The steep slope benefits the vines: The wine village of Völs is located at the foot of the striking Schlern mountain, close to Lake Völs, one of the most beautiful bathing lakes in Italy. In this corner of South Tyrol, winegrowing is not a job, but a vocation. The Bessererhof wine estate has made a particularly good name for itself with its high-quality products. However, the success also created a serious problem: The business was bursting at the seams. This was the moment when landlord Otmar Mair met the Bolzano-based architect Theodor Gallmetzer, as well as the artist blacksmith Klaus Andergassen from Salorno, at an initial reconstruction meeting.

Experience is key

“At that time I had just finished reconstructing the Kobler wine estate in Margreid, as well as a private winery in Eppan a.d.Weinstrasse, and had some experience under my belt,” Theodor Gallmetzer remembers.

“Experience is vital for such a project. For example, the grapes also need to be handled with care after the harvest. Therefore, a central requirement is to only use slides and not pumps to transport them to the press. Room heights of up to four metres are required for this purpose.”

In those days, there was a barn beside the main building, which is typical for the traditional South Tyrol farmyard with two separate buildings.

“We wanted to keep this setup with the new building,” continues Theodor Gallmetzer. A building with three floors was built: the underground wine storehouse, the wine cellar including barrique cellar built into the slope, as well as the upper floor with tasting rooms, offices, storage and unloading areas.

The facade made from corten steel picks up the colours oft he wine region

“As everything here is about wine,” adds artist blacksmith Klaus Andergassen.

“The idea was to emphasise this tradition in the outer facade.”

Green and brown are the dominant colours in South Tyrol’s wine regions at the time around grape harvesting. “Normal plaster wouldn’t have done this justice. Timber cladding wears quickly. The decision was taken to erect a facade made from corten steel – to be exact, MEVACO expanded metal, rhomb-aligned, 62 x 20 x 7 with a 2mm material thickness.”

“Corten steel offers excellent advantages for the facade construction,” explains Theodor Gallmetzer.

“First of all, it has a natural appearance. Instead of a monochrome area, corten steel offers beautiful colour nuances. And then there are the preserving characteristics. Corten steel is a weather-resistant structural steel, which in the course of time because of weather conditions forms a thick barrier layer made from adhesive elements such as copper, chrome and nickel. This layer protects against further corrosion. The characteristic patina finish which develops over this layer, which does not leach.”

Theodor Gallmetzer smiles at this idea: “Before we started I checked its weather resistance in some tests.”

A substructure for the corten facade

In this manner the building obtained its optimal facade protection, which also offers good rear ventilation. For Theodor Gallmetzer, who is active in climate protection and also an expert planner, this is another positive feature of MEVACO expanded metals. A decision was made not to use L-brackets for the mounting and instead a substructure was built with an invisible U-shaped profile on the facade. Klaus Andergassen mounted the expanded metal onto this substructure. The steep slope in particular was a challenge for the skilled artist blacksmith.

Despite the time pressure the details are important

“We worked a great deal with lifting platforms and cranes,” he states.

“They enabled me to screw my spacers to the substructure. I bent the spacers myself from corten steel profiles and secured them with wood screws. Everything ran smoothly with MEVACO, meaning we were able to adhere to the tight schedule. We began in late autumn after the grape harvest and had to have everything completed before the onset of winter. With such a project in the end it all comes down to the fine details: the finishes around the balconies, windows and doors needed beautiful straight lines. U-shaped ledges were cut directly into the slopes for the gutters. We were also able to complete this work on time.”

Corten steel has become a popular construction material in South Tyrol

And how do the people of South Tyrol and the many tourists feel about the new Bessererhof?

“We have received nothing but praise!” reports Theodor Gallmetzer.

“Both the press and the locals like it. Recently a steel construction company called me and commented on how wonderful it looked and asked how we did it. It’s no wonder that we are seeing more and more corten steel in our region.”

Whoever wants to see the revamped Bessererhof wine estate for themselves, and takes the Austrian Brenner motorway en route to South Tyrol, can admire the appearance of corten steel: The crash barriers on the motorway are now also manufactured from this material.