Austria’s top Gemischter Satz wines
Recently the drinks business reported on the growing trendiness of what, for most of its history, has been a distinctly untrendy wine: Gemischter Satz.
While Gemischter Satz only has a small presence yet in the UK – Austrian specialist Newcomer Wines imports some, while Liberty Wines recently signed up to distribute Weingut Wieninger Gemischter Satz in the UK – there is reported to be a buzz around the traditional Austrian field blend wine in countries as far afield as Japan, the US and the Netherlands.
Gemischter Satz is most commonly associated with Vienna, where it has enjoyed DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) status since 2013. This was the first time Austria had recognised a wine style rather than a geographical region for DAC status.
Gemischter Satz status now accounts for a quarter of Viennese vineyards, and that number is growing, according to Fritz Wieninger, of featured winery Weingut Wieninger.
There are around 200 commercial Gemischter Satz producers in Austria, plus a large number of very small, hobbyist producers who have up to half a hectare to make wine for their own heurige (wine tavern).
Vineyards in the Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC must include at least three quality white grape varieties, which must be planted together, and must be listed as Wiener Gemischter Satz in the vineyard land registry.
The first grape variety must constitute no more than 50% of the blend, and the third at least 10%. The wine must be dry, no more than 12.5% abv and should not have a ‘strongly recognisable expression’ of wood.
Single vineyard wines made under the DAC must be at least 12.5% ABV, do not have to be dry and cannot be released until 1 March in the year after harvest.
Fritz Wieninger is probably the most vocal ambassador – and one of the most exciting producers – of Gemischter Satz. He is clear about the wine’s value for the Vienna region: “This is the wine of the Viennese,” he explains. “When they had guests from anywhere out of town they ordered a bottle of Gemischter Satz because this is our wine. Today it is our identity and our best-selling thing.”
As producers continue to dial up the quality and transform the image of what was, not so long ago, an unfashionable jug wine, db presents in the pages that follow its top five Austrian Gemischter Satz producers…
1. Weingut Christ
Carrying around 400 years of family winemaking tradition, Weingut Christ’s main vineyards are situated on the gently sloping, south-facing Bisamberg Hill on the north-eastern boundary of Vienna.
Highly respected grower Rainer Christ operates with a state-of-the-art, gravity-fed winery, using a combination of traditional and modern cultivation methods. The classic vinification method for Gemischter Staz, of ageing in large oak barrels, is supplemented by use of stainless steel and smaller-format oak barrels, allowing a broad range of possibilities during maturation of the many varieties that Weingut Christ vinifies.
The geological diversity is Christ’s Bisamberg vineyards is worthy of note, ranging from alluvial, glacial gravels and weathered limestone to loess and shale layers. The Christs’ Petershof winery in Wiener Bisamberg houses the oldest organically farmed vineyards of the city.
The Weingut Christ Bisamberg Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC comes from the Wiesthalen single-vineyard site – one of the oldest documented on Bisamberg, with current vine plantings aged around 70 years old.
2. Weingut Edlmoser
Official records in the Edlmoser family winery reveal a winemaking history that dates back to 1374.
Perfect ripening conditions prevail in the estate’s vineyards in the southern foothills of the Wienerwald in the wine village of Mauer. The warm, Pannonian climate, together with regular precipitation, fresh cool breezes from the forest and a wide diversity of soils results in wines with depth and complexity.
Michael Edlmoser has been the winemaker and oenologist of the family-owned winery since 1998. He makes three Gemischter Satz wines: a Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC estate wine, a minerally, ageworthy Dorflage old-vine village wine and a Maurerburg ‘cru’ wine from Edlmoser’s shell-bearing limestone (muschelkalk) vineyard site on Maurerburg south of Vienna.
3. Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz
Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz, the epitome of Viennese heurigen culture, has been crafting high-quality Viennese wines in Heiligenstadt since 1683. No lesser figure than Ludwig van Beethoven lived in a house on the estate in 1817, venturing to the sanatorium in what was then a sleepy village of Heiligenstadt in the hope of curing his hearing difficulties.
Around the Rotes Haus, Mayer am Pfarrplatz has some of the best and most picturesque vineyards in Vienna. Now overseen by managing director Gerhard Lobner (pictured far left), the winery is renowned for its classic, rich yet mineral Wiener Gemischter Satz vom Nussberg, a co-fermentation of Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Rotgipler and Zierfandler.
Grape varieties like Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gelber Muskateller, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are cultivated on Vienna’s premium sites, the calcareous Nussberg, the historic ‘cru’ vineyard of Alsegg, and cooler, gravelly Schenkenberg plot.
Countless awards at national and international wine competitions emphasise the high quality of the wines from Mayer am Pfarrplatz.
4. Weingut Hajszan-Neumann
Weingut Hajszan-Neumann is a medium-sized winery with around 20 hectares of vineyards on Nußberg, Steinberg, Neubergen and Scheibern in the Vienna DAC.
The winery was bought by restaurateur-turned-winemaker Stefan Hajszan (pictured right) and business partner Heinz Neumann (pictured left) in 2000. It has been organic since 2006. A new winemaking facility was built at the winery in 2007.
Fritz Wieninger (pictured centre) of Weingut Wieninger bought the company in 2014, and though he is now the sole owner, he chooses to keep the Hajszan-Neumann brand.
Grapes processing and fermentation is is undertaken at Weingut Wieninger, then the wines are transported to the Hajszan-Neumann winery in the Grinzinger Straße for storage/maturation. The winery also has a restaurant run by three Michelin-starred chef Juan Amador.
Wieninger’s influence ensures a high standard of winemaking is maintained at the winery. Now Demeter-certifed (Weininger is a vocal biodynamic advocate and key member of the Respekt-Biodyn biodynamic winegrowers group), the winery produces terroir-driven Gemischter Satz from the Weissleiten site to the north of the Nussberg from co-fermentations of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Welchsriesling, Grüner Veltliner and Neuberger.
In 2015 Wieninger produced its first natural (no added sulphur) Traminer and a natural Weissleiten Wiener Gemischter Satz – claimed to be Vienna’s first commercialised natural Gemischter Satz, which is matured in a concrete egg – under the Hajszan-Neumann label. There is also varietal Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Chardonnay.
Weingut Hajszan-Neumann exports to Japan and the US, with production running to around 60,000 bottles per year.
5. Weingut Wieninger
Weingut Wieninger is located in Stammersdorf and Gemischter Satz is its raison d’être. If anyone can be credited for the recrudescence of Wiener Gemischter Satz in Austrian and its growing popularity in ohter countries of the world, it is Fritz Wieninger.
It began with his Nußberg Alte Reben 1999 since when Wieninger has become a byword for authentic, terroir-driven Gemischter Satz wines of the highest quality.
For the winemaker, who was convinced of the potential of Gemischter Satz by Franz Mayer, winemaker at Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz, it was a case of rediscovering the Vienna region’s winegrowing heritage and Gemischter Satz’s place in the history of winemaking tout court.
“It always was here,” he explains. “Gemischter Satz… is a super-historic way of making wine, not just for us, but for probably all regions in the world. It was never just one variety in early history.”
Fritz Wieninger is one of the biggest producers in Vienna, producing around 350,000 bottles a year from 72 hectatres of biodynamically farmed vineyards – 52ha are Weingut Wieninger vineyards, while 20ha are for the wines of Weingut Hajszan Neumann, which Wieninger purchased in 2014 (see previous page).
His Wieninger range comprises his estate Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC, the grapes for which come from Wieninger’s Bisamberg and Nussberg vineyard sites, and three superb single-vineyard offerings: from Nussberg Ulm, Bisamberg Ried Hochfeld and Nussberg Rosengartl – whose wines were among the most sought-after in the days of the Habsburg empire.