Malcolm Jolley discovers a Sud-Tyrol winery with a storied past and interesting future.
Andi Punter sells the wine of Franz Haas, a several generations-in family winery in the Alto Adige region of Northeast Italy. He was in Toronto recently, showing his wines around to the fine dining trade, and I was lucky enough to grab a seat at just such a tasting, held LBS on an early November morning.
Franz Haas is a venerable old wine house, that’s been in business since the Sud-Tyrol was part of Austria. There wines aren’t currently in the LCBO, but are available through their agent, Woodman Wines & Spirits, and ought to show up on the lists of some of the city’s more thoughtful wine lists. Try and remember the name, should you come across it, you’ll be in store for a well made wine at a more than fair price.
At the tasting, we went through the 2015 Pinot Grigio, which is a category challenger. It’s an elegant and sophisticated white, miles away from the typical commercially made Pinot Grigio’s from the neighbouring lowlands in the Veneto. Generally, Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige tends to be better than most of the off-the-shelf versions of the varietal. But he Franz Haas is particularly better, grown at 800 metres above sea-level, it’s got all the freshness of a cool climate white, while being concentrated and complex. It’s a great wine and ought to be looked for.
Moving through, we tasted Franz Haas’ Pinot Blanc (2015 Lepus), also grown high at 600-800 metres: another beautifully balanced white, with a smooth touch of sweetness from fruit and a slight feel of oil. And their 2014 Lagrein, the standard black grape of the region, whci they make into a light but spicy and full of flavour red wine. We also tried their Moscato Rosa, a sweet wine made from this rare grape, thought to have migrated north up the peninsula from Sicily, having been brought there by the Saracens from Egypt. It was all roses and violets, and a great treat to try.
The real star in Andi Punter’s tasting, at least for this scribe, was the 2015 Petit Manseng. Petit Manseng hails from the Southwest of France, and the story goes that Franz Haas IV, the winery’s current owner, spotted the grape while traveling through Gascony. As Punter tells it, Haas pulled his car over to the side of the road because nature called. As he set about his business, he noticed the soil in the vineyard in front of him looked to be a perfect match to the soil in one of his vineyards in the Alto-Adige. Inspired, he planted Petit Manseng on his return, and it’s been growing there happily for twenty years.
The Petit Manseng wowed are small group of writers and wine trade professionals. It’s grown on relatively warmer site at 350 meters altitude, and picked relatively late, Punter told us. It touches no oak, but it’s left on the lees for six months. The result is deeply concentrated white wine whose line of pronounced acidity balances a residual sugar content of just under 6 grams per litre. It’s a wine looking for a long and boozy lunch to carry through.
Find out more about Franz Haas wines at Franz-Haas.com.