From the sunny terrace of Gasthop Jipp the entire Adige Valley stretches below and before us. From the spectacular Dolomites ranges to the cities of Bolzano and Merano, we truly feel on top of the world. In the summer, the mountaintop offers cool respite from the warmer temperatures further down the “hill,” and our lungs fill with fresh air while our eyes take pleasure in an unbroken palette of blue and green.
Perched here, admiring the natural beauty of South Tyrol is the perfect location to indulge in some typical local dishes and wines from the vineyards we passed on the windy route up here.
St. Pauls’ Sanctissimus Pinot Blanc
A very classy beginning launches our meal with the Sanctissimus Pinot Blanc from St. Pauls. This beautiful drop is grown on a select slope in the nearby town and is so good a bottle is sent to the Pope every year. The winery has even received a special thank you note from the lovely folk at the Vatican itself – roughly translated to, “It’s good, send more!”
South Tyrolean Cuisine at Gasthop Lipp
Our starters are very meaty and I’m told this is food of the mountain people. Working at altitude is hard work and hence you find the food in the north of the country much heartier than what is enjoyed in the south. Pressed calf head is high in gelatin and reminds me of Aussie silverside. It’s very flavourful and my dining companions tell that it’s just how grandma would make it.
A pretty platter of kamin (smoked salami) and speck – good wine fodder – is often eaten as a meal in the north. Accompanied with bread, cheese and wine this is an enjoyable supper for the locals.
A hearty plate of schlutzkrapfen comes next. Stuffed with spinach and ricotta it resembles giant ravioli. There’s a light bitterness to the greens and again the Sanctissimus proves its versatility in providing a delicious mate.
St. Pauls’ Schiava (Vernatsch)
I love trying two wines side by side with food: it allows a chance to compare and truly appreciate the finer notes. St. Pauls’ Schiava (Vernatsch) Missianer 2016 and the slightly more complex Schiava (Vernatsch) Passion 2014 showcase the schiava (in Italian, Vernatsch in German) grape, which is typical to the Alto Adige region. This grape has been around for a long time but is now experiencing a revival. It’s the perfect mate with the speck that we’re still snacking on offering aromas of violets, mandarin and almonds. It’s easy, light and very drinkable.
Some Veggies – Yes Please!
I’m happy to see some veg in our feast and a salad of shredded cabbage and speck is dressed with cumin, vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. It’s a fresh segue to the mains.
St. Pauls’ Pinot Noir
Blauburgunder (German), Pinot Nero (Italian) or Pinot Noir is another grape that does particularly well in this region. We try the entry level Luzia 2015 and the “Riserva” Passion 2014. I’m not guaranteeing the translation of my dining companions, but both seem to be alluring to a story that pinot noir is “clearly” like a woman – a lot of reward but very hard work. Sporting sensual floral aromas with berries it’s smooth in the mouth and gracefully glides into an honourable finish.
Beef goulash and speckknoedel ensure that a nap in the not too distant afternoon is a likely forecast. The stew is rich and wholesome and the Tyrolean bacon dumplings guarantee that not an inch of stomach remains unfilled. These are a specialty in the region and with a base of dried bread cubes soaked in milk can be made in an endless number of flavours. I get to try bacon, cheese and spinach! Yum. Yum. Yum! Please note, however, that the polite way to eat these is to break them open with your fork, never slice with a knife (or you’ll give away that you’re a foreigner like me).
St. Pauls’ Lagrein
Our last double dose from St. Pauls’ is the Lagrein, a grape native to South Tyrol. It’s a much darker shade than our former reds and we try both the 2016 and the “Riserva” Passion 2014. Ripe plums and dark berries caress the nostrils and velvety tannins lead through to an agreeably sharp finish. The stew is a good mate for this wine and stronger cheeses would also be suitable collaborators.
Sweet Tyrolean Ending
I mistakenly think we’ve come to the end when the affogato (ice cream drowned in espresso) is laid on the table, but, no, apparently, no meal in Tyrol is complete unless it concludes with schnapps.
A line up of walnut, enzian (gentian) and waldmeister (bedstraw) are for the sampling. I’m encouraged to first try to the enzian and wonder why suddenly phones and cameras are pointed in my direction? Turns out that the taste is quite shocking. Made from the root, it’s earthy and bitter. I ask if people actually like this and am told that it’s an acquired taste that has not been acquired by many. The waldmeister (a wildflower that grows in the mountains) is much more palatable and lastly, the walnut, is nutty and mildly bitter. An interesting conclusion, but I’ll happily stick with St. Pauls’ wines for the next round 😉
* This inside tour was made possible by the folk at Das Central, Soelden – a luxury hotel with extensive experience in wine tourism.
Reasons to visit: incredible views; a taste of rustic local cuisine; great local wines – especially worth ordering those from St. Pauls.