Q&A: Axel Stiegelmar of Weingut Juris27th January, 2014 by Gabriel Savage
Axel Stiegelmar of Weingut Juris in Burgenland highlights Pinot Noir’s deep monastic roots in Austria and track his own shift away from the pursuit of concentration with this variety.
What factors in your view make a Pinot Noir great?
Great Pinot Noir is delicate yet intense, powerful, complex and when balanced has the structure for longevity.
How well does Austria’s terroir lend itself to the production of high quality Pinot Noir?
Austria’s wine area is very diverse and still in a cool climate region. It is on the same latitude as Burgundy. The soil contains a good portion of calcareous deposits. The history of Pinot Noir in Austria dates back to the monks from Burgundy on their mission during the Middle Ages. Since then Pinot has been grown and massal selections did what was necessary for the survival of the fittest. Today we grow a selection of Pinot Noir which can be traced back for four generations, or more than 100 years in the family. Pinot Noir is not the trend variety in Austria. It is cultivated by a faithful fan base, very often in the surroundings of ancient monasteries.
How has your own approach to getting the best expression from Pinot Noir changed over the years?
Every generation has to find out how to communicate with this grape. When I was starting more than 20 years ago I was looking for more concentration. We changed our canopy management in the vineyards, we did green harvest. I found out that this would lead to very impressive, chunky wines. Combined with some very warm growing seasons this led to a very unhappy Pinot and winemaker as well. Today everything is about balance. We work very hard in the vineyards to expose the skins of the grape just as needed to the sunshine and still allowing enough ventilation to prevent mould. We carefully select the oldest plants for the reserve bottling. We try to show the possibilities of the different vineyards in our Lagen bottlings. Pinot winemaking is pretty easy: Just keep the ego of the winemaker lower then the ego of the grape. But don’t step behind – stand beside your wine. It is the image of your character.
What is it about Pinot Noir that gives it such global appeal?
For a winemaker it is a touchstone. Good results are not that easy to achieve and much less easy to repeat. Consumers enjoy the fact that outstanding Pinot is driven by its origin and not by winemaking opportunities. There is still a benchmark and that is Burgundy.
Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Pinot Noir inspires you?
I like Armand Rousseau, the stability, especially the Chambertin Clos de Beze. In the New World I like the style of Flowers from Sonoma Coast.
the drinks business Global Pinot Noir Masters 2013 takes place in February. Presided over by a panel of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, each Pinot Noir is assessed by style and price rather than being judged by country. For more information, click here.