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.
The 2016 Vintage: For most producers in Austria, 2016 was an incredibly difficult year. Late spring frosts devastated roughly half of Gut Oggau’s vineyards. Months later, a hail storm rolled through the region knocking half of what remained to the ground. Because of this, they didn’t have enough grapes from any single vineyard to make their usual cuvées. Instead, they opted to make a single white, rosé, and red cuvée from everything they could salvage. The gorgeous, warm, dry fall ended up ripening the grapes to perfection and the quality across the board is extremely high. Less than a thousand cases were made at the winery, so allocations were extremely small.
Four different grapes and terroirs are used for this assemblage. 36-year-old Grüner and Welschriesling vines are planted on well-draining gravel. 40-year-old Gewurztraminer vines are planted on limestone and sand. 40-year-old Weissburgunder is planted on slate and gravel. And finally, 60-year-old Grüner vines make up the balance. The grapes are partially destemmed; one third is fermented on the skins for about three weeks, while the other two thirds are pressed directly into neutral puncheon. After nearly a year long élevage, the wine in bottled without Sulphur. 12.5% ABV
The Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt for this cuvée come from younger 36-year-old vines on the property, as well as their oldest plot (60+year-old), usually reserved for single vineyard wines. This vintage marks a new winemaking direction for their red wines: a portion was fermented whole cluster, a portion destemmed, and a third of the grapes were direct pressed and saw no skin contact at all. The wine was fermented and aged in a combination of concrete and large neutral barrel.12.5% ABV
This wine is made from old Blaufrankish vines planted on poor gravelly soils. The grapes are destemmed and fermented in in large neutral oak barrels. Because of this wines concentration, it sees a full two years in old oak before bottling. As with the other wines, it is unfined and unfiltered. 12.5% ABV
40 year old Gewürztraminer vines are the muse for this bottling. They are planted on limestone and sand, and tend to yield less than two tons per hectare. The grapes are destemmed and pressed directly into 500L neutral barrels to ferment. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. 13.5% ABV
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 Blaufrankish 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. 12.5% ABV