The Lageder Family
The most noble grape varieties grown in the best vineyard sites will never produce great wines without the efforts of human beings who recognize their potential, who give them the care and protection they need, and who are able to harvest them with acumen and expertise. At the Alois Lageder wineries, owned and managed by the Lageder family for six generations, this element of human commitment has both a past and a future. We introduce you here to a few of the personalities who in the course of almost 200 years have shaped the character of our wines.
Our story, like so many of those in Alto Adige, has its beginnings in a high, alpine valley. Early in the nineteenth century, a young man from the Himmelreichhof farm –near the village of Albions, at the beginning of the Val Gardena, tied his belongings up into a bundle. The time had come for Johann Lageder to bid farewell to the family farm: he was ready for the path that would take him down into the city of Bolzano, where he intended to stand on his own two feet. He found employment with a wheelwright. Johann possessed both expert craftsmanship and an entrepreneurial spirit, and in 1823 he was able to acquire the workshop. At the same time he also began to deal in wine. In 1855, his two sons divided his worldly belongings between them. The elder son took over the wheelwright shop; the younger son, Alois Johann, inherited the wine trade. He also inherited his father’s entrepreneurial spirit and intended to expand the business, with the purchase of his first vineyard and he began to cellar wines made from the fruit grown on his own properties, as well as from grapes purchased from other growers in the area.
Alois Johann’s eldest son, Alois II, shared his passion for wine and was soon able to purchase other vineyards for the family, in the area of Santa Magdalena, in the northern Bolzano hills. Santa Magdalena was one of the two wines in which he specialized; the other was Lagrein, also from vineyards in the Bolzano area. Alois II was one of the first winemakers to recognize and insist on the importance of site and terroir. He was soundly acquainted with the various microclimates on the slopes surrounding Bolzano and had a keen ability to preserve and underline the subtle differences between them.
This precocious specialist knowledge was once again followed by an heir with an entrepreneurial mind and spirit, Alois III, who thought in even more global terms. He saw the indigenous varietals of Alto Adige to be one of the region’s strengths, and in addition to working with local varieties such as schiava (Vernatsch) and Lagrein, he strove to expand his portfolio. In 1934, he purchased the manor house and vineyards of the Löwengang estate in the village of Magrè, at the southernmost tip of Alto Adige. Here he found what he was looking for: excellent exposures not only for white-wine vineyards, but also for robust red wines such as Cabernet, Sauvignon and Merlot. Deciding that the transport of the delicate fruit harvested took too long by ox cart to Bolzano, he founded a winemaking facility and cellars at the Löwengang estate in Magrè as well as in other wine-producing villages. Before long farmers in the surrounding areas were also supplying him with their grapes. The winery became well established, but Alois’ sudden death in 1963 resulted in a series of sweeping changes.
His designated heir and only son Alois IV was the youngest of six children, and only twelve years old. The challenging task of guiding the winery through the difficult next few years was thus to fall to two powerful and enterprising women: Christiane Rössler, his widow, and his eldest daughter Wendelgard, who at the time was only twenty-one years old. In addition to helping to guide the firm she also became the winery’s public face and representative, no easy task for a young woman suddenly thrust into the center of a business and field dominated by men. She was not, however, someone easily discouraged, and she managed, with the support of the family and especially of her mother, to successfully steer the business along its future course. In 1969 she married the winery’s cellar master Luis von Delleman, who, though young himself, had already acquired a wealth of experience in numerous wine-growing regions in Europe. He assumed responsibility for cellar operations. He soon became well-known as an extraordinary white-wine specialist. The Italian market showed great demand for the fresh, fruity wines of its northernmost region, but most of the wines were still sold in bulk. It wasn’t until the start of the 1970s that the company began more and more to bottle its own wines, and to market them under its own Alois Lageder-label.
The Lageder-family winery was experiencing a difficult time when the current Alois Lageder, after studies in economics and viticulture, assumed leadership of the firm at only twenty-four years old. The image of Alto Adigewines had suffered greatly as a result of years of perception as products for mass consumption. With the support of his sister Wendelgard and of his bother-in-law and cellar master Luis von Dellemann, Alois Lageder undertook the task of repositioning the winery. He was convinced that the region in which he was born had great unexploited potential, and he firmly set a course that aimed strictly for quality. He purchased additional vineyard properties and made use of innovative methods both in the vineyards and in the cellars. He began to trellis his vines on wires, and also reduced their yield.
Inspired by meeting the legendary California vintner Robert Mondavi in 1981, Alois experimented also with the maturation of wines in small oak barrels. Wines such as his red Cor Römigberg Cabernet Sauvignon and his white Löwengang Chardonnay created a whole new style and quality standard on the Alto Adige wine scene. In 1991 Alois purchased the Hirschprunn estate, a renaissance mansion in Magrè with over thirty hectares of vineyards around the village. In 1995 he constructed a high-tech winemaking facility and cellar complex in Magrè, which soon proved to be the precursor of a veritable boom in modern architectural structures at wineries both in Italy and abroad. Since the beginning of the 1990s, he has also blazed a trail of his own in viticulture: today about fifty hectares of vineyards belonging to the family adheres to the principles of Biodynamic agriculture.
The name Alois Lageder thus stands today no less for tradition than for innovation. In the spirit of a holistic corporate philosophy, Alois IV has also created a permanent place for contemporary art and music at his winery, an innovative move in which he has the support of his wife, the dance-theater choreographer Veronka Riz, and of their three children. His commitments have also extended to spheres beyond his wineries: for over ten years, he was the president of Bolzano’s Museion, Museum for Contemporary Art, and the driving force behind the construction of its new extension, which opened in 2008. At the beginning of 2009, he was elected to serve as the president of Bolzano’s Ecological Institute.