Today I will share with you a story of passion, innovation and quality. Come with me to South Tyrol, to be precise to “Auna di Sotto sul Renon”, a tiny village of 270 inhabitants near Bolzano. Here, in a farm dating back to the early 1900s, the Kohl family lives. Initially the work of the whole family was based on breeding and the production of milk and derivatives, but over time, they realized that it was not enough and that they had to find something else, experiment something different and innovative! Thomas Kohl, the eldest of three brothers and single male, takes over the reins of the farm and undertakes a new, perhaps seemingly insane road.
We are in 1994 when Thomas, after finishing his studies at the agricultural institute, decides to plant the first apple trees in a valley at over 900 meters above sea level, which is quite extraordinary since apples usually grow at the bottom of a valley. Cradled by the fresh wind of the mountains and exposed to intense sunlight, his apples slowly begin to grow and with them the future of the Kohl family. The proximity to the sun allows the fruit to reach a higher level of sugar and then to acquire a more intense aroma, well preserved by the acidity triggered by the sharp drop in temperature at night. In 2004 their first apple juice was born reinvigorating Thomas interests in ancient and rare apples, including the Wintercalville, the fruit that has a genealogical tree dating back to the Middle Ages! The Wintercalville, originally from Normandy, has long been on the table of the noblest circles.
Its tree is sensitive and requires a strong, good and warm soil, just like the one offered on the Renon. The juice that is produced has a golden yellow colour; in the mouth, we feel all its spices and aroma. A taste to be discovered.
Thomas’s idea is to create a niche product, something exceptional and unobtainable elsewhere!
Thus in 2007 the production of mono varietal apple juice started. Unlike other apple juice producers, the Kohl Company uses the top quality apple in full maturity, with the aim of bringing this gourmet drink to the same levels of wine, in restaurants and luxury hotels.
Following these guidelines also bottling and labelling change, reaching unique levels of elegance and style. Without seeing them, it is difficult to describe the beauty and fineness of the gift boxes of their Grand Cru apple juice, where the design of the golden leaves stands out against the elegant black colour of the packaging. A present that will surely hit the heart!
Let’s now go back to the Kohl family’s dream, to bring their incredible apple juice on the menus of the best restaurants.
The first challenge is to open people’s minds to the fact that there are valid alternatives to wine or beer during a meal. Imagine being able to accompany a dinner with a glass of something as intense, fragrant and aromatic, as wine or beer, but different. Apple juice is healthy and non-alcoholic!
It is a very interesting alternative! Also because you have the opportunity to try new combinations, brave but perfectly balanced. To open the doors to this new concept on June 9th, Ulriche “Uli” Platter, wonderful Project Manager of the Kohl company, has organized, together with the “Ristorante C’era una Volta of Trieste” (of which I had already told you in a previous article) a guided tasting with just their apple juices.
Curious as only a woman can be, I did not miss this experience! The chef of the restaurant, Matteo Tugliach, greets us warmly and Uli tells us what we are going to taste: five dishes combined with five different juices, from their Ananasrenette to their Cuvèe. But let us proceed in order, from start to finish!
Here comes the starter, spring in a dish: a soft flan of asparagus with pecorino cheese fondue, skilfully combined with the Grand Cru Ananasrenette juice, obtained from an ancient and very rare apple.
Aesthetically it is not a beautiful fruit, but inside it hides its treasure, an intense pineapple scent, fresh and clean, which, with its acidity not at all intrusive, perfectly marries the pecorino.
We continue with potato gnocchi, this “ibores” (Spanish cheese similar to goat cheese) and lard “patanegra”. The juice combined with this delicious dish is very special! Inside, the hop flower has been infused, which gives that typical bitter aftertaste, clearly recalling another known drink, beer.
The dish, loaded, tasty and spicy is perfectly balanced by the bitterness and the freshness of this second juice.
We arrive at the meat and here expectations are skyrocketing!
A “secret of patanegra” (a very rare meat cut) is served grilled with a mountain apple and cranberry juice. The colours are stunning! Red meat, red wine … erh red juice!
The sourness of the blueberry and its unmistakable scent cradle the masterfully cooked meat, crispy outside and soft inside. I put down the fork and the knife and I get emotional.
And if this dish has impressed me, the “grilled scaldini” with smoked potato quenelle, accompanied by apple and currant juice has conquered me completely!
I’m not entirely sure I will go back to wine after this dinner! Spectacular!
I open a small parenthesis on these last two juices: they are both part of the Essence line which represents the Cuvèe of apple juices whose intriguing aromas are refined with the accompaniment of another fruit, a vegetable, berries or extracts. The strong flavour of apple juice is completed to perfection thanks to this fine assemblage.
And now, “dulcis in fundo” of course, a bitter cocoa biscuit with English cream and coffee powder. What can this dish be matched with if not the king of their juices? The already praised Grand Cru Wintercalville, which, with its delicacy, lets loose all the flavours of this dessert.
The tasting, like all good things, has come to an end and I am very happy to have experienced such a bliss.
Love for their land, trust in innovation, tenacity and passion: all this is Kohl.
The proof that the future can be born from an apple.
Ph. Silvia Policardi