The Alpine vineyards of Alto Adige/Südtirol are among the steepest and highest in Europe and it’s here that the Falkenstein vineyards are situated (at a dramatic 2,000 – 3,000 feet above sea level). The family has been growing fruit for over 200 years in this region but Franz Pratzner made the decision in the late ’80s to convert most of the family’s orchards to vineyards after spending some time in Austria and falling in love with high altitude/racy whites. Their 12 hectares of organically farmed Riesling, Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder) are located on the terraced slopes of the aptly named Sonnenberg (sun mountain). The Ötztal Alps are just to the north, forming a curtain that shields the vineyards from frigid cold and rainfall. Warm breezes from the Valley floor create sharp diurnal shifts that help balance ripening fruit with fresh acidity, creating a dazzling expression of mountain terroir. Their flagship wine is their Riesling (the variety that most excited Magdalena’s father when he visited Austria) – grown on the highest parcel at 2,500-3,000 feet above sea level, this south facing vineyard (like most of their vineyard sites) is terraced from well-draining, glacially distributed soils comprised of slate, mica, gneiss and quartz.
The Pratzners ferment and age all their white wines in large acacia foudres which accentuate delicate floral aromatics and lend a great textural element to the wines. The acacia also allows the wine to stay as long as possible on lees giving it additional mouth coating depth and a long life in bottle. Post-fermentation, the wines stay in cask on the lees for another 10 months.
The Pinot Noir sees a year in French barrique, then another seven months in steel tank, with a further year of bottle aging in the cellar. They try to use whole cluster fermentation every year to allow the wine to develop a deeper fruit note and softer tannins. The intention is to make age worthy wines that can also be enjoyed immediately.