With throbbing heads and bleary eyes, we drive up to Meinklang’s gorgeous little winery. It is nestled into the back streets of a small town in Burgenland. The esthetic is half Austrian efficiency, half Japanese wabi-sabi. Nikolas approaches us beaming and we jump in his car and head towards their farm.
Cheerfully mooing cows greet us; many calves were just born, opening their eyes for the first time. Our hangovers make us equally leery of the light, yet we’re eager to learn and see their incredible operation. Nikolas tells us about their cattle breeding regime, and how essential animal husbandry is to biodynamic farming. Their ultimate goal is to produce high quality wines while minimally interfering with nature. They raise pigs, chickens and goats as well – none of which are killed for meat – to add to the biodiversity and energy of their farm. This is where Austrians come to learn Demeter level biodynamic practices.
We then head out into the vineyards. Dozens of small blocks are scattered around the region, interspersed with grazing land, orchards, waterways, and wildland; this is anything but a monoculture. Between the rows you’ll find ancient grains improving soil structure and returning nutrients to the earth. The odd fruit tree can be found between the rows, providing a habitat for predatory birds and other beneficial species. One of their vineyards goes completely unpruned, permitted to find balance on its own. These unruly vines seem to be the healthiest and least affected by the frost that ravaged the region only a week earlier.
Back at the winery we see the customary selection of Stockinger barrels and foudres, many of which are decades old. The facilities are spotless and smell clean yet alive. At the far end of the cellar we enter a chamber with a loose stone floor and arched ceiling. I’m not one for ‘energies’ and unexplained feelings, but the acoustics in that room make you feel incredibly grounded and calm. This is where their biodynamic preparations live. A large wooden box contains fermenting cow manure, stinging nettles, chamomile, horsetail, and other vineyard supplements, all of which smell incredible and invigorating.
After re-tasting the wines, it is so obvious how each of these decisions affects the quality and style of the final product. Meinklang offers incredible quality for a modest price. The wines are accessible yet inspiring and we are proud to call them our friends.
2017 GRÜNER VELTLINER
This wine is made entirely from Grüner Veltliner grown on sandy loam. The grapes are gently pressed into stainless steel where they ferment and age on lees for a short period of time. The wine goes through a loose filter before being bottled with 99ppm of Sulphur. 11.5% ABV
2016 Pinot NOIR
Pinot Noir vines are planted on Sandy Loam on the eastern side of the Neusiedlersee. A rocky top soil and cooler vineyard site limits vigor and keep ripeness in check. The grapes are destemmed into open-top Austrian foudres for fermentation. After two weeks on the skins the wine is pressed off into stainless steel and neutral puncheons. It is bottled without filtration with 27ppm of Sulphur under Nomacork. 12% ABV
Grüner Veltliner (50%), Welschriesling (40%), and Muskat (10%) are planted on sandy loam with a shallow rocky top-soil. The grapes are destemmed and pressed into stainless steel where fermentation starts spontaneously at low temperatures. The wine is chilled with 7g/l residual sugar left and lightly pre-filtered for stability. After a period of settling in tank, the wine is bottled with 71ppm Sulphur. 11% ABV
2016 GRAUPERT (PINOT GRIS)
The word ‘Graupert’ means unkempt in the local dialect and refers to this vineyard’s unique pruning method: these vines are left completely to their own devises. Without winter or summer pruning the vines have found a healthy equilibrium, producing many tiny bunches of grapes. The vines are more resilient to frost, and although the juice yield is lower, the fruit quality is predictably high from vintage to vintage. This year, the grapes were destemmed and fermented on skins for ten days before being pressed off. After a moderate time on the lees the wine is racked and bottled with 68ppm of Sulphur. 11.5% ABV
2016 FOAM SOMLO
35-60-year-old Harslevelü and Juhfark are planted on the Hungarian volcanic mound known as Sómlo. This incredible terroir rises unexpectedly from the Pannonian plains and features volcanic rock covered in a thin layer of loess. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed into stainless steel. When the fermentation is all but done, the wine is bottled resulting in a tiny amount of captured CO2. It is not disgorged and no additional Sulphur is added before release. 10.5% ABV
2016 FOAM WEISS
Old Pinot Gris vines are planted on a cool site featuring sandy loam. The grapes ferment very briefly on the skins in concrete before being pressed off. At just over 20 g/l of residual sugar the wine is bottled and aged on lees. After hand riddling the wine is hand disgorged and sees no dosage. The final wine has the mind bending analytic signature of 1.4g/l of sugar, 6.6g/l titratable acidity, and 13% ABV. No Sulphur was added. 13% ABV
This sparkling rosé is made from a combination of Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, and Blaufränkisch. The grapes are direct pressed into stainless steel to ferment. The charmant method is used to trap CO2 and render the wine bubbly. It is loosely filtered and stabilized with 70ppm of Sulphur before bottling. The final wine has 14g/l of residual sugar. 10.5% ABV
On their farm, next to the rows of vines and grazing cattle, Meinklang grows ancient Austrian grains. They use a blend of Emmer Wheat, Einkorn Wheat, Spelt, and Pannonian Barley. They opt for old hop varieties from Mühlviertel and mountain spring water from Salzburg. This is the only Demeter certified brewery in the world. The style is a traditional Austrian Lager, but it is not filtered nor pasteurized.