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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Abbazia di Novacella Kerner

Italy (Alto Adige)


This is Abbazia di Novacella, a flourishing Augustinian monastery located just south of the Alps, in the Alto Adige wine region of Italy. It houses an exceptional winery, one of the most northerly in the country. Here wine-making dates back 850 years. The cool climate, high elevation, and mineral-rich soils allow the working order of monks to produce classic whites of crisp acidity.

(My bottle of 2010 Kerner is itself looking rather crisp against a cool, pristine waterfall in the remote northern coast of Labrador.)

Kerner is among the abbey’s several white varietals, a cross between the red grape trollinger and the white riesling, more widely known in Germany and first bred there in 1929. (It was named named for Justinus Kerner, a poet whose writing often turned to the intriguing subject of wine.) The aromatic grape found its way into Italy about 40 years ago, ideally suited to the terroir of Alto Adige.

The kerner of Abbazia di Novacella grows at about 700m above sea level, in a mix of gravel and sandy-clay glacial moraine. Following an extended ripening season, harvest takes place in October. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks, at a controlled temperature of 20 degrees C, using only natural yeasts. The wine is matured for six months, also in stainless steel. Kerner makes up 80,000 of the half-million bottles produced annually by this non-certified, but organic estate.

Despite its long history, winemaking here is a state-of-the-art operation. Modern in outlook, yet steeped in tradition, the abbey’s wine production is consistently world class. In 2009 oenologist  Celestino Lucin was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Vini d’Italia, the country’s most prestigious wine publication. The world-wide sale of wine (and to a more modest extent, the local sale of farm produce), the tourist trade, together with a small school specializing in the study of viticulture, all combine to make Abbazia di Novacella entirely self-sufficent.

If there is any one thing that rivals the richness of the wines, it is the richness of the abbey’s interiors, its art and antiquities. Among the 20,000 volumes in the stunning library are two copies of the Gutenberg Bible. Visitors come to tour the abbey and its grounds and stay to enjoy the wines, likely leaving with several bottles to rekindle memories of this special place.

Abbazia di Novacella Kerner 2010

Light straw in colour with a tinge of green, and with pronounced aromas that include apple and citrus. Solid, medium body. A lovely, ample mouthful, with a rich acidic zing. Very nicely crafted, full flavoured. Lingers in the mouth and indeed in the memory. So very good for this price.  $


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