration, stretching and falsification each cask was sealed and documented. Today the wines’ genuineness is guaranteed by the controlled appellation of origin (DOC) regulations and inspections.
The historical importance of small wine village is revealed in the superb frescoes in churches such as St, Jakob on the Kastelaz hill overlooking Tramin, as well as in the numerous aristocratic manor houses such as that of the Lords of Langenmantel built in the 16th century. At every step, interested visitors come across vestiges of an eventful past under numerous sovereigns, from the Counts of Tyrol in Medieval times through the Austrian and Bavarian rulers. The Austrian Archduke Johann (1782-1859) became a patron of winegrowers in South Tyrol and encouraged the introduction of international grape varieties. His mausoleum is in the village of Schenna near Meran.
However, life for the common people was not always idyllic. For centuries they had to contend with the ravages of floods and cholera-infested swamps. In the meantime these natural dangers have been in large part vanquished – today it is incumbent on the inhabitants to preserve the magic and peace of this cultivated landscape.