5 reasons for a culinary journey to Merano/Meran

5 reasons for a culinary journey to Merano/Meran

Learn all about local specialities and where to stop for excellent cuisine on your holiday in South Tyrol

South Tyrol is wine, South Tyrol is cheese, South Tyrol is speck and pizza and dumplings and herbs and... trust us, we could go on and on because South Tyrol is simply full of delicacies to discover. Our little guide takes you to culinary hotspots around Merano and introduces you to the people behind the products.

1) Wine Alto Adige

Wines from South Tyrol have character. Though the province is indeed a comparatively small wine-growing area, around 20 different grape varieties grow on only 5,400 hectares incl. Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Vernatsch, Lagrein, etc. For decades now, many South Tyrolean winegrowers and wineries have earned a deserved reputation amongst the most distinguished wine guides. Wines from the Kellerei Meran winery and the Kellerei Nals Margreid winery, but also wines from small estates such as the Popphof winery or Unterortl, regularly receive ‘three glasses’ from the “Gambero Rosso” wine guide.

As you enjoy your culinary journey in and around Merano, you should definitely also visit one (or more) of South Tyrol's 5,000 wineries, some of which offer excellent wines exclusively for their guests only: for instance the Kränzel winery in Cermes/Tscherms, where you will find excellent wines as well as a labyrinth garden, a cave, a natural theatre and an excellent restaurant housed in an old mill.

2) Speck Alto Adige

Your culinary journey continues with the king of all South Tyrolean foods: Speck smoked ham! For generations, South Tyrolean speck has been smoked according to ancient family recipes. The exact spice mix is often a bit different depending on the producer and it is a strictly guarded secret. Nevertheless, rosemary, bay leaves, juniper, salt and pepper are often key ingredients.

The method used to produce South Tyrolean speck differs from methods popular in northern or southern Europe. In South Tyrol, the Speck is smoked and also air-dried. Smoked ham lovers should plan a visit to the Brunnenburg castle in Tirolo/Dorf Tirol, where Mangalica domesticated pigs are kept. Here, Siegfried de Rachewiltz processes the pork meat into outstanding speck. By the way, Siegfried is one of 37 farmers in the "Bauernspeck Alto Adige" project who exclusively use meat from South Tyrolean pigs to make speck. When properly matured, excellent speck is also available at the Schnalshuberhof farm in Lagundo/Algund. Here, organic farmer Christian Pinggera only serves what is seasonally available at the farm’s Buschenschank farmhouse inn.

3) South Tyrolean cheese

Without this speciality there would be no Kasnocken (cheese dumplings) and no Brettlmarende (meat & cheese snacks). It’s true: South Tyrol would not be South Tyrol without its ever popular cheese varieties made from cow, sheep’s or goat’s milk and refined with chilli, wine or hay.

South Tyrolean cheese is best purchased directly from the farmer, for example at the Boarbichl dairy in Scena/Schenna. At their mountain farm, the Dosser family breeds old varieties of domestic animals. Sieglinde turns milk from authentic grey cattle into delicious cheeses, which then bear names such as "Schmuggler Luis" and "Rebell." Cheese lovers will also get their money's worth at the Psair organic mountain-cheese dairy, where all kinds of organically produced cheeses from the Passeiertal valley are available for purchase.
If you are planning an excursion to the Ultental valley, don’t miss Edith’s goat’s cheese dairy. The Baschtelehof farm is located directly along the Via dei Masi and boasts a selection of goat’s cheeses that are refined with horseradish, basil and chilli or parsley. Tip: if you don’t normally care for goat’s cheese but are still keen to have your mind changed, try Edith’s cheese. It tastes extremely mild and not at all like the goat’s cheese you may already be familiar with.

The Englhorn farm cheese dairy in Malles/Mals is yet another insiders’ tip for all cheese lovers. Alexander Agethle is an organic farmer by conviction. His cows live outside all year round and you can taste the difference when sampling his three cheeses.

One personality simply must be included in this guide: "Cheese God" Hansi Baumgartner. The former top chef from the Eisacktal valley is now a cheese affineur, a specialist in cheese refinement. His creations are stored in hay, packed with plant leaves or even a layer of ash.
4) The people behind the specialities

What would the many excellent specialities be without their producers, hut keepers and farmers? Such key contributions should not be taken for granted:

For example, organic farmer Lukas from the Valentinhof farm in Merano. He cultivates such a rich assortment of pome, stone and berry fruits in addition to vegetables and herbs that his organic farm shop could easily pass as a small vegetable supermarket. After shopping, you can drink coffee and eat homemade cakes at the Valentinhof farm while the kids play in the garden with Fetti, the domesticated pig, or Valentin and Valentina, the farm’s miniature pigs.

We shouldn’t neglect to mention Jakob Haller and his special cooking concepts ‘#amaulvoll’ and ‘trash cooking.’ This young chef does everything himself, from cultivation to the finished product. He offers catering, organises courses and opens a pop-up restaurant here and there. From products that would normally end up in the waste, such as fish scales, cauliflower leaves or bull penis (yes, you read that right, bull penis), he creates extraordinary and absolutely delicious dishes.

Last but not least is star chef Anna Matscher, who was a trained masseuse and only started cooking after a career change. Today, she has a Michelin star and conjures up gourmet dishes for her guests in the restaurant "Zum Löwen" inn in Tesimo/Tisens.

5) Hiking and Enjoyment

There are many trails for real gourmets around Merano. The WineCulturePath Marlengo leads past vineyards that are beautifully situated in the countryside. The wineries cordially invite guests to stop in for a tasting. The Via Vinum Venostis in the Vinschgau valley also leads past farms and vineyards.

Along the many Waalweg canal trails around Merano, you can meander through both apple and vineyard areas. In autumn, you can enjoy the glow of the golden yellow leaves and also meet the farmers during harvest.

If you’re keen to get to know even more South Tyrolean locals, pay close attention to the Real Quality in the Mountains seal of quality when hiking in the mountains of South Tyrolean. Hut keepers with this special designation only serve dishes made exclusively from regional products. They also like to have a chat with their guests! You will find the most beautiful hiking tips and the best hut tips here.