Italy’s Pinot Pioneer Franziskus Haas Dies

Franziskus Haas

© Othmar Kiem

Franziskus Haas

Franziskus Haas

© Othmar Kiem

The news spread rapidly in Alto Adige and the Italian wine world last Sunday: Franziskus Haas of Franz Haas Winery in Montan in Alto Adige, Italy, had died of a heart attack in the afternoon. He was skiing with his son Franziskus when he suddenly felt sick on the chairlift. By the time the two reached the top station, it was already too late.

A breakthrough

Born in 1953, Franziskus Haas took over the running of the estate in the early 1980s. The estate had been in family hands by then for around a hundred years. He first gained international attention in the late 1980s when his Pinot Nero Schweitzer left famous Pinot Noirs from other countries – including France – in the shade. The comparative blind tasting had been organised by the Swiss-based Vinum magazine.

A dream of Pinot Noir

The trained oenologist went on to make many successful wines, including the white blend Manna, named after his wife. Haas’ heart, however, belonged to one grape variety only: Pinot Noir. He rubbed up against it, rejoiced with it, and despaired of it. Haas was often his own harshest critic, ready to radically question his actions again and again. Because he considered the climate in Montan to have become too warm for Pinot, he took it to new heights, planting at alpine altitudes. First he planted vineyards at 800m/2,625 ft, later at over 1,100m/3,280ft. His dream was to make great Pinot Noir. He fulfilled his dream with his Pinot Nero Pònkler. In the Falstaff Weinguide 2021, Pònkler was named Best Red Wine in Alto Adige in 2015.

A great loss

I visited time and again to taste Franziskus Haas' various Pinot Noir experiments with him in his cellar. Most recently, just a fortnight ago, when we enjoyed great food and wine at his Manna restaurant, his latest project, talking about future plans. Last Sunday, we lost a great wine friend.

FIND OUT MORE