Sometimes cutting edge style leads function, but other times, it is dictated by it.Regions such as Italy’s Alto Adige have such long histories that adapting to the current day often involves more innovation than style.
Given the region’s dual nature (Austrian and Italian), it’s no surprise that design and function here move hand in hand.
What may be distinctly quaint on the outside often surprises on the inside.
The Cantina Tiefenbrunner marks the southern end of Alto Adige's Weinstrasse wine road.
At the gateway to this historic path lies the Castel Turmhof, a 300-year-old historic residence which the Tiefenbrunner family both values and respects the beauty and significance of.
Its fairy tale setting demands it!
The castle has been, and continues to be, the centre of activity for the small hamlet that surrounds and suppots the Tiefenbrunner estate, tucked as it is in a niche on the west side of the Adige valley.
This remote location has been both a benefit and a challenge for the Tiefenbrunner family, but challenges frequently present opportunities.
One of the greatest secrets at Tiefenbrunner is not the wines (the quality is well-known), but its use of hydroelecric power.
In this day of green energy clamor, it's not a small surprise to see that beneath the ancient skin of Cantina Tiefenbrunner lays a high performance machine.
While this installation, dating from 1910, may look primitive, it could still deliver virtually all the power needed of the estate and puts many of our current green initiatives to shame.
As of 1pm on Janary 27th, 2001, the old power generating plant has been supplanted by this new, state of the art hydroelectric facility.
Slightly more powerful than the old plant and completely computer-controlled, this upgrade has allowed Cantina Tiefenbrunner to move onward into the 21st century while maintaining the ideals established almost a century ago.
From the outside, one would never know that this ancient castle is powered by clean, green energy. Classic beauty on the outside, cutting edge technology on the inside, a paradox of preservation.
At St. Michael Eppan, a cooperative winery farther north on the Alto Adige's Weinstrasse, one is once again faced with a historic building being repurposed for the 21st century.
On the outside this monumental building from 1907 remains largely unchanged and as one begins to tour the facility, it appears to be just another classic winery filled with expansive ageing cellars.
In fact, there are few signs of modernity here and one of the great attributes here is the reuse and preservation of all that has made this facility great.
A gleaming green portal at the end of an ageing cellar is the only sign that one might be stepping out of the past and into the present.
The jarring green - while out of place at first - does serve as a signpost, symbolically alerting one to expect a shift towards clean thinking and reuse.
Step through the green portal and you are immediately immersed in the glare of bright black glass.
For a moment it is disorienting, even jarring, as you take in the grand scale and effort that went into creating this relatively massive, gleaming hall.
Soon it dawns on you - OK, so maybe dawn's is a bit much - but before long, your guide tells you that you're now walking through the historic glass-lined cement tanks that once were used for the vinification and storage of the Cantina's wines!
How cool is this, not only do these rooms make a striking and bold statement, one never intended by their original designers, but they really capture the winery's shift from quantity to quality as the space is now used to store barrels of St. Michael Eppan's finest wines.
While the glass-lined tanks are some of the coolest features (intended or not) of any winery anywhere, the ageing halls of the Cantina have also been redesigned.
While the exterior of the facility has remained relatively unchanged (save some discrete addition towards the back os the facility, including a rather sleek retail outlet), the interior of the winery has been adapted to its new identity.
Here, in the great ageing halls, one finds rooms transformed, as the luxury of space, once again freed up as the winery moved from quantity to quality, allows for design.
These grand halls capture the essence of St. Michael Eppan: clean, distinct wines, sharp and crisp, all steeped in tradition and history.
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