Weingut Michi Lorenz
On the south side of the Sausal mountains in South Styria in a municipality called Kitzeck im Sausal, lies Michi Lorenz’ estate. With 16 hectares of vines, Lorenz is making wine in a surrounding area known for some of the best sauvignon blancs in the world. His vineyards run on steep slopes at an altitude of 620 meters high, comprised of a slate-schist soil, which allows his wines an exceptional mineral quality noticeable to those who know this region well. With a biodynamic certification by Demeter, and all farming done both organically and naturally, Lorenz is dedicated to crafting wines that allow the wild nature of South Styria to come through in the glass.
photographer: Sophia Schillik
Gernot and Heike Heinrich established Weingut Heinrich in 1990 with one hectare. They were one of the first producers in the area to start focusing on making ageworthy red wine instead of simple table white wines. While Blaufrankisch was their focus they now have a wider lens and love to experiment with different varieties and winemaking styles.
The Heinrich winery is in Gols, on the north east side of the Neusiedlersee in Austria. Their vineyards are spread from Gols up and around to the north west side of the lake. On the east side the vineyards are on alluvial soils and red gravel, elevation changes as you leave the shores of the lake and rise up to the Pandorfer Platte, the air is warmer. In the west around Leithaberg limestone and schist take over, the mountainside vines get longer sun exposure, the nights and air are cooler.
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The estate transitioned to biodynamic farming in 2006. They believe it is best for the vineyards and the people that work them. Gernot and Heike also enjoy the communities they are apart of within Demeter, Pannobile and Respekt associations (Judith Beck is also a part of Respekt). They work with mostly local varieties: Blaufrankisch, Neuburger Grauer Burgunder, Roter Traminer, Weissburgunder, Zweigelt, and St. Laurent. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and now some Merlot are also in the mix.
Native yeast fermentation, the white wines have extended skin contact, the reds have lighter macerations. Wines are all aged on the lees in used barrels. Filtration and sulfur additions vary.
Ewald Tscheppe owns a biodynamic farm and winery in Styria, Austria where he has been producing wine since he was 26. The region is covered by steep hills and some places cannot be accessed by tractors or other machines. As a result, he does most of the work in the vineyards by hand. He also is one of the first producers to bring forward biodynamic techniques in the area and is dedicated to create complex and expressive natural wines. While he predominantly uses Sauvignon Blanc, Welshriesling and Morillon, a local variety of Chardonnay, his vines grow on different soils at different elevations which allows him to create diverse wines.
Fernet Hunter is created by Raphael Holzer and Neville Kotewall – two friends who met in Hong Kong and who share a passion for quality food and drink. While they come from opposite backgrounds, both Raphael and Neville believe in the importance of craftsmanship and artisanal products and their place within food and beverage culture.
Raphael’s family history is embedded in alcohol production. His great grandfather, Oskar Holzer, was first introduced to the world of spirits with Fernet Stock in Trieste, Italy. Oskar helped build the Stock empire and guided the company through adversity at every turn, including relocating to Linz, Austria during the Second World War. It was in Austria where his son, Guido Holzer, became an accomplished distiller at Stock and in the late 1960’s, Guido branched out on his own to start Holzer & Holzer. Guido’s son, Gilbert Holzer, eventually took over the business and continued the family craft of distilling in the Brunnwald Forest, 30 kilometers north of Linz. This is where Raphael grew up, where his own passion for the spirit industry began, and where Fernet Hunter is currently produced today.
Judith Beck’s estate is located in the town of Gols in Burgenland, Austria. The region has a warm climate and is one of the major wine producing region of the country.
The estate was founded in the 1970’s by her parents and Judith assumed full control of the winery in 2004 after having made her first vintage in 2001. She graduated from the Klosterneuburg Viticulture College and had an international experience when she worked in renowned wineries in France, Italy, and Chile.
Judith Beck owns 13.50 hectares of vines in the town with a wide variety of grapes: Blauer Portugieser, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Sankt Laurent, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Welschriesling, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay. She likes to intervene as little as possible during the winemaking process to ensure that all of the wines reflect the varieties and the vintage. She has also converted to biodynamic wine making in 2007 and she makes sure nothing but minimal amounts of SO2 are added.
When Michael Gindl, born 1983, finished agricultural school in 2002. it was already clear to him that he wanted to run the farm that his family has owned since 1807. This farm has always practiced mixed agriculture with crops, livestock, forestry, and wine. After the early death of his grandfather, Michael’s mother managed the farm because his father worked as a food inspector. Michael already took over the responsibility for vinification during his school years.
Michael simultaneously began his orientation towards biodynamic methods and increased efforts to make the farm as autarchic as possible. “In 2010 I took back all the leased fields. This fall I will expand in leasing another 25 hectares thus doubling our acreage. At present the amount of grain is too small for effective commercial exploitation. So this is economization because I don’t have to work on it myself all the time. A tractor driver can do the main work. And I can produce more specialties, for example: einkorn wheat, which will be the basis for a beer.”
“Currently I have 10 hectares of vineyards which can only be expanded very carefully to a maximum of 12 hectares. I have the potential for 2 more hectares in good sites. We planted one hectare this spring, but another hectare has been pulled out.” Increasingly more animals also inhabit the Gindl farm. Highland cattle have been bred since 2012 and soon horses will follow to work in the vineyards. “My goal is to be able to butcher on my own farm, so I also have pigs to ensure good utilization. And my Breton dwarf sheep will help me by grazing in the vineyards!” Consequently Michael joined the Demeter association of biodynamic farming.
To preserve the individuality and genuineness obtained in the vineyards, the grapes are pressed very gently, rarely racked, and fermented spontaneously without any use of selected yeast or temperature control. Michael Gindl expounds, “I really try to do as little as possible – in fact nothing! The wines remain on the lees for a very long time and get a small dose of sulphur only shortly before bottling. My aim is to use more wooden barrels and less steel tanks in the future.” It is interesting to know that the barrels in his cellar are made from acacia and oak from his own forests. His own agriculture and forestry allow him to closely approximate the biodynamic ideal of a holistic farm.
Meinklang is an original, family-run mixed farm, set in the middle of the World Heritage Site of the National Park Neusiedlersee, on the Eastern side of the Neusiedlersee Lake, bordering directly on the Hungarian lowlands, where life’s diversity and complexity are celebrated.
This farm functions much like an organism, relying not only on the people but also on the local herd of cows which contributes in an essential way with their natural and invaluable fertilizer.
The farm’s diversity is enriched by ancient grains such as spelt, farro, and einkorn wheat, as well as the fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, meadows of wild herbs and flowers, and the elegant charm of the grapevines.
Georg Schmelzer is a fourth generation winemaker in the Gols region near Lake Neusiedl in Austria. Georg’s winemaking philosophy is in line with the Demeter guidelines and uses a variety of biodynamic preparations for the revitalization of the soil and keeping his vines as healthy as possible.
Practices like the utilization of horn manure, ground crystal, and infusions of herb, such as horsetail, all participate in promoting soil health and vine strength and metabolism. The harvest is done by hand and the wine is aged in neutral oak without filtering, fining, or addition of any sulfur. It’s this respect for the land and the ability to let the grapes express themselves with minimal intervention that make Schmelzer’s Weingut so special.
Andreas Nittnaus and Martin Nittnaus are the owners of a winery at the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland, which is Austria’s center of red and sweet wines. They produce wines which are affected by terroir – authentic and full of character in opposition to oak and high alcohol styles, and they’ve embraced biodynamic agriculture in their vineyards since 2007. Their sons Andreas and Martin are gradually converting parts of the cellar to non-additive, natural wines, which represent 15% of the winery’s production.