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KuenHof, Italy

Kuenhof is owned by Peter and Brigitte Pliger and has become one of the most highly-regarded estates in all of northern Italy. Their organically farmed vineyards are located on steep terraced hillsides dominated by rocky soils. The highest-altitude Riesling of the group is made as high as 6,000 feet in Italy’s Alto Adige region. Grapes for the Kuenhof Südtirol Eisacktaler Riesling Kaiton are heroically farmed, vine by vine, on steeply terraced vineyards. This is one of the area’s single most exciting Riesling: “There’s something about solar radiation at higher elevations that you can taste, but it’s hard to describe — a steely solar character,” says Peter Pliger.

The Kuen Hof estate dates back to the 12th century, in those days it was owned by the Bishop of Brixen. Around 200 years ago, Peter Pliger’s great grandfather bought the estate and it has remained in the family since then Some restoration work on the old house and cellar was undertaken in the early 90s. The Pligers farm 6 Ha of grapes in the Eisacktal, Italy’s most northerly wine growing region. The vineyards, planted at a density of 8000 vines/ha, are at an altitude of 550 to 700m and are mostly south-east facing. An average of 3750 9L cases are produced annually.

The vineyards are steeply terraced, supported with dry stone walls. Topsoil is relatively shallow, with a bedrock of quartz-phyllite and slate. Farming is organic with some biodynamic principles followed. The alpine climate is relatively extreme, with diurnal temperature differences of up to 20C. Four varietals are produced; Sylvaner (2ha), Riesling (2ha), Grüner Veltliner (1.5ha) and Gewürztraminer (0.5ha) Fermentation is spontaneous, and about 30% of each wine is aged in large format acacia casks. The Riesling (pioneered in this region by Kuen Hof) is named “Kaiton” as originally there was originally no DOC for Riesling. Kaiton is Celtic word for forest, which more specifically relates to the forest that overlooks the Riesling vines further up the slope from the 800-year-old family home. The Pligers regard the Sylvaner as their flagship wines.

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