On the western side of the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland you’ll find the quaint town of Oggau. As we drove in from the north, the rolling hills funnelling down towards the lake were dotted with perfectly angled vineyards, tucked amongst the forests and wildlands. We arrived at Gut Oggau’s heuriger (a traditional Austrian eatery that serves cold food and local wine) and were immediately surrounded by friendly faces, guzzling glass after glass with vigour and cheer.
Stephanie and Eduard Tscheppe, the proprietors, are truly beautiful people – they radiate. After some quick hugs, we jump in their truck and headed out to the vineyards. Nestled into hillsides, we find dozens of tiny plots spanning tens of kilometers from North to South along the lake. Despite their seemingly large quantity of holdings, they only amount to 10ha which further proves how unique and miniscule each terroir is to their wines. In particular we fell in love with the wild vineyards – vineyards that had been abandoned a decade ago and were now completely overrun by trees and grasses and bushes and animals. Despite the horrifically low yields in these vineyards, they continue to harvest the fruit, believing it adds a certain energy to the wines.
Over a late lunch we learned about how they fell in love, got married, and did the impossible: they purchased a derelict farmhouse and its vineyard holdings and started making minimal intervention wines to support their family. They admitted it wasn’t easy, and there were years in which they weren’t sure if it was going to pan out but they persevered. Their strength of character, love for one-another, and belief in the vineyards pushed them through. Now, ten years later, they make some of the most sought-after wines in the world.
Their cuvées are based on characters. Even in the winery’s infancy, they believed each wine had a distinct personality – it wasn’t something they contrived or concocted, merely something the wine wanted them to see. They described these traits to artist Jung Von Matt who then translated them into the beautiful portraits adorning each bottle. Thus the Gut Oggau family was born.
About: Grüner Veltliner and Weissburgunder are the two components of this cuvée. They come from 40 year old vines planted on a complex combination of limestone, slate, gravel, and sand. A third of the grapes are destemmed and fermented on skins for three weeks while the rest are pressed whole cluster into old 500L barrels. The two wines are combined and spend an additional year in large neutral oak. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. 12% ABV
About: 35-year-old Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling vines are planted on gravel and limestone. Two thirds of the grapes are destemmed and crushed into used 500L, 1000L, and 1500L barrels to ferment and mature for nine months without batonnage. One third of the grapes are fermented on skins for a short period of time. They capture a small amount of CO2 at bottling which keeps the wine fresh but this year the wine is not sparkling. It is unfined, unfiltered, and has no added Sulphur.
About: 35-year-old Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt vines are planted on gravel. The grapes are destemmed and pressed directly into neutral large format Austrian oak barrels. After fermentation the wine spends eight months on lees in neutral puncheon on lees with no batonnage. The final wine is bottled unfined, unfiltered, and without Sulphur.
2018 MASKERADE ROT
About: Stephanie and Eduard acquired some new vineyards last year and are working tirelessly to convert them to biodynamics. Until then, they don’t believe the wines will show quite the same depth of personality, so they’ve kept the characters on the labels masked, and bottled in 1L bottles for early consumption. This wine is made from a co-planting of Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt. The grapes are partially destemmed, and partially direct pressed. It finishes fermentation in old Austria oak before being bottled without fining, filtration, or Sulphur.
2018 MASKERADE WEISS
About: Stephanie and Eduard acquired some new vineyards last year and are working tirelessly to convert them to biodynamics. Until then, they don’t believe the wines will show quite the same depth of personality, so they’ve kept the characters on the labels masked, and bottled in 1L bottles for early consumption. This wine is made from a co-planting of Gruner Veltliner, Weissburgunder, and Welschriesling. The grapes spend a short time macerating on skins in stainless steel before being pressed off. It finishes fermentation in stainless steel before being bottled without fining, filtration, or Sulphur.
About: This wine comes from their oldest Blaufrankisch vines, over sixty years old, planted on limestone and slate. The juice ferments on skins whole-cluster for several days before being pressed off in an ancient tree press painstakingly restored in their old farm house. The wine then spends several years in barrel before racking and bottling without Sulphur, fining, nor filtration.
About: This wine comes from their oldest Grüner Veltliner vines, over sixty years old, planted on limestone and slate. The juice ferments on skins whole-cluster for two days before being pressed off in an ancient tree press painstakingly restored in their old farm house. The wine then spends several years in barrel before racking and bottling without Sulphur, fining, nor filtration.
About: Roesler is a crossing of Zweigelt and an unnamed variety that has extreme cold hardiness, a resistance to mildew, and deeply colored fruit. It is blended with Blaufrankisch for this cuvée. The vines are 35 years old and are planted in gravel. The grapes are destemmed and allowed to ferment in 500L, 1000L, and 1500L neutral oak barrels. Élevage is done in 500L barrels for 8 months before the wine is bottled, unfined and unfiltered.
About: This is perhaps Gut Oggau’s rarest wines. Made only in the best vintages, Wiltrude is a Grüner Veltliner harvested at Auslese ripeness and historically made into an oxidative sweet wine. This vintage was much different though, as the yeast fermented the wine to full dryness. It was then aged in neutral Austrian oak for four years without topping up to mimic Vin Jaune, one of Stephanie and Eduard’s favorite wines to drink. It was bottled without fining, filtration, or Sulphur.