(More random musings from my time in Austrian vines)
When I was sitting at the NH hotel at the Vienna airport I was happy to find some of the wines from Fred Loimer, the Zweigelt rose, a relief. That I could find something so enjoyable in what promised to be a wine desert, was fabulous. Both Loimer as well as Meinkling ( In Burgenland) are examples of happy biodynamic wines that are made on a wider scale that are very successful and even pleasing to a snob like me who is after the small natural-minded vigneron.
I was an hour late to Meinklang (previously known as Michlitz). Werner, who met me was gracious and was even grateful because as they are pretty out of the way the get few visitors. They are in the flat part of Burgenland, not far from the Hungarian border and for some reason, I felt more comfortable in this part of Austria as well as Slovenia, for one similar reason which actually had little to do with wine.
Meinklang's been making wine for a decade but they've been a biodynamic farm for twenty years, and now, alongside with wine, produces Biodynamic beer as well. Though the family has been in the biz for a while, there's energy here of new converts, and I wasn't that surprised when Werner brought me into the crypt that held his bioD preparations. Sorry for the iphone photo:
This is a winery in search of itself but much of the wine is very drinkable and the prices are gentle. There needs to be more of this sort of thing. Wine for the people. Here I particularly liked the Graupert. Made from untended vines, this is particulary noteworthy as I'm seeing more winemakers keeping a low-profile on the vine clipping. What happens is that the grape bunches get smaller and more intense, and closer to wild grapes. Not economically viable, but interesting.
In the cellar there was an army of those concrete eggs that I don't particularly love. They just seem too energetic.
This is a very sustainable operation, as they don't buy from Nomblot but make their own. They are slightly larger than the Nomblots at 900l and many people liked them better. In fact they were so successful, Nomblot filed a cease and desist, so no more commercial egg making for them. Which is fine, Werner said, as he really doesn't see himself as an egg manufacture.
Another thing not for them is venturing into no or low sulfur: with their whites getting as much as 90 ppm. "We need to keep a clean profile," Werner added.
There was something about Werner's embracing of biodynamics, talking about the pigs they slaughter, who go without fear, happy pigs...okay. I'm thinking, right, your pig is happy to die for the plate, I don't buy it. But never the less the happy pigs made me think of Christine Saahs of Nikolaihof another favorite sulfur-ed winery,
And they also make some quantity of wine, though not nearly so much as Loimer and Meingklang.(8,300 cases). Sadly, even the GV Hefeabzug or the Federspiel are more expensive than my pocketbook allows me to spring for (Buy books. Support my wine cellar!). And at $60 for the Steiner Hund, really out of reach.
Biodynamic since 1971, I asked Christine (blessed with optimism that is adorable and ageless) about that sulfur; "We sulfur for the first time when they take the wine of of the lees. For me, it's better to have a little bit of sulfur to have this 'traditional' kind of wine." For us a problem is those who use enzymes and yeast, not sulfur. Years ago when they didn't have sulfur they made a spray from yarrow, which has a lot of natural sulfur."
I was supposed to have a three hour visit here, but it was cut down to one hour. I knew that David Schildneckt was in town, following my steps by a few hours and I wondered, was it David again messing around with my schedule? Never the less I got one request--I needed to go to see Steinherhund, where some of my most profound Nik wines come from.
This was in Steiner Hund, a vineyard I had to go to, for no other reason than if I love the wines from a certain place, I need to see where they come from.
Christine took me to this extremely steep vineyard, just beneath the road, high above the town of Mautern. "Happy vineyards," she said, "happy vineyards. Happy vines." She laughed. She was in love with those vines. They could have been children doing a happy sun dance, those were kittens at play. Unbelievable. The top soil, soft, no more than 10 centimeters on top of primary rock. The vines were just in flower and gorgeous, "Smell," she said to me and then almost in a whisper," I like it."
Then she said, "When we drink a glass of wine we drink a glass of sunshine," take that, Anita Bryant.
When you see conventional vineyards, she says, the leaves are unnaturally green. They should be happy, reaching for the sky so their roots can go back down into the ground. The big difference between biodynamic and organic, is that no yeast allowed in biodynamic in Europe. Allowed in organic, however."
Back in 1971, we were biodynamic but we never used herbicides. Christine is an icon, for one her outlook but that also she is also deeply committed and observant. The coopting of biodynamics is making her lose sleep, "Today," she said sadly, "the big growth in biodynamic is just for marketing." It is as a key to life was given to the devil.