Wednesday, January 26, 2011

With the WienWein Winemakers in Vienna in the Heurigen Drinking Gemischter Satz Wine

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Fritz Wieninger (above)and the WienWein Group (below) at the Heurigen Mayer am Pfarrplatz in Vienna. From left to right: Georg Koenigsbauer (Cellar Master Weingut Coblenzl), Gerhard J. Lobner (General manager Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz), Alexander Skoff (Cellar Master Weingut Zahel), Fritz Wieninger (Owner and Cellar Master Weingut Wieninger), Wolfgang Krinninger (Sales Manager Weingut Zahel), Rainer Christ (Owner and Cellar Master Weingut Christ).

The participants of the European Wine Bloggers Conference 2010 (EWBC 2010) in Vienna had a very enjoyable evening at the Heurigen Mayer am Pfarrplatz in Heiligenstadt, Vienna. The WienWein group - an association of 6 innovative Viennese winemakers, whose objective is to promote the Viennese wines and in particular Viennese Gemischter Satz wines – had invited.

Vienna and Wine

That any wine comes from Vienna seems strange on the face of it. Great urban centers are not known for their vineyards, beyond a novelty vineyard here and there. But the capital of Austria is different. Around 500 vintners grow vine on around 700 hectares, all within the city limits. Indeed, Vienna has its own appellation and is one of Austria’s 4 major wine regions, with Niederoesterreich, Burgenland and Steiermark, though by far the smallest. Viennese viticulture stretches back centuries to Celtic and Roman settlements. White wine accounts for 80 percent of the production, mainly Grüner Veltliner, but also Riesling and Pinot Blanc. As for red wine, Zweigelt is the leading grape variety, followed by Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and St. Laurent.


Most of the Viennese wine is consumed in Vienna’s wine taverns - the about 100 Wiener Heurigen. The word “Heurige” means “the wine of the current year” – and this is what you drink there: the Heurigen owner’s wine of the last vintage, often coming in a jar.

Pictures: The Heurigen am Pfarrplatz

The Heurigen have been around for many centuries. They got a boost in 1784, when Emperor Joseph II formalized by decree the right of every winegrower to sell and serve home-made food and wine throughout the year at his premise. The best-known districts with large numbers of Heurige in Vienna are Grinzing, Heiligenstadt, Jedlersdorf, Mauer and Nussdorf. Although the Viennes Heurigen are the most famous in the world, you find them in all Austrian (and German) wine regions.

Gemischter Satz Wine

The most special and also most popular wine in the Heurigen is the Gemischter Satz wine. Gemischter Satz wine is made from a blend of grapes that are grown together in the field and then picked and fermented at the same time. Not too long ago, this age-old Austrian tradition was about to die, threatened by the mania for single varietal bottling. But luckily, the tradition was maintained and the grapes remained planted in mixed vineyards of Gruener Veltliner, Riesling, Muscat, Ottonel, and other grapes.

Field blends are different from more typical blended wines – cuvees - like Bordeaux, where the various grapes are grown separately and vinified separately. Many famous wines are blended wines. Red Bordeaux is generally made from a blend of grapes. Another blend is Edelzwicker, which I discussed in my “in the glass" column on November 5, 2009. See here. In the past, blending was the norm in Alsace, and these blends were called Zwicker. Edelzwicker (noble-blend) is a Zwicker made only from grapes considered to be noble.

Some people argue that Gemischter Satz is the true terroir wine. They say that winemakers can resort today to all sorts of tricks if the wine does not come out the way they want it. They can add acid if necessary, or tannins, or color, compensating in the wine cellar for what they did not get from nature in the vineyard. In the old days before the advanced techniques of today became available, they had to think ahead about what their vineyard give them. One could say that in the way they planted the vineyard you could see their vision of what would make the most complete wine.

Indeed, the Gemischter Satz practice was common throughout Central Europe in a time when most growers had very small vineyards. To reduce the risk of having no grapes - and no income - at all, they planted many varieties. It also was viewed as an approach that produces over the years a wine with consistent quality. To achieve this, they mixed varieties with a different ripening time and with different acidity levels, with a view of minimizing risk and ensuring a consistent quality of wine.

Wiener Gemischter Satz Wine

The WienWein group is clearly one of the driving forces behind the revival of the Gemischter Satz wines in Vienna. The Wien Wein group has established strict regulations for its members’ Gemischter Satz wines:

• The classic Viennese Gemischter Satz is from one or more vineyards in the Vienna wine-growing area, and is made of at least three varieties growing together in those vineyards. The wine is fermented in steel tanks in order to maintain the vividness of the fruit, and does not contain more than 12.5% alcohol. The WienWein logo must appear on the bottle capsule. Taste definition: fresh; typically “Viennese”; vivid; natural; spicy, and even rich in contrasts.

Picture: The Wines of the WienWein Group

• The site-specific Gemischter Satz originates from a single site, which must be named on the bottle label. The vines, which are planted together and feature a minimum of three grape varieties, are at least 20 years old. This wine, which can be matured in the traditional large wooden barrel (but not in barrique), must have an alcohol content of 12.5 % or more, and display the WienWein logo on the bottle capsule. Taste definition: multi-layered; expresses typicity of region and soils; complex; exciting; mineralic; elegant, terroir-rich; exudes an interplay of aromas, and is a versatile food partner.

The WienWein Winemakers

The WienWein group was founded in early 2006 by vintners from Vienna: Rainer Christ from Jedlersdorf, Michael Edlmoser from Mauer, Fritz Wieninger from Stammersdorf, and Richard Zahel from Mauer. With the presentation of the 2009 vintage, two new members have joined: Weingut Cobenzl (Grinzing) and Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz (Heiligenstadt).

Picture: Wolfgang Krinninger from Weingut Zahel in front of WienWein Group Poster in Vienna

Overall, Vienna accounts for only 1 percent of Austria’s wine production. At the same time, demand for its wines in the Heurigen of Vienna has always been strong , fuelde by its own citizens and folks from around the country and the world. It is easy to see why there was more emphasis on mass wine than on quality wine, and to a certain extent still is. Against this background, the goal of Wienwein is to extract high-quality wines from Vienna’s terroir and establish new (and higher) quality standards for Viennese wine. Here are the 6 members.

Weingut Christ

A Weingut with 6 hectares of vineyard land and around 400 years of family tradition. Owner Rainer Christ says that (1) winemaking firmly grounded in nature and (2) an innovative esprit in the vineyard and the wine cellar are the 2 cornerstones for wine making at Weingut Christ.

Amtsstrasse 10-14, 1210 wien, tel +43-1-292 51 52, fax +43-1-292 51 52,

Picture: Rainer Christ

Weingut Edlmoser

Weingut Edlmoser is located in Vienna’s 23rd district, Liesing. The family has been making wine here since 1347. The estate has been run since 1998 by Michael Edlmoser, who studied also at Hall Crest Vineyards in Santa Cruz (California). The vineyard area totals 9 hectares.

Maurer Lange Gasse 123, 1230 Wien, tel +43-1-889 86 80, fax +43-1-889 86 80,

Weingut Wieninger

The internationally renowned vintner Fritz Wieninger is one of the pioneers of the Vienna wine boom. Until Fritz took over the approximately 100-year-old winery from his parents in Stammersdorf in 1980, it had been run purely as a Heurigen, producing mass wines for the wine tavern. Right from the start he shifted to quality and premium wines, experimented with new varieties and new approaches in the cellar such as temperature-controlled fermentation and barrique-aging. For two decades, he was alone in extracting high quality wines from Vienna’s soils. Today, few would dispute that Fritz Wieninger has been the seminal figure in Vienna’s transformation and his wines continue to be benchmarks. He has 40 hectares of vineyard land.

Stammersdorfer strasse 80, 1210 Wien, tel +43-1-290 10 12, fax +43-1-290 103,

Picture: Fritz Wieninger

Weingut Zahel

Weingut Zahel has 20 hectares of vineyard land and buys fruit from another 5 hectares. In 2003 Richard Zahel was the first to market the "Wiener” Gemischter Satz. Today, Zahel’s Gemischter Satz is offered in 4 different styles. With 40% of total production, red wine is very important for Weingut Zahel. Indeed, Zahel’s flagship wine Antares was the first Viennese red wine to get more than 90 points in Falstaff, Austria’s leading wine guide.

Maurer Hauptplatz 9, 1230 Wien, tel +43-1-889 13 18, fax +43-1-889 13 18-10,

Pictures: Alexander Skoff (above) and Wolfgang Krinninger (below) from Weingut Zahel with Christian G.E.Schiller in Vienna

Weingut Cobenzl

Weingut Cobenzl is located in the suburb of Grinzing in the north-west of Vienna. 70% of the vineyards is planted with the white varieties. Weingut Cobenzl is one of the two WienWein newcomers. It is named after Count Cobenzl, who owned the estate in the 1700. After various ownership changes, the City of Vienna bought Weingut Cobenzl in the early 1900s. With 48 hectares of vineyard land, Weingut Cobenzl is one of the largest wineries in Vienna.

Weingut Cobenzl
Am Cobenzl 96, 1190 Wien, tel. +43 1320 5805, fax +43 1328 2286

Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz

Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz has been making wine since 1683 in Nussdorf. The estate is rather large, with 55 hectares of vineyard land. The former owner, Ing. Franz Mayer, is considered as the leading doyen of the wine scene in Vienna. The winery was sold to advertising entrepreneur Hans Schmid in 2006. More than a third of the annual production is exported, around half the production, mainly the light, dry wines, is served on-premise.

Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz
Pfarrplatz 2, 1190 Wien, tel. +43 1 3703361, fax +43 1 3704714

Picture: Gerhard J. Lobner from Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz

Wining, Dining and Partying In the Heurigen Mayer am Pfarrplatz

The WienWein group had invited us to one of its members’ premise, the romantic landmark-protected Mayer am Pfarrplatz. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) lived there in 1817 (therefore it is called Beethovenhaus) and the building has remained totally unchanged since then. The Mayer am Pfarrplatz is a full-fledged winery and a Heurigen at the same time, where the Mayer am Pfarrhaus wines are served.

Picture: Uli Macenka from Weingut Cobenzl and Rainer Christ from Weingut Christ at the WienWein Party at the Mayer am Pfarrplatz

We had a great time with Gemischter Satz wines and hearty Viennese food. I enjoyed very much the possibility to talk with the WienWein winemakers, taste their wines and enjoy sausages, meat, salad - and of course Wiener Schnitzel. Later that evening, we changed the venue and moved one floor down in the party room of the winery where in a cheerful round not only glasses but also dance legs were swinging. What did we dance? Wiener Waltzer - Vienna Waltz, of course.

It was an extraordinary evening.

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The 2010 European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Vienna

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Austria’s Best Wines and Winemakers - Falstaff WeinGuide 2010

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  1. Great, great post! It’s something I have never thought about, really, but it makes a whole lot of sense. Thanks for sharing

  2. Die WienWein-Gruppe wurde von vier führenden Wiener Weingütern gegründet, wuchs dann auf sechs Mitglieder an, bis im letzten Jahr das Weingut Zahel wieder ausgetreten ist. Die fünf aufrechten Mitglieder sind die Weingüter Wieninger, Christ, Edlmoser, Cobenzl und Mayer am Pfarrplatz. April 2012.