This facility that houses this winery and convent dates back as far as the 11th century, when the Earl of Bolzano built a stronghold in an old ‘chellar’ (or cellar) to protect himself from the Bishops of Trento. In the 13th century, Meinhold II, who ruled the independent state of Gorz-Tirol, lived in this stronghold of Gries, as it had come to be known. In the 1400s, the then ruler of Tyrol, Earl Leopold, gave the estate to a group of monks, who had lost their monastery due to a flood. The facility has been a monastery ever since, being taken over by Benedectine monks from Muri in the Swiss Alps in 1845.
The Benedictines are a pretty serious bunch when it comes to their wines, and as the monastery entered the 20th century, there was a rededication to the production of quality wines. They started exporting their wines to the German speaking countries to the north, focusing on local varietals and styles like St. Magdalener, Malvasia, Lagrein, Kretzer and Pinot Grigio.
The monastery today relies on many agricultural activities for their livelihood, with nearly 30 ha (75 acres) of vineyards, 52 ha (131 acres) of fruit orchards, a large farm on the mountain slopes around Jenesien with meadows and woods, and 45 animals kept in stables.
Muri-Gries produces primarily red wines, with whites at only 15% of their production. And among all red wines Lagrein covers 80% of their production. The remaining 20% is shared among other brands like Vernatsch, St. Magdalener, Kalterersee, Pinot Nero and Moscato Rosa. The whites offered include Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer.
I tasted the Muri-Gries 2009 Lagrein. It exhibits a deep, garnet red color, with a strong cherry and chocolate nose. An intense palate of spice, chocolate and cherry, with a slightly bitter, tannic finish. As a varietal, the Lagrein is a bit on the acidic side, and this wine is no exception. It would easily overwhelm a light dish, but the acidity makes it a wonderful foil to a strong meat dish, such as a braise, roasted meats or game. This wine was awarded two glasses (very good to excellent in its respective category) by Gambero Rosso 2011, a perfect example of this regional varietal, meant to be paired with the mountain foods of this area.