|A tradition of quality for over a hundred years
Wine is an ancient drink that has been consumed by mankind for both enjoyment and its health benefits for millennia. It has been produced in the villages along today’s Wine Road since prehistoric times. In the Upper Etsch Valley, i.e. in the parishes of Kaltern and Eppan, and above all in the area around St. Pauls in Eppan, countless archaeological finds and other evidence bear witness to the early cultivation of vines for winemaking.
The Raeti - our forefathers - conserved the precious commodity in casks. However it was the Romans who first left detailed expert texts about wine making. During the migration period, wine making fell into decline as a consequence of wars and destruction.
During the High Middle Ages, Bavarian monasteries vied for ownership of vineyards in the Upper Etsch. Thanks to the extremely favourable climatic conditions and the excellent soil, wine was produced here for the purposes of celebrating mass - and probably for other reasons too!
Since the Middle Ages wine has been the bedrock of prosperity in our region.
Larger, more commercial wine cultivation primarily began here in the mid-16th century. A visible sign of this new wealth is the huge amount of building activity in what is known as the ”Upper Etsch Style”. Under the influence of the Italian Renaissance, many medieval tower houses and formerly small, Gothic residential buildings were converted, extended or rebuilt into stately wineries with architectural forms that are both typical of and unique to our region.
St. Pauls in Eppan is one of the oldest recorded parishes in South Tyrol. The mighty church, also known as the “Cathedral in the Countryside” was constructed at the instigation of the numerous noble families, moneyed bourgeoisie and wealthy farmers, not least in order to demonstrate their standing and power in this blessed wine-growing area.
The juice of the vine was a much sought-after source of income - in the form of taxes - for noblemen and the church. Ownership of a vineyard in the Upper Etsch has always been seen as a prestigious and secure investment.
Until the end of the 19th century, the wine was sold by private wine merchants both at home and abroad, making its way to such far-afield places as Moscow and St. Petersburg.
From around 1900 wine growers increasingly began to band together to form cooperatives, which enabled them to take a more direct and better share in the return from their grapes.
The St. Pauls Cooperative Winery was founded in 1907. 36 wine growers from St. Pauls, Missian, Berg and Unterrain took part in the founding meeting. The first chairman was Anton Schwarzer and the first cellar master Josef Abraham from Girlan. Until the new winery building was constructed on the eastern edge of the village in 1908, the harvest was stored in various private cellars in the village as well as in the “Schwarzer Adler” inn, which the newly founded cooperative had acquired. The new building was erected on land belonging to Anton Kager. The plan was drawn up and masonry work carried out by the Eppan master builder, Segna. Two cellars, one above the other (storage capacity approx. 15,000 hectolitres), two other rooms (a fermenting cellar and a workshop), the office and a cellar master’s apartment all formed part of the original building. A steep access ramp behind the building led to the upper floors where the grape mash was unloaded, which is still the case today.
By 1914 the number of members had increased to 60. The cellars were equipped with modern machinery. A Saurer truck was purchased in 1920, and was one of the first heavy goods vehicles in the area.
Good quality was already an important factor in the 1920s. According, for example, to the cooperative’s chronicle, members were expected to plant only “high quality vines” and consideration was also given to protecting the quality wines, especially those from Missian.
In 1933 the winery celebrated its 25th anniversary (and 25 years of service by Josef Abraham). On average, the 130 members supplied over 17,000 hectolitres of grape mash per annum. 1951 was a record year, with over 28,000 quintals of mash being supplied. 1957 saw the celebration of the winery’s 50th anniversary. At that time the cooperative numbered 141 members, with the amount of mash supplied having risen to 17,000 quintals and the storage capacity in the cellar to 27,000 hectolitres of wine. Since the 1960s, more tractors have been used in agriculture, gradually replacing teams of oxen as the main means of transport for the mash. Since the mid-1960s the grapes have also been delivered whole (rather than crushed) in tubs or grape vats, which means that the wine is produced in a more gentle fashion in the cellar.
After 60 years of existence, in 1967 the winery cooperative numbered 162 members. In 1968 a fully-automated bottling plant was purchased, and in 1974 a sales room was added in the courtyard. In 1979/80 a large storage building was erected to the north of the site and the plant was updated to take account of new technology (modernisation of the way in which the mash was received into the plant using new lifting platforms, replacement of the larch barrels by steel tanks).
In 1992 the cooperative celebrated 85 years since it was founded and the existing salesroom was converted into today’s modern vinotheque and seminar room.
Since 1997, St. Pauls Cooperative Winery has been chaired by Leopold Kager.