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The Natural Wonders of Austria

February 14, 2013
© Weingut Sepp & Maria Muster

Home of Rudolph Steiner, the father of biodynamics (well, he was born in what’s now Croatia but let’s not split hairs), and blessed with over two thousand years of winemaking history, one would think that Austria would be a haven for natural wines.

Sadly, it isn’t, which means that life back home can be a little tough for those Austrians producing wines that are outside the conventional wine box. Austrian drinkers aren’t used to hearing, seeing or tasting them, which means that selling proper natural wine is difficult. Indeed many producers say that their wines tend to be far more appreciated abroad, in the likes of London, Paris or San Francisco, than in Vienna itself. Here is what Edward Tscheppe, of Gut Oggau, had to say when we caught up with him at a recent tasting in London:

“Austrian natural wine has to look for a bigger stage – Europe and the rest of the world. [As a producer,] if you only go for Austrian customers it’s kind of hard because Austrian wine producers have, for the last 30 years, taught drinkers to appreciate the ‘special style’ of Austrian wine, which is not wine that is grown but wine that is made. If you look through the estates in Austria, you’ll see that cellar techniques are highly developed – it’s all very modern. A lot of work is done in the cellar and some have forgotten about the work that ought to be done in the vineyards. So for some Austrian customers it’s really hard to get their head around the idea of natural wine because they are so used to this ‘special profile’ that they have been taught to enjoy. Some, you can persuade, others you can enthuse but there are some you simply can’t reach, can’t touch, at all.

I don’t know if this is just the case in Austria, but in any case, if you go for the natural approach, you are in it for the long run and you have to actively find people who love this approach. You can’t just wait around until somebody takes notice.  I don’t know if it’s harder than in any other countries, certainly it’s harder than in France, but it’s doable and we certainly have the beginnings of a movement.”

These heroic growers busy pushing the boat out in their homeland deserve support not least because they produce delicious, complex wines that are well worth exploring. We’re proud that RAW WINE 2013 will host an exciting, eclectic selection of some of Austria’s best growers. Come and explore…

•   wine matured in an oak barrel buried in a field by Andreas Tscheppe;

•   wines produced using ‘grapes, love and time’ by Strohmeier, including an extremely more-ish bubbly;

•   delicious tipples with funky vineyard names like Vom Opok, Graf and Sgaminegg, by Sepp & Maria Muster;

•   sulphite-free wonders by Karl Schnabel;

•   skin-macerated orange wines by Werlitsch, whose logo features a planet that looks a lot like Le Petit Prince’s Asteroid B-612;

•   wines from unpruned, Grauben vineyards at Meinklang’s iconic biodynamic estate, where grapes rub shoulders with ancient Einkorn wheat, apples and long-horned Angus cattle;

•   and last but certainly not least, meet the members of the supremely creative Gut Oggau family, including a cheeky daughter, her adulterous mum and Werthers Original-like Granddad.

© Gut Oggau

RAW WINE Sneak Peeks

Some of the wines we’ve tasted at the office this week:

(Notes by Isabelle Legeron MW)

Werlitsch, Ex Vero II 2006

A wonderfully poised, elegant wine. Flinty nose, balanced oak spice. Notes of freshly peeled, young walnuts. Bright acidity, great concentration and tension on the palate suggesting a good few years more of potential development.

Sepp & Maria Muster, Graf Sauvignon 2008

Opulent, ripe nose with great varietal expression. Sweet sauvignon spice, almost bay leaf notes, intriguing bergamot and tangerines, balanced tangy acidity and a wonderfully textured, almost oily, mouthfeel.

Strohmeier, Trauben, Liebe und Zeit Rosewein 2008

Wonderful copper colour with a tinge of orange, this wine shows a deeply expressive licorice nose. Tiny, wild blueberries & savoury rose petal notes. The palate is fresh, with a gorgeous, crunchy texture. Surprisingly youthful given its age.

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