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Walter Glatzer farms 54 hectares in the ancient region of Carnuntum, the largest border community of the Roman Empire where Celtics, Romans, and later monastic settlements tended vines for over 2000 years. Carnuntum has a unique combination of exposition, soil and microclimate that provides perfect conditions for viticulture. Vines in Carnuntum benefit from the contrast created by the warm Pannonian plane to the northeast, the cooling currents off the Danube, and wind protection from the Maria Ellend forest, to the north. This climate creates wide diurnal temperature swings, giving the wines a freshness and brightness that makes them a pleasure to drink.
“Nearly every wine, from the light grüner veltliner to the red wines and the sparkling wines, has the potential to be the best of that vintage in its category,” declares Peter Moser, editor and publisher of Falstaff Wine Guide, Austria’s most respected and comprehensive wine publication. Also named in 2009 by Wine & Spirits Magazine “the best Austrian winemaker of the last 25 years,” Willi Bründlmayer farms 75 hectares of grüner veltliner, riesling, st. laurent, zweigelt and Burgundian varieties from an impressive collection of grand cru vineyards around Langenlois.
From 35 hectares of Erste Lage holdings in the Kamptal, Ludwig Hiedler is crafting some of the most interesting, texturally compelling wines of the region. The Hiedler family has been producing wine in Langelois since the mid-18th century. Starting in 1980, Ludwig and María Angeles Hiedler have lead operations, while their son Ludwig Jr. finishes his winemaking studies and practicum at Von Volxem. Hiedler’s holdings are in the best vineyards in the Kamptal, with riesling parcels in the Heiligenstein and Gaisberg, and grüner veltliner in the deep loess vineyards that rest at the base of those two mountains: Lamm, Grub, and Renner. Hiedler’s other sites in the area include a ‘Grand Cru’ monopole, Thal, Spiegel, Steinhaus, and Loiserberg. In addition to grüner veltiliner and riesling, the Hiedlers work with weissburgunder, the first plantings of which were planted by Ludwig’s father in the Schenkenbickl, a ‘Grand Cru’ plot just below the Käferberg. The estate is a pioneer in ecological winegrowing and only sustainable vineyard practices are implemented – intense cover of herbs and flowering vegetation are used, as well as a compost program and integrated pest management. The first organic experiments began in the sites Thal and Kittmannsberg and have extended throughout Hiedler’s parcels. ORGANIC & BIODYNAMIC.
In the wines of Hirsch Vineyards you find a natural balance and consistency in the harmonious resolution of these opposites. This complex, unique site produces fruit and wines of unusual acidity and balance with a vintage specific concentration of pinot noir or chardonnay fruit. These are wines to be enjoyed now or laid down for future consumption.
All single vineyard wines and the most precious specialities carry the Schloss Gobelsburg label. These wines seek to explore the nuances of the Danube region Kamptal, from geological differences between individual vineyards to specialties such as the brut reserve, pinot noir, st. Laurent, and sweet wines.
With Erich Berger’s guidance, the winery has implemented methods to produce wines that focus on varietal character and terroir. The white wines grow on steep loess terraces which characterize the landscape of the eastern part of the Kremstal. These terraces store heat during the day and reflect it onto the vines at night producing wines with unique fruity, fresh and bright flavors. The red wines are grown at the top of the hills where more humus-rich soils dominate and give the wines length, body, spice and lush fruit. Vineyards are maintained according to the latest organic guidelines. In the winery, efforts are made to preserve the fruit character by using cultured yeast in combinations with slow fermentations that are temperature controlled. The white wines are then aged exclusively in stainless steel, while the red wines are matured in traditional oak vats.
Weingut Nigl, tucked deep in the Krems Valley on the edge of the Senftenberg mountain, often evokes feelings that one has travelled back to medieval times; the wines Martin Nigl creates are as ethereal as the vine lands that they come from. The ruins of the Senftenberg castle, erected in 1197, are perched above the terraced vineyards Höchacker, Pellingen, Piri, and Kirchenberg. These terroirs of primary rock, or ‘gneiss,’ planted to riesling and grüner veltliner, have much more in common with the Wachau than with the rest of the Kremstal. In fact, the border between the Wachau, to the west is political, and the geology is much more similar to the famous sites in that region. There is an important climactic difference in the two regions. Due to the influence of the forested mountains, Seftenberg experiences cooler nights than the Wachau and therefore larger diurnal swings in temperature, drawing out the ripening season and contributing spiciness and depth to the wines.
If vineyards could speak, there would be endless hours of exciting discussions in the Kremstal. Especially because the 2,600 hectares of vineyards here are divided into different zones: the Stadt Krems, the eastern-lying areas, and the small wine villages south of the Danube. But there are uniting elements - Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, which are the key representatives of the entire region as well as expressions of art and culture. In the old town of Krems, the close link to wine is more than evident. A place that has long – and superbly - fulfilled its role as an ambassador of Austrian wine culture, Krems is also the place where old harvest estates reflect great viticultural tradition. And where young and successful wine-growers, an innovative wine co-operative and an outstanding wine school are thriving. It is also home to the renowned Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) Wine Fair.
Erich Sattler is emblematic of the new generation of Austrian vintners: a wine-school grad and the 4th generation in the family to take over his family’s estate, in 1999. “We make wine as my grandfather did,” he says, “only with better machines.” Located in and around the village of Tadten, Sattler’s vineyards are on the east side of Lake Neusiedl, which moderates the warm air from the easterly Pannonian plain’s continental influence. The soil here is composed mainly of gravel, part of a 5 kilometer wide gravel bed left behind when the Danube river dried up 2 million years ago. Sattler’s st. laurent and zweigelt vines, some of which are 40+ years old, are well suited to gravel soils for the production of wines with ‘ripe, soft tannin,’ Erich’s primary goal. Sattler practices certified minimal-impact vineyard management, does not irrigate his 22 hectares, green harvests to reduce yields to a mere 5 to 7 bunches per vine, and harvests by hand. In order to produce dense, balanced wines with silky tannins, in his ‘classic’ wines Sattler de-stems, ferments in stainless steel, with elevage on the lees for 6 months in stainless and large oak casks. For the reserve wines, fermentation occurs in 2000 liter open top vats, punch downs are done manually, and then wines are matured for 12 months in Allier oak barrels for the St. Laurent Reserve, and new barrels for the Zweigelt Reserve. Erich never uses any technical concentration methods like reverse osmosis, or any additives before or after fermentation. Sattler succeeds in his objective of producing “variety-typical, dense and smooth wines with harmoniously integrated tannins, lovely fruit and pleasant acidity.”
Heidi Schröck took over her family winery in 1983, in the historic village of Rust situated in the province of Burgenland about 5 miles from the Hungarian border. As Heidi explains “South-facing vineyards in a softly rolling landscape form an amphitheater around Rust on Lake Neusiedl bringing forth some of the best and most tradition-rich wines in Austria. Yearly hours of sunshine that lie much higher than the Austrian average combined with sandy soils mixed with clay and high calcium content provide the ideal prerequisites for impressive, full-bodied wines.” In 2003 Heidi was awarded “Falstaff Vintner of the Year”, making her one of only a handful of women to be obtain this distinction. She re-introduced historic varietals such as muscat-lunel and furmint from Hungary while continuing to work with more classic Austrian varietals such as grauburgunder, weissburgunder, and welschriesling. Heidi is the long-time leader of Cercle Ruster Ausbruch, an organization whose goal is to bring back Ausbruch, a sweet wine reminiscent of Hungary’s Royal Tokaji that had not existed since the phylloxera outbreak in the 19th century. Ausbruch is harvested from botrytised grapes with a must weight between BA and TBA (138 Oechsle) and Heidi’s wine is one of Rust’s iconic examples of this noble sweet wine.
The Prieler estate, in Schützen on the western side of the Lake Neusiedl, is a historic old farm, once dedicated to many types of agriculture but now specializing in grape growing. Two generations of the Prieler family now run the estate: Engelbert and Irmgard, who in 1972 focused the estate on quality production of several grape varieties, mainly blaufränkisch and Burgundian varieties. Their son, Georg, now heads the estate and continues working to best express the unique terroir of the Leithagebirge. Prieler’s 20 hectares are currently cultivated in vineyards between the Leithagebirge, the last outpost of the eastern Alps that protect the vines from the western winds, and the Lake Neusiedl, which tempers the hot climate of the Pannonian plain. Basking in 2000 hours of sunshine annually, North Burgenland is the sunniest region in all of central Europe, with far below average rain fall. Soils vary dramatically in this area around the Schützen Stein. Seeberg and Sinner vineyards contain fossil bearing limestone and are best suited, to Prieler’s outstanding Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. The iron-rich, brown loam of the Johanneshöhe on the slopes of the Leithaberg produces delicious blaufränkisch, while the Goldberg vineyard, filled with ‘glimmerschiefer’, or mica-schist, flecked with gold, produces one of the most important, world-class wines in all of Austria.
Südburgenland is located in the south-eastern corner of Austria and benefits from the effects of the Pannonian climate. At one time Südburgenland was politically part of Hungary, whose border can be seen from the top of the Eisenberg; the highest and finest site in the region. Reinhold Krutzler is the fifth generation to run this top estate, which began bottling wines in 1966. Before taking over the winery, Reinhold worked with renowned winemaker Willi Bründlmayer in the Kamptal and has also made wine in France, Italy and South Africa. He works 12 hectares around the Eisenberg, (“Iron Mountain”) and the village of Deutsch Schützen. This town is also the location of the Eisenberg (Iron Mountain), of which Krutzler owns 3 hectares. Confusingly, the DAC (think AOC) here takes the name of the top site in the region. A wine with ‘Eisenberg DAC’ on the label does not necessarily come from the exceptional Eisenberg vineyard. The Eisenberg is one of Austria’s best red wine terroirs and was an iron ore mine in Roman times. The climate here is influenced by its high altitude (450 meters) and the dense forests at its summit- it is cooler here than Mittelburgenland and Neusiedlersee to the north.
The Huber family has wine growing roots dating back more than 220 years. Today the winery in Reichersdorf is in its 10th generation and is run by Markus Huber. In 2000 Markus took over four hectares from his father which, up to that point, had been farmed to produce the wines served in his family restaurant. His outstanding ability to manage the winery with sensitivity and consistency, both in the vineyards and the cellars, has ensured that in a very short space of time he has established Huber wines as an internationally acclaimed leading producer in Austria. Absolute focus on the strengths of the region and the unique soil types that are found there ensure that year on year the wines display unmistakable clarity and fruit styles. “Sustainable development, carefully controlling the harvest and meticulous pruning are the most natural and important prerequisites for successful winemaking.” Markus Huber
Nikolaihof is one of the oldest wine estates in Austria, whose history goes back almost 2000 years to the Roman empire. Originally chosen by the Romans because it was considered a Celtic holy site prior to 800 B.C., the foundations of the current house date to a Roman tower which existed as early as 63 B.C. Wine has been produced here since the time of the Celts and continued throughout the time of the Romans. Germanic monks obtained the estate during the collapse of Rome, and the first written evidence of winemaking comes from 470 A.D. This writing documented the monk’s ownership of the vineyard ‘Im Weingebirge’, the earliest named vineyard site in all of Europe. In 1894 the Saahs family took over the estate and carried on the traditions the monks had established here. Integrated farming continued, and even as winemaking and grape growing took a larger role at Nikolaihof in the 1960s, chemicals were never used in farming. Essentially this estate has always been organic. Nikolaihof has been practicing Bio-dynamics since 1971, making them one of the longest Bio-dynamic practicing wineries in the world. Nikoliahof became Demeter certified Bio-dynamic in 1998.
In 1896 after a tour of France’s many vineyards, Marcel Ott, a young graduate in agronomy engineering from Alsace, finally found an estate that inspired him. To set the scene, we are in Provence. The Mediterranean is lapping at the shore a mere stone’s throw away... In these parts, growing wines is the legacy of ancient times. Alas, a short while before Marcel Ott’s discovery, phylloxera had wreaked havoc on the vines. The land was cheaper but had been replanted too quickly and badly. The wine had lost a great deal of its soul in the vineyard’s reconstruction. Marcel Ott bought several estates and began renovating them with the determined ambition to create great Provencal wines from noble grape varieties. Today, 120 years later, cousins Jean-François and Christian Ott dedicate their life to their ancestor’s love for the site. In 2004, Domaines Ott* joined Louis Roederer and its fabulous selection of wine craftsmen.
The Hofer family farms vineyards in Auersthal, a dead-still little wine village in the Weinviertel, just barely beyond Vienna’s northern suburbs. The gently rolling hills in in this village are made up of deep loess soils and are planted predominantly to grüner veltliner, in addition to some zweigelt and riesling. Additionally, the Hofers grow organic grains; rye, barley, and alfalfa. These grains are raised for consumption, and are used as cover-crops in their vineyards. There was a time when only a small amount of wine was produced at the farm of Hermann Hofer’s parents, but the quality was worthy enough to motivate Hermann to increase production and begin making top-quality wine. Hofer has been making wine since the early 1980s and has been certified organic since 2001 by the group Bio-Ernte, whose standards exceed EU guidelines for organic grape growing. It is rare to find such high quality wines farmed with such attention and responsibility, especially in the Weinvertel, Austria’s largest growing region and home to many commodity-wine producers. In the cellars at Hofer grapes are de-stemmed, macerated for only a short time, and then vinified in stainless steel with the goals of typicity and freshness in mind.
Pratsch is a relatively small, 20 hectare estate comprised of 13 single vineyards in the Niederosterreich region (Lower Austria) all maintained under organic certification for over 10 years by the Pratsch family, Wilhelm and Anneliese and their son, Stefan. Organic winegrowing to them is more than just the elimination of pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilizers, but rather part of a larger, holistic philosophy of dedication to the land and the quality of the wines. On the glacier formed hills and alluvial soils, the ripening process of the estate-grown grapes is promoted by high, sun-exposed vine trellising, known as the Guyot Double. This tall system combined with the areas winds help cut down the problem of fungal diseases, maintaining dry, unaffected grapes. Constant hand-pruning and care to the vines are administered in order to further maintain health in the vineyard. Cover crops in and around the vineyards help attract insects and other vine damaging parasites away from the vines. Natural fertilizers are used to transport nitrogen and other nutrients back to the soils. All of this attention to detail and dedication to the purity of the land by Stefan and the Pratsch family is translated directly into the quality of the wines that are a true reflection of their terroir.
“Our wine-growing credo begins with the right approach to working the soil, largely eliminating the need to fertilize. A high vine density helps ease the strain on the individual vines. Throughout the year steps are taken to reduce the amount of grapes produced, which in turn increases the quality of our grapes.” Rudolf Schwarzböck’s goal is to achieve the right physiological maturity and ripeness, year after year, at his family’s estate. Rudi assumed control of the winery from his father in 1994, though he says “1997 is really the first vintage I was happy with.” His wife Anita took her share of the reins in 2003, and the two function as a seamless team. Weingut Schwarzböck is based in the village of Hagenbrunn, which is basically at the city-line of Vienna. The village’s unique geology and position make it an ideal and interesting terroir for grape growing, very close to the Danube River. The soils in Hagenbrunn are loess, sand and marl with a very special terroir of stony flysch, which produces an excellent rielsing. This remarkable and small (50m) band of marine sedimentary sandstone (flysch) on the steep slopes of the Bisamberg hill gives Schwarzböck’s riesling a truly unique character. In the winery, gravity flow is used in order to avoid pumping the wine. The wines are then allowed to mature slowly in stainless steel tanks and bottled when they are deemed mature and ready, often relatively late in context of their Austrian counterparts. “Rudolf & Anita Schwarzböck have managed to position their winery as one of the most interesting quality enterprises in the Weinviertel in less than 10 years.” – Falstaff“Theirs is a silky substance not unlike Gobelsburg, in fact. They’re not as creamy as Berger or Setzer; theirs is a more up-front palate dance. They make a quick and delightful impression.” –Terry Theise
My formal sommelier education began in 1998, when I was invited by our group leader to the “Best Sommelier in the World” competition in Vienna where he was the Austrian candidate. After finishing my Sommelier exam, the same group leader approached me about competing. I won “Best Sommelier in Austria” in 2002 and defended the title until 2006, returning to compete after I moved to the US in 2004. I started out in the New York sommelier scene at Wallsé, Café Sabarsky, and Blaue Gans. Then, in 2007, I won "Best Sommelier in America" and I joined Le Bernardin as Chef Sommelier. We opened Aldo Sohm Wine Bar in 2014. I’ve kept my position at Le Bernardin because it's hard for me to imagine leaving the floor, so I've always looked for other ways to expand my knowledge in the wine-world. Encouraged by the experience of designing my wine key with Laguiole after taking home "Best Sommelier in the World 2008," I was definitely excited to pursue partnerships with Zalto and Kracher when they came about!