BRUNICO: It is a warm summer day in the hills of Alto Adige but we are warned to take the warmest clothes we can get. We are set to visit a wartime bunker in the hills on the outskirts of this buzzing town in South Tyrol.
This bunker is today called the Genuss Bunker (literally translated as pleasure bunker).
As you walk into a narrow door, a strong whiff of cheese greets you. The first room is the tasting area, a small space with a long table which can take up to 20 people.
Walk past this room and you are in Ali Baba’s cave for cheese lovers. for Hubert Stockner has converted a war bunker in this border region in Italy into the perfect spot where to age cheese.
The perfect conditions of the bunker make his cheese extremely special. Inside the nearly 300 metre cave, the humidity is nearly 100% and the temperature is constantly at 10C making this the ideal natural conditions for the ageing of cheese.
The result is something special.
Hubert Stockner’s passion is cheese. But until three years ago, he was working as a cheese master for a big German company. “But I want to smell the cheese and not sit in front of a computer.”
When he discovered the bunker, it was covered in stones and filled up to the knees in water. They had to take 16 tonnes of stones out of the caves. Today those 16 tonnes of stones are replaced by big circles of cheese which the cheese master ages in perfect conditions.
Hubert is a cheese master, fromelier and certified beer sommelier. During the tastings, he pairs the cheese with beers.
When the raw milk cheese arrive to the bunker from small producers in Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, he needs to turn them 3 times a week and once the cheese gets older, he turns the cheese once a week.
His 80-year-old father asks him each time whether he can come to help him do the job. “But there is not much to do other than let nature do the job,” Hubert says.
The natural cave in the tyrollean mountains, which was used during World War 2, serves as the maturing cave. This cave has the perfect ideal climatic conditions for ripening hard cheese, blue cheese and even pecorino. The special ripening climate and the special microflora in the natural stone bunker give the cheese a creamy smooth texture unlike what you’ve normally experienced before and also a very special aroma. It is a ripening room without any energy expenditure since creating these natural conditions.
Among his specialities are Pecorino from Emilia Romagna, Blauer Hohlengenuss, Bergkase Premium and BergGenuss.
The cheese specialities are found in selected stores and directly from Hubert Stockner. Of course, he also supplies top restaurants including St Hubertus, the three Michelin star restaurant, of Norbert Niederkofler which is in the region.