Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Internet Guru and Medical Doctor go Wine: Weingut StephanO in Suedburgenland

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Stephan Oberpfalzer from Weingut StephanO

With my fellow EWBC 2010 wine bloggers, I visited Suedburgenland with the objective of being introduced to the wines of Suedburgenland, led by Wine Journalist Julia Sevenich. Several wineries caught my attention. One of them was the start-up winery StephanO – a small winery owned and run by the Salzburg-based couple Prof. Dr. Killer-Oberpfalzer and Dr. Stephan Oberpfalzer. I had the privilege to chat a bit with Stephan Oberpfalzer and enjoy his wonderful wines.


Already during the bus drive from Vienna to Burgenland, the American-borne wine journalist Julia Sevenich (picture left), who now lives in Austria, introduces us to the region: With 14.500 hectares of vineyard land, Burgenland encompasses four sub regions: Neusiedlersee (Lake Neusiedl), Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, and Middle and South Burgenland. The spectrum of Burgenland wine ranges from great white wines and full bodied red wines to an array of noble sweet wines. The shallow Neusiedler See (Lake Neusiedl) is one of the few places on earth where noble rot attacks grapes reliably every year. At the same time, there has been a red wine revolution in Austria during the last 20 years and increasingly Austria’ top red wines tend to come from the Burgenland.

With 500 hectares of vineyards, the Südburgenland is the smallest sub area of the Burgenland – and one of the smallest in Austria. Südburgenland is bordered in the east by Hungary and Slovenia, and in the west by the Austrian states of Steiermark and Niederösterreich. “Suedburgenland is probably the most unspoilt wine landscape of Burgenland” Julia said. Eisenberg, which has significant historical importance, and the Weinberg of Deutsch-Schuetzen together form the region’s winegrowing center. Authentic red wines are produced here, predominantly from Blaufränkisch, that display subtle mineral spicy notes. Approximately 150 hectares of Blaufraenkische are planted in Suedburgenland. Crisp and fruity white wines from the Welschriesling and Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) varieties are produced along the towns of Rechnitz in the north and Moschendorf in the south.

The majority of winemakers are hobby winemakers, or supplement their income with another job. The average grower here has only a half a hectare of vineyards. There are only a hand-full of full-time winemakers. Only one Weingut has more than 20 hectares. Much of the wine is sold through the local Buschenschank wine taverns.

Picture: Austria's Wine Regions

Winemakers Krutzler and Schiefer were the first to achieve national and international recognition and lend inspiration to others in the area. Reinhold Krutzler founded the Deutsch Schützen Sixpack with five other vintners from his wine village dedicated to exploring the region’s terroir and making the best single-vineyard wines possible. “There was a time when international varieties were gaining in popularity in the region, but luckily as the young vintners came back from abroad, they realized that we had something very special here. With Blaufränkisch, we have an indigenous grape variety that is well adapted to our soils and climate and is capable of expressing our unique terroir” says Christoph Wachter from Weingut Wachter-Wiessler, who I also met on this trip.

The region-typical Blaufränkisch has been authorised to carry the Eisenberg DAC Klassik designation from the 2009 vintage and the Eisenberg DAC Reserve effective from the 2008 vintage.

Picture: Christoph Wachter from Weingut Wachter-Wiessler and Stephan Oberpfalzer from Weingut StephanO at Wachter-Wieslers Ratschen

Klassik: Submission of the wine to the Prüfnummer tasting commission from 1 June in the year following the harvest, and available to the consumer from 1 September in the year following the harvest; Reserve: Submission of the wine to the Prüfnummer tasting commission from 1 January in the second year following the harvest, and available to the consumer from 1 March in the second year following the harvest.

Alcohol levels by vol: Klassik: min. 12.5 Vol % and max. 13 Vol %; Reserve: min. 13 Vol %.

Taste profile: Klassik: fruit-driven aromas, mineral and spicy aromas, little or no notable use of oak; Reserve: fruity, mineral and spicy notes, full-bodied, aged in big oak casks or small barrel

Weingut StephanO

Weingut StephanO is an absolute newcomer. It is the child of the Oberpfalzer couple from Salzburg. Monika Killer-Oberpfalzer is a distinguished medical University Professor at the University of Salzburg and her husband Stephan Oberpflazer is a Ph. D. in business informatics. Weingut StephanO is not about earning a living. It is about a long cherished dream of two wine fanatics.

Picture: Stephan Oberpfalzer from Weingut StephanO

The long cherished dream of establishing a winery eventually came true for the Oberpfalzer couple in 2008, when they purchased a bit more than a hectare of vineyard land in southern Burgenland. A year later, the Weingut StephanO was established and the planning of winery and the wine cellar began. In spring 2010, the vineyard right behind the winery was newly planted. On 23th July 2010, the construction works of StephanO winery started, with the completion of works scheduled for 2011. The vineyards of Weingut StephanO stretch across Deutsch-Schützen and Eisenberg.

Picture: Stephan Oberpfalzer from Weingut StephanO

This is clearly about realizing a dream of a lifetime. But what about the technical knowledge you need to make wine? Stephan Oberpfalzer says: “I’ve yearned to be a wine maker for a long time. I’ve educated myself through courses and seminars. I was able to watch experienced wine makers in action. Now the time has come to apply the knowledge acquired and make the wines of the StephanO Estate.” I wish you from the bottom of my heart all the best. What I have already tasted was very promising.

Vineyards: 1.9 hectares, of which 1.2 hectares leased
Production: 7000 bottle per year
Cellarmasters and owner: Dr. Monika Killer-Oberpfalzer and Dr. Stephan Oberpfalzer

The Weingut Stephano Wine Portfolio – 2 Wines

Trinculo – Blaufraenkisch, from vineyards that are up to 10 years old, earthy and mineral flavors, lively, with a bit of dark berries.

Gonzalo – Blaufraenkisch Reserve, 16 to 18 months in French oak barrels, from vineyards that are 10 to 25 years old, velvety, with an elegant note, an intense attack of berry flavours, couple with some oak, starting with the vintage 2008, this wine will be marketed under the recently established Eisenberg Reserve DAC label.

I asked Stephan Oberpfalzer: “What is the story behind these names”? Stephan Oberpfalzer answered: “A distinguished character, a deep body, flavour, exotic taste, classical arts – good wines are like a comedia dell’arte by Shakespeare. Stephano, the boisterous cellar master from Shakespeare’s famous play The Tempest is not by accident the inspiration for our Weingut StephanO. We are devoted to producing premium wines with passion - just like Shakespeare’s Stephano. Trinculo and Gonzalo – the names of our two wines - are also figures in Shakespeare’s plays.”

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