THE LAST COOPERS
They join with wine in mysterious wedlock, imparting notes of tobacco, caramel, vanilla or smoke. But they also act as a natural preservative: we are talking of oak, chestnut or acacia oak barrels.
The Mittelberger Cooperage in Ponte Adige near Bolzano produces 80 to 100 large barrels and up to 500 barriques and tonneau each year. From here, they are dispatched to wineries in the local area, in Italy, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Austria, France, Spain or Switzerland. The company was founded in 1960 by August Mittelberger, father of Peter, Markus and Konrad who manage the company today. The knowledge gained over the years is treasure they cherish dearly, imbued in the products that they create.
Round or oval, for fermentation or for cellaring. How is a wine barrel made in South Tyrol? “We source wood from sustainably managed forestry companies in Germany and France and store it in Valas near Genesio, where it ripens and dries for three to four years,” explains Peter Mittelberger. The final processing then takes place in Ponte Adige. “After the wood has been split, the staves are trimmed, hollowed, assembled and fired. The ends are then inserted, levelled off and possibly surface treated.” The ancient craft has changed little over the years, and has lost none of its allure. “The special thing about wooden barrels is their bond with nature and their versatility. After some time has passed, they can be used to store vinegar, beer, spirits or simply as garden ornaments”.
Photo: Tiberio Sorvillo