The three days in Merano were certainly a succession of emotions, especially for someone like me, that the highest mountain where I have ever been is the one of my clothes at the end of a working hard week. Well yes, I have never really had an holiday in the mountains, I never skied and never even wore ski clothes, not even for carnival, in my whole life, so I find myself pretty awkward but also very curious in these mountains, these villages with wooden roofs, already completely whitewashed with snow on November 7th, which made me feel like a little girl in the village of Santa Claus.
Among the other emotions of the first day, I have already introduced to you Peter Mittelberger, our tour guide in Alois Lageder in my previous post, here Peter also opened up to us his world, his family company, the Mittelberger, between the most important coopers in the world.
The Mittelbergers are three brothers, they lead the family company with very distinct tasks, they followed their personal inclinations to better divide the main tasks among themselves within the management of the family business. Markus, the older brother, personally takes care of the woodworking and the selection of the oak, a very delicate and important part, in which more than one brother often participates. Konrad, the middle brother, takes care of the administrative part of the company as well as supervising the process. Peter, the youngest of the three, handles sales, marketing and customer care.
One of the most fascinating parts of Peter’s stories is certainly the selection. In fact, Mittelberger is one of those companies, perhaps the only one, which personally takes care of going to select and buy its own oak for the barrels directly in the French oak forests. The most important part is that they only and exclusively supply themselves from sustainably managed woods and woods that are suitable for becoming staves for the barrels. For Mittelberger, the concept of quality is not only important, it is the dogma, the pillar on which the family business has been based for decades, and it is what actually made them famous all over the world.
Part of the process takes place mainly in Bolzano, close to the city, where barrels of various shapes and sized are created from wooden slats. Another very important concept that distinguish Mittelberger from other coopers is that they first buy the oak and then they sell the amount of business they can make with that order. So they do not sell more barrels than the oak they have in house, because that would mean to buy more wood, often at lower quality.
But in my opinion the most fascinating part is undoubtedly that of storing and maturing the wood,which is left to rest in a tiny mountain village, in the presence of the Dolomites, where the wood ages from three to five years, protected by a layer of snow that helps them keep all their qualities intact during the seasoning.
I strongly recommend that you check on their website, the Matrix of Common Good, an ethical document which is about sustainability and quality of all the process, not only for their business but above all of human relationships, which is in my opinion very useful for every one.
After this amazing experience we were ready for one of the best gastronomic experiences we have ever had, check out my post on the Miil restaurant in Merano for that.