Alpine Tranquility: Wellness, Grappa, Beer, and Winter Magic
In my extensive travels across Italy and Europe, scouting for new wines and destinations to suggest for those seeking their “perfect journey,” a visit to Trentino Alto Adige is a constant — especially in the winter season. Nestled in the heart of the Dolomites, this region has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2009. During my expedition, I delved into the captivating realm of high-altitude Italian wines, immersed myself in the wellness philosophy that defines the region, and marveled at the prospect of spending Christmas holidays surrounded by the enchanting snowy peaks. Here’s why you should consider a Christmas wellness retreat in Trentino Alto Adige.
A Sense of Peace
We’re always rushing, constantly under pressure. In this journey, I endeavored to rediscover a sense of peace, plus the joy of meeting wine producers and entrepreneurs without incessantly watching the clock. Most importantly, to savor every single flavor of food and wine with the attention and mindfulness they deserve.
I had the chance to slow down my pace and acquaint myself with a new family that produces outstanding products in a truly exceptional place: the Volgger family and their Gassenhof hotel. With two spas spanning a total of 3,000 square meters, 80 rooms, including suites and exclusive accommodations, and an ancient farmhouse transformed into the epitome of comfort.
Gassenhof is a haven of genuine emotions to be embraced in the tranquility of Val Ridanna. It’s not just a hotel but a place where Manfred Volgger (Manni to friends) crafts grappa, gin, and beer in an artisanal manner.
Manni is engaged in a project that, unfortunately, is still in its infancy. He’s crafting his own wine up in the peaks of Val Ridanna, surrounded by larch forests and majestic peaks. I haven’t had the chance to taste it yet, as the wine is still maturing. But I’ll certainly be back for a tasting in the future.
Wine or grappa? In Alto Adige, it’s a dilemma.
Discussing high-altitude wines means talking about vineyards with specific characteristics:
– Slopes exceeding 30%
– Altitudes above 500 meters above sea level.
In the mountains, especially here in Alto Adige, the true passion often lies not in wine but in grappa.
What is Grappa?
Grappa stands as one of Italy’s most renowned and widely celebrated gems. The European Parliament and the Council officially designate it as a grape pomace brandy distilled exclusively within Italy. A crucial aspect of grappa production lies in the sourcing of grape seeds and skins, which must exclusively come from grapes cultivated and vinified in our country.
According to certain studies, the origins of grappa can be traced back to the year 1000 when the Salerno Medical School began disseminating the art of distillation throughout the peninsula. However, the first treatise on this subject, “De Conficienda Aqua Vitae,” dates back to 1532 and was composed by the Paduan physician Michele Savonarola. It wasn’t until 1951, however, that grappa acquired its current definition: the world’s only distilled spirit obtained from a solid raw material, grape pomace.
Grappa is produced through the fermentation of grape pomace, the residual by-products obtained after winemaking. It includes grape skins and seeds, specifically the seeds found in grape berries.
A True Senory Journey
With Manfred, I visited his distillery — a true sensory journey to discover the production of liqueurs, grappas, beers, and gin. Everything is produced right here at Gassenhof alongside Manfred. He is a great enthusiast, and thanks to this passion, has brought to life a real distillery and a craft brewery. In these two magical places , his ingenious ideas are transformed into actual creations to be savored.
Types of Grappa
Manfred crafts various grappa types: raspberry, mountain pine, mint, and yarrow; along with red fir buds, sweet woodruff, blackberry, and elderberry. Regarding grappa, the apple-infused varieties are widely favored: apple and masterwort, a perennial herbaceous plant thriving in mountainous settings and preserving well in cool, wooded areas, apple and ginger, or apple and elderberry. Fruit enthusiasts can savor strawberry and apricot grappa; lastly, there’s grappa infused with red fir buds and Gewürztraminer grape pomace.
The Fundamental Ingredient: Passion
Even in the production of beers, Manfred puts all his passion and emphasizes that it is a fundamental ingredient when you want to bring to life many different varieties, all united by high-quality.
“For our beers, we use exclusively natural products and do not use chemical additives,” specifies Manfred.
During the visits, he reveals all the secrets of the trade and explains what the work of a true master brewer entails, detailing all the necessary processes to achieve a pure finished product with an unmistakable aroma.
Last but certainly not least, are the Gins. There are currently three produced: ArGINtum, Slow Gin, ArGINtum, London Dry Gin, and ArGINtum, Navy Strength Gin. The first presents notes of almond and hints of red currant and cherry. It is slightly sweetened by the addition of sugar. Overall, it is dry and sweet with a slight bitter note. The second has a strong juniper flavor paired with a resinous hint typical of berries carefully cultivated in the mountains. Additionally, those who taste it perceive subtle nuances of lavender and lime peel. ArGINtum, London Dry Gin has an alcohol content of 47% and is less full-bodied and strong compared to the third, which is truly special, especially for the more experienced. Its pure flavor is entirely centered around the juniper berry, which is brought out thanks to the higher alcohol content.
Wellness and Saunas: Not just a philosophy but a way of life.
Beyond the vineyards, grappas, beer and gin, Trentino Alto Adige has embraced a holistic approach to wellness. The region incorporates age-old traditions into modern practices.
Saunas, in particular, play a central role in the region’s wellness philosophy. Whether nestled in a spa overlooking snow-covered peaks or part of a boutique hotel experience, saunas here are not just about heat. They are about rejuvenation, relaxation, and a deep connection with nature.
The Trentino Alto Adige and the Volgger family philosophy recognizes the symbiotic relationship between the mind, body, and the pristine alpine environment, offering visitors a unique and restorative experience.
You can’t leave grappa behind here at Gassenhof because the experience continues with the grappa sauna. A wellness area of 3000 square meters creates a magical space for the “Aufguss” ritual, steam throws characterized by the presence of a distiller. The ritual is accompanied by a tasting of Manfred’s grappas while comfortably sitting and enjoying the breathtaking view of the Ridanna mountains.
It’s Time for a Christmas Wellness Retreat in Trentino Alto Adige
Next, I took a little moment of relaxation after the tasting at the outdoor infinity pool. I enjoyed a breathtaking view and be grateful for what Mother Nature gives us every day here in these mountains.
As winter descends upon the mountains, Trentino Alto Adige and the Gassenhof transform into a magical winter wonderland.
The Christmas holidays beckon travelers seeking a retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Vipiteno, with its charming Christmas markets and snow-covered streets, becomes a haven for those yearning for a peaceful escape. Visitors can indulge in the warmth of cozy lodges, savoring local delicacies and exquisite wines with crackling fireplaces. The mountains offer a playground for winter sports enthusiasts, while others may choose to unwind in wellness resorts, combining the therapeutic benefits of saunas with the crisp mountain air.
Kaiserschmarren: A famous regional dessert
During these months, it’s a tradition in the area to prepare the famous “Kaiserschmarren”. Here at Gassenhof, it is crafted by Stefan Volgger, the chef.
Kaiserschmarrn (from the German Kaiser, meaning “emperor,” and Schmarr(e)n, “mess,” literally “emperor’s mess”) is one of the most famous desserts in these areas. A simple preparation with homemade flavors, and Stefan, the chef, prepares it using local ingredients.
My Cherished Retreat in Trentino Alto Adige
My journey came to a close with a new addition to my list of cherished places. Gassenhof is undoubtedly a destination to explore with an open heart and mind.
Here, you can unwind in saunas, savor local cuisine, and indulge in grappa, gin, and a yet-to-be-revealed aging wine. Trentino Alto Adige and Vipiteno are unquestionably worth a visit, especially during this time of the year. Immerse yourself in the enchanting ambiance of Christmas markets organized throughout the region.
After a relaxing break at Gassenhof to disconnect from the stress of everyday life, you can better savor everything. Slowing down and breathing contribute to a higher quality of life.
HOTEL GASSENHOF SRL
UNTERE GASSE 13
Phone: +39 0472 656209