There were ghosts for me in Austria and I know it's mostly me, and not them. The people couldn't have been sweeter. The food in the summer, immediate and tender. People like Christine Saahs and the new generation of searchers, and the way out of technical winemaking is emerging a new reach for wine truth. Things are going on over there. There is a rebellion against Biodynamics by those who want to find their own way. The group is called Respect, and it's a thorn in Demeter's side. What strikes me is that there are no parameters for inside of the winery, but there is a strong Steiner theme throughout the guidelines.
Very interesting to me, was that the hard core winemakers they didn't want to talk of grape but of soil, a very specific take on terroir, and one that I find myself going towards. I like to know the grape but the place is more compelling. The way the grape expresses itself, well, yes, that is the key. Not that a Sauvignon should taste of cut grass and pee, but how it is just a vehicle. This I got a plenty in Styria, especially.
But I'd be lying to you if, when I was in the rural, Jurassic-like Styria, a stone's throw from the Slovenia woods, that I didn't see ghosts of men, women, children running for their lives. Every time someone used the word pure, even in regards to wine, I flinched. It wasn't them, it was me. It was being second generation. It was having family who never made it out. It was writing a relatives memoir of survivial, it was just this marrow deep Jewish paranoia of who would hide me.
In Styria, I could sense that there were folk there that did their best to hide Jews and otherwise hunted. Yes, I felt that too. I could be romantic and say I tasted that hope and love in the wines as well, but even for me, that would be a reach.
But when I wasn't looking for the ghosts in rabbit warren-like apartments (who lived here when?) or clamping my tongue, holding it so I didn't ask, people down near the Hungarian border, where there ever any Jewish vineyard owners? Where there ever any Jewish winemakers? There had to have been, but did their history completely vanish, and then I look to the woods, and I look down at the soil. And I wonder. But time will change this. My Feiring line stops with me. But the children of others, they'll be freer.
However there is a new day in Austria, many whom I profiled in Austria 1-7, and when I put my ghosts aside, I see very real, flesh and blood fabulous people and am warmed by them. Some of them were waiting for me in a building on top of Martin Pasler's vines.
After I rode in traffic up from Meinklang to Leithaberg, a strip of land, within spitting distance of Neudsiedler See, and a terroir that the winemakers are believing in. "Is this flat?" Markus Altenburger asked me, as he and a few other winemakers bounced me around in a truck through the vineyards where I almost heaved ho, out the window. Not because of the height but because of sea sickness.
That the soil is chock ful of the good stuff is evident.
Of more interest to me is that this group of winemakers are intent on creating strict rules around their winemaking, which far surpasses any other in town, such as Codex Wachau, (charter of pure wine) which for some reason when they say no additives or aromatisation, forget that enzymes and yeasts and bacteria all are additives. For Leithaberg, they say these are off limits. Take a look at their press kit if you'd like. It's fairly interesting and as Sylvie Prieler said, the meetings were impossible. But here are a group of winemakers in love with an area, and reaching for a new paradign. Worth checking out. Leithaberg
Favorite wines for me from the tasting, were 2008 Blaufrankisch from Weinguts Braunstein, Prieler, Altenburger, and Nittnaus. In all, when you see Leithaberg, it is worth checking out.