The Spitzer Graben is part of the Wachau region. Nevertheless there are a lot of differences between our narrow valley and the vineyards at the riverside of the Danube. Where my grapes grow, the river does not have influence anymore. There are just six dividing kilometres between us but in reality it seems to be a different world. My estate is the last one before viticulture changes to agriculture. The already difficult conditions at the river find a new dimension in the Spitzer Graben. The vineyards are higher and the barren and stony soils of the Bruck and Schön terraces carry less grapes since bigger amounts would not ripe to perfection. The climate is cooler and even in summertime it becomes too fresh to sit outside in the evenings. No other vineyards are as steep as the Bruck and the Brandstatt and occasionally the vines root directly in naked stone. These extreme conditions are the ideal premises to create original and distinct Riesling and Veltliner.
The Bruck vineyards cover in total 12 hectares and every square metre of it shows that we are at the utmost limits of winemaking. Hundreds of stone walls hold the terraces – without them it would not be possible to grow wine since the slopes are simply too steep.
The geology is primarily based on orthogneiss, metamorphic limestone-free rock. The soil is mostly shallow, sandy and perfectly permeable for water. The vines root deeply and accumaulate thereby additional water. Interstices of schist complement the geological array.
For the Bruck vineyards the influence of the Danube is insignificant. Rather it is the 1000-metres high Jauerling from where cold air streams into the valley and the climate of the Waldviertel which help shaping the growth of the wine.
Summing up all those components the Bruck vineyards offer ideal conditions especially for Riesling. Tis was already known in bygone days and it is no surprise that there are vines to be found that are more than seventy years old. The wines are generally puristic, crystal-clear, mineral and stony and are characterized by a profound acidity and lean structure on the palate.
Merely divided from the Bruck through a well there are – beside some parallels – a lot of essential differences between the two vineyards. As a last consequence they result in the fact that in the terraces of the Schön vineyard Grüner Veltliner is the principal grape variety (and not Riesling as in the Bruck vineyards). The main reason therefore is the thick layer of brown earth which contains the necessary nutrients for perfect Veltliner conditions.
Slightly inclined to the east the vineyards also open themselves partly to the morning sun. But since terraces, hills and mountains never expose themselves uniformly there are also some plots of vines which descend to the west – generally a bit cooler these vines add freshness to the wine. Another important piece in the puzzle of my terroir is the forest protecting the vines from too much sun. All those factors combined lead to a straightforward, crisp and finely meshed structure. The aromatic profile is always dominated by an eminent spiciness and minerality.
Grüner Veltliner and Riesling from the Viesslinger Stern are the two flagship wines of my estate – but although they come from two single plots they are not marked in any vineyard map. The reason, as so often is to be found in the depths of history. Today the Viesslinger Stern is a part of Bruck vineyard which, with its 60 and more plots, is still structured small and parts of it are hard to reach. Some decades ago it must have been even more difficult. It does not surprise therefore that people were even more precise when they talked about it – the walks up to the single plots were long and exhausting and it seems natural that nearly every vine row got its own name. Thus some walked into the Grüßl, others onto the Hardeck and in other plots which are just archived in the heads of some old farmers. My grandparents went onto the 350 metres high Viesslinger Stern. Up there they planted beside the usual rows of Riesling also some Veltliner – today my oldest vines. Veltliner usually gets problems without irrigation in such a dry terroir but the roots have already penetrated so deeply inside the rock that they find all necessary resources even in the sunniest of summers.
A lifelong dream and an experiment. The Brandstatt vineyard finishes off the Wachau in a spectacular way to the North – after its steep slopes the Waldviertel starts. In 2012 I have bought 0,3 hectares of land which was in former times covered with vines. Overgrown with scrub and not cultivated over the last 50 years it poses a challenge which I have been looking forward to for many years. The Brandstatt represents undoubtedly one of the big vineyards of the Wachau: But since its terraces were so steep and its cultivation so difficult it was gradually left by its owners.
With its recultivation I fulfil myself a lifelong goal but also contribute to the vineyard diversity of the Wachau. 0,3 hectares sound very little. But if it is complemented with 1200 square metres of stonewalls I have to build on 13 terraces it probably appears in a different light. Until now there are no vines planted. But in 2015, when the construction works should be finished I will slowly start to explore the possible potential of the Brandstatt Riesling.
The Spitzer Graben is a valley which descends steeply, with slopes more suitable to skiing than to growing wine (actually there is a world-cup snowboarding event just five kilometres away from us every year).
The cultivation of vines is just possible because – through history - a collective of farmers, winemakers, monks and whole village communities collaborated in building extensive stonewalls which are dominating the landscape and shaping the vineyards until today. Their construction was an enormous cultural achievement: the time that was spent to construct them and the work dedicated to it, took up centuries. The winemakers of today have the task to maintain the stone-walls, or as I do in the Brandstatt terrace, to build them up anew. Besides its viticultural importance and aesthetic value the walls also provide a unique habitat and hideaway for hundreds of plants, insects, beetles, reptiles and birds. The stone-walls are a main reason why the Wachau was chosen as world heritage by the UNESCO. To conserve this heritage is our task and duty.