Christoph Hoch is one of the most forward-thinking young winemakers of Austria's Kremstal region. Practical and determined to find a natural way to farm and make wine, he's become renowned for his fresh take on producing non-vintage wines, and for his own methods of making 'fine-tuned' pét-nat, as well as for finding a way to make a form of traditional method without any additions.
“After I had finished viticulture school, I went in search of which styles of wines I wanted to make. I ended up discovering that in all the cuvees that I liked, from Burgundy to Champagne, and here in Austria too, there was a common denominator: they were all from biodynamically farmed vineyards.”
People: Christoph Hoch & Julie-Ann Hoch
Place: Hollenburg, Kremstal, Austria
Varieties: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muskat Ottonel, Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent and Blauer Portugieser
Farming: Biodynamic (certified with Demeter)
Wines: Click here
Did You Know? The vineyards sit high above the village of Hollenburg, at between 220 and 380 metres above sea level. Christoph calls this part of the Kremstal a “geological, exotic island” due to its high concentration of chalk; chalk not from the sea, but rather brought to the region from the Alps, via the Ur-Traisen River. When the Ur-Traisen River and the Danube River crashed together, they formed this unique “conglomerate” soil; a combination of chalky limestone and dolomite rocks.
There is one project that Christoph is particularly proud of; a blend predominantly composed of Pinot Blanc. It is called Kalkreich, meaning “Rich Chalk,” and it became a permanent resident in the Hoch wine stable in 2013.
“A friend of mine told me that I could make good sparkling wine here, because of the natural acidity in the grapes. However, I didn’t want to make a “traditional” Champagne-style sparkling wine, with added lab-yeasts and cane sugar. So, I contemplated how to do this naturally…”
This led him to research far and wide, and he reached out to a few Champagne growers to ask them for advice, and to listen to his ideas. One grower told him that while they thought his idea was a good one, they could assure him that it would never result in a stable wine with the correct atmospheric pressure. Christoph didn’t let this dent his enthusiasm however, and was determined that his idea would work. This clash of opinions resulted in them placing a bet. If Christoph were to succeed, the Champagne grower would give him the gift of success: twelve fine Burgundy barrels. The stakes were high.
We can just imagine Christoph beavering away with pieces of chalk and the chalkboard in his cellar, calculating complex mathematical equations relating to grape must and desired atmospheric pressure. First, he took his "reserve" wine, which had been matured for one year in old barrels, with no additions whatsoever. Next, during harvest the following year, he added fermenting juice from a vineyard that had been farmed specifically with the vision of creating juice to referment this wine. This juice is nicknamed the “Hochleistungssturm” - a word that Christoph invented. It’s the first time we’ve come across somebody who gives a scientific method a pet name, but we find it rather endearing. It roughly translates to English as "High Performance Fermenting Juice". The blending was the tough part to perfect. It had to be done at exactly the right time, as fermentation juice in constant flux.
It worked. It resulted in a completely dry wine with just the correct amount of pressure. For this style, it is of utmost importance that the wine is completely dry in order for it to be naturally stable, as no sulphur is added.