Epokale: A New Gewürztraminer for the Ages
by Meg Maker
One day each year, workers at Cantina Tramin load 2,000 bottles of a golden elixir onto a truck for a 100-kilometer journey north from Termeno, Italy, to Masseria, which Germanophones call Maiern, in the foothills of the Alps. There the truck swaps pavement for dirt as it twists up Schneeberg Mountain through rocky fields dotted with pine. After 3.5 kilometers, it eases into a gravel yard flanked by railroad scrap. Ahead is the concrete façade of the disused Monteneve mine, with “POSCHHAUSSTOLLEN” — Poschhaus gallery — emblazoned above a rusty door.
The workers don miner’s hats, rubber boots, and raincoats, transfer their cargo onto a diminutive yellow train, then climb aboard. The conductor signals, the train jolts alert, and the contraption rumbles into the mountain’s black maw. The destination is a gallery 3 kilometers and a 20 minute ride into the stone, where this Gewürztraminer Spätlese, named Epokale (eh-poh-KAH-lay), will be aged. Water drips from the walls, which echo with the roar of wheels on steel. It is cold. The air is thin. After the train sputters to a stop, the crew dismounts, carrying their cargo on foot along the final stretch of murky tunnel. They load the new wine into plastic bins, gather up an older vintage, cart the cases back to the train, and reverse the journey home. The mountain’s veins run gold.
Every workday for 800 years, miners left their dwellings on the flank of this mountain, porting their daily rations, tools, and lanterns to the entrance shaft and greeting each other with “Glück auf!” an incantation not merely of success, but survival...
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