Franz Haas recently held a private dinner for the press celebrating Manna, a flagship wine for the winery. About thirty years ago, Franz and Maria-Luisa began trying to create a wine that would be so versatile, you would only need one wine at your dinner table. They finally released their first vintage in 1995 and to no one’s surprise, it swiftly became a go-to wine for many a dinner. According to Marco Magnoli, each vintage is better than the next. Please read his account of this wonderful tasting held just a few weeks ago.

Manna 1995-2015: A Staggering Vertical

One evening of 1989 Franz Haas and Maria Luisa Manna were comfortably sitting at a Michelin starred restaurant table. They were the only customers in the room and they had a sommelier, all the waiters and the entire kitchen crew at their disposal; the result was a memorable dinner of seven delicious courses accompanied by just as many bottles of wine.

While driving back home Franz and Maria Luisa started to fantasize about a wine so complex and full of nuances that would be able to accompany all the different courses of an articulated and rich dinner such as the one they had just enjoyed.

Six years later, in 1995, Franz gave a first concrete shape to their ambitious idea by creating a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc (since 2013 a percentage of Kerner has been added to it too); and so Manna was born; dedicated to Maria Luisa, a wine destined to become one of the symbols of the winery based in Montagna (Bz- South Tyrol); a wine which has been refined and redefined year after year on an ongoing search for perfection.

Cuvee of some of the most classic white grape varieties grown in South Tyrol, the Manna of the Vineyards of the White Dolomites (this is its full name) is produced from different vineyards in the municipalities of Montagna, Neumarkt, Aldino and Brixen, at altitudes between 350 and 800 meters above sea level and on very different soils of a variable nature between dolomite, porphyry, sandy and marly. The grapes are harvested and vinified separately obviously because of their different maturation periods. Over the years Franz has continued to experiment and perfect his winemaking technique also playing with different proportions of the vine varieties; Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc ferment in barriques, while Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Kerner in steel tanks; young wines are added on a later stage and after about ten months of laying on the yeasts the wine is bottled, followed by a further refinement of a few months in a cool cellar.

Having now reached vintage 2015, the Manna has gone through two decades in the history of the Haas’ Vinery. This was an important milestone that Franz and Maria Luisa wanted to celebrate in the best way by creating a staggering vertical of twenty-one vintages (all the ones that have been produced and marketed up to today), which took place last Monday, 13 March and to which we had the honour and great pleasure to participate.

A deeply evocative tasting, starting with the extraordinary view created by the long table full of glasses and the row of all the bottles lined up, which reserved great emotions with each one of the glasses; each single glass revealed a different wine although coherently part of a well-defined path.

We believe that presenting a pedantic list of detailed tasting notes vintage by vintage would ultimately deprive that atmosphere of its poetry and it really does not deserve this. Better, then, to limit ourselves and just refer in a general way to the sensitive differences shown by the wines from 2007 to 2015 compared to previous years. Those were bottled with a screw cap, rather than with the traditional cork, and that was able to preserve a more distinctive freshness and the fragrance of all the aromas together with a more evident vegetable imprint of the Sauvignon (even though we understand and appreciate the choice that Mr. Haas has made to definitively overcome the danger of defects often due to the use of cork, we continue to prefer the more relaxed evolution that cork gives to white wines); and also to tell you about of the most mature and evolved sensations that the wines started to convey beginning from the vintage 2000 and going back to 1995.

Of course the sensations that people had on the individual vintages were the most varied: there were those people who preferred the rich articulation, the sweetness of the fruit and flavour of the 2010 vintage; those who were seduced by the elegant balance and the gentle subtlety of 2002; or by the persuasive fullness and maturity of 2006, with its slightly vanilla flavoured softness, the warm spices, intriguing hints of saffron and citrus peel. There was who instead appreciated the most recent years, the 2012 with his nose incredibly floral and sweet, almost created “for a perfumery” or the newborn 2015, which in fact made an impression for its intense power, immediate, fragrant and generous tropical fruit flavour, prodded by a wonderful sapidity and enlivened by the gentle vegetable touch (a vintage that, incidentally, seems to mark a further stylistic evolution in the dynamics of the Manna’s history). We also need to mention the wonderful nose exhibited by the 1996, the extraordinary seduction of its evolutionary tones of honey and dried rose, or of the inebriating 1995 estate, that by letting it breathe slowly into the cup, became gradually fuller and fuller, more complex and engaging.

We must confess that we were personally quite captivated by the charm of 2003, extremely rich in spices, mellow and ripe fruits, full and sumptuous as expected because of that exceptionally warm year, and yet not at all tired or sagging, but animated by a vein of freshness, acidity and a note of anise appetizing and unexpected; but even more captivated by the superb personality of 2001, splendid in its floral scents and in the delicate hints of hydrocarbons, in its return of refined citrus, sweet and sour, intense and subtle orange zest together, refined and elegant sample of balance, measurement and finesse.

Beyond personal tastes and preferences it is impossible not to admire the talent and dedication of Franz and his team of collaborators: in Italy there are not really many winemakers indeed who can afford to present with confidence on the same table twenty-one consecutive vintages of a white wine, all perfectly enjoyable, most of them excellent, some definitely exceptional. Let’s then raise our glasses of Manna and drink to Franz and Maria Luisa, thanking them for what they were able to donate us and wishing them increasingly bright fortunes.