I’m strolling with Beethoven. I know, much has happened since the summer of 1803, when Ludwig van Beethoven lived here and wrote a substantial part of his Eroica. Döbling was likely more of a small village outside of Vienna than a suburb as it is today. Still, I’m walking Eroicagasse and for a second I’m thrown 200 years back in time. Wonder how life was then? Where did Ludwig go after a hard days work? Any favorite Heuriger nearby?
We’re on our way to Stefan; Stefan Hajszan. A couple of hours earlier I had his 2010 Weissleiten Gemischter Satz at the Nussberg tasting. My pick for wine of the evening. That and the spectacular 2009 Nussberg Alte Reben from Fritz Wieninger. I knew about Fritz splendid Gemischter Satz, but when standing in the Nussberg vineyard at the Rotes Haus, admiring the view while tasting an assortment of wines from the Wien wine producers, Stefan Hajszan’s Weissleiten provided me with that kick a wine nerd like myself simply just can’t get enough of – new discoveries.
“I know Stefan” Fritz Wieninger said. “He’s just across the street of the restaurant. I’ll call him.”
A few hours later and too many Schnitzels, we’re on our way down Eroicagasse to Grinzingerstrasse 86 and Weinbau Stefan Hajszan. There’s a wedding party going on at his weinrestaurant but Stefan and his wife Elke takes the time to greet us. The atmosphere is friendly. Lots of laughs. In other words; instant like. Stefan guides us to a table and while taking a seat his wife Elke is already bringing the magnums.
We talk wine and drink it as well. Stefan explains about the young winery of his, how it all started back in 2002 and why he decided to go biodynamic after only a few years in the business. With vineyards in close by Grinzing, Heiligenstadt, Neustift, Nussdorf and Obersievering, Stefan has built up a winery free from artifical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Focus lies mainly on Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. And of course the Gemischter Satz.
Some more 2010 Weissleiten is poured. This is really good stuff. Combining concentration with elegance. Lots of mineral driven fruit with such clean and admirable taste. Perfectly integrated acidity. Again, my thoughts are wandering away. Why aren’t more consumers requesting this kind of wines? Is it simply due to the fact they’re hard to find, that it’s not to be found on the retailers shelves around the world? Outmanoeuvered by global brands and gutless wine shops. Or is it just something you learn to appreciate? By the way, wonder how it will age? I don’t need to give that too much thought. Stefan brings yet a magnum, now of the 2009 Weissleiten. Even better! A year in bottle seems to do it although I get the feeling it will keep on evolving positively for a further year or two; this is a Gemischter Satz that ages well.
By the way; wondering what a Gemischter Satz is? Roughly translated; a field blend. If there’s something unique Wien can offer the wine lover, besides vineyards in the city, it is the field blend. Different grape varieties are planted next to each other in the vineyards. Mostly the Gemischter Satz consists of a blend of some of these grapes: Frühroter Veltliner, Gelber Traminer, Gewurztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Müller-Thurgau, Neuburger, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Welschriesling, Weissburgunder and Zweigelt. Ok, perhaps not unique this field blend of Wien; other regions has the similar thing, the enlightened reader would tell me. True, but you see, the interesting part is that the grapes are picked at the same time and also vinified together. Regardless of it’s a red or a white wine grape. That’s a Gemischter Satz.
So, why go biodynamic? A lot of controversy surrounding biodynamic wine production and many seems to totally freak out when it comes to the guidelines once laid out by Rudolf Steiner. Simple. Stefan believes. He cares greatly about his vineyards. Sure, you can question how the phase of the moon could affect your vines in any way, or why filling cow horns with manure and digging them down in the vineyard, would have any effect at all. But then you would also mock and diminish one person’s belief how he or she could make a difference in order to show some respect for the land that is cultivated. After all, when it all comes down to its core, who would you like to support; the biodynamic producers who uses natural techniques and no artificial pesticides, herbicides and fungicides? Or you just don’t care whether or not the wine you’re drinking, have been subject to crop-spraying and fertilisation? Forget about the perhaps hard to understand-methods used and focus on the end result. The proof is in the glass you know. And wouldn’t the world be better if we all showed some more respect for diversity?
Not only Stefan Hajszan works his vineyards according to biodynamic principles, also the top estate in Wien are since a few years treating their vineyards the same way. Weingut Wieninger is for most winelovers the estate that took Gemischter Satz to a new level. Fritz Wieninger runs the winery since the 1980’s. He was the one that decided to focus on top quality wines and not only to run the winery as a Heuriger. He was the one that in 1999 created the Nussberg Alte Reben (Old Vines):
“Besonders am Herzen liegt mir der Wiener Gemischte Satz – ein Wiener Klassiker, der fast in Vergessenheit geraten ist,“ Fritz says. * Especially I’m partial to the Viennese Gemischter Satz – a Viennese classic which is almost forgotten about. Loosely translated.
With such an approach it is no wonder that the 2009 Alte Reben rocks! Floral and yet restrained. Mineral driven, spicy, lots of citrus fruits and that wet wool character I often find in Chenin blanc from the Loire Valley. Impressive concentration and a long clean spicy finish. The grapes from the more than 40 years old vines comes from a steep site in a south exposure of the Nussberg, close to the Donau river. Lots of limestone here, or as the Austrians call it, Muschelkalk. You don’t have to be an expert to taste the importance of location and old vines – and of course what a skilled and passionate winemaker can achieve. That’s the greatness of Fritz wines. They speak to your heart.
There’s no need to doubt what Fritz has done for the Gemischter Satz. Once a Heuriger wine, now you can pick up a single vineyard bottle! Like the premium wine amongst Fritz Wieninger’s Gemischter Satz wines; the Rosengartl. The best bottle out there if you ask me. Fritz is also with us when visiting Stefan Hajszan. The atmosphere amongst the viennese wine producers seems friendly and caring. Perhaps they are aware of the importance of working together, towards a greater goal? Promoting the wines of Wien, the Gemischter Satz especially, can’t be done on your own. The Austrians seems to have understood this.
We have to taste some Grüner Veltliner. Stefan brings the 2008 Nussberg and it rocks. Refreshing, spicy and mineral driven. Lovely precision at the same time. What strikes me is the impeccably clean taste in all of the Wien wines, not only Stefan Hajszan’s. Even if many shows some concentration, they never loose the grip. Guess it’s all about skill; these guys knows what they’re doing.
Another magnum bottle enters the table, people are thirsty it seems. Wines with character, wines you want to discuss. Riesling is served. Only a few percentages of the Austrian vineyards are planted with it. Four to be exact. Stefan pours a 2007 Pfaffenberg Riesling. Clean nose and taste. Some maturity. Elegant style of Riesling with a herbal and mineral driven touch. Got to love the fine balance between the acidity and fruit. Dry and mouthwatering. A tener for this one. Ten euros! What more can you ask for?
As with most great wine regions around the world, Wien is close to water. Donau in this case, or the Danube river, has an essential influence on the vineyards surrounding Wien. Most of the wine-growing parts are to be found on the northern part of the city where the soil is rich in fossile limestone. The river and the soil, combined with the choice of grapes cultivated, gives that typical clean and cool mineral feel which is something of a viennese trademark.
Time for another trademark from this part of Europe; Gulaschsuppe. You can’t go wrong with Goulash in Austria. But forget about drinking Gemischter Satz or Grüner Veltliner with the soup. An Austrian lager beer, with the slight sweetness they often have, is the number one choice – which of course Elke and Stefan makes sure we get with the soup.
It’s getting late. Need to be up early tomorrow. Carnuntum awaits. My visit to Austria couldn’t get a better start. An evening filled with impressions, great meetings and new discoveries. Closing in at two decades of intense wine passion and still I’m getting that hard to describe-kick. You don’t need world famous brands and lots of points; passionate wine producers are more than enough for me. More than enough; what am I saying; it is exactly what I need! Thanks Vienna, thanks Fritz, thanks Stefan. You should be proud; not only of your wines but also for being at one of the coolest located vineyards in the world. Or as Frietz Wieninger says: Ganz Wien in einem Wein.
Follow my Austrian wine adventures here on Wine Virtuosity by clicking the Austria category.
Other Wien producers that are worth checking out; Christ, Cobenzl, Edlmoser, Mayer am Pfarrplatz and Zahel. All united in a project called the WienWein Group.
Photographs taken at the Nussberg vineyard and at Weinbau Stefan Hajszan.
* Quote from Fritz Wieninger’s website.