Clemens Strobl officially began his winemaking journey in 2007, having previously had a successful career in advertising. A great winelover, eventually the call to learn how to make wine himself drew him out of the office, and he made his first experiment with a winemaker friend in Slovenia.
At first, he worked fairly technically and by the book, but after tasting and meeting with other winemaker colleagues he soon became convinced that organic viticulture and a more hands-off approach in the cellar was the way forward. He has never looked back.
These days, he is joined by his son Lukas, who is steadily taking over the helm. The estate is going from strength to strength, as they employ regenerative techniques in the vineyard, and embrace open-minded trains of thought in the cellar.
People: Clemens and Lukas Strobl
Place: Wagram, Kremstal and Kamptal, Austria
Varieties: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Roter Veltliner, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Hectares: 40+ parcels across 15 hectares
Did You Know? When they purchased and began works on their winery, they discovered a 150+-year-old basket press. They have lovingly restored it, and now use it for their Pinot Noir
Working across three regions means that Clemens and Lukas can explore different soil types, as well as different varieties, enabling them to gain an understanding of the complex relationships between terroir and vine. Clemens says,
“In the Kremstal, we have one hectare of Riesling. In Kamptal, it’s mainly Grüner Veltliner, and most of our vineyards are here in the Wagram. I think we have some of the best conditions for Grüner Veltliner and for Pinot Noir in Austria, especially in the famous Hengstberg vineyard. It’s not as hot as in Burgenland, for example, so you get a little bit more of that freshness; it works really well. Meanwhile, I think Riesling is better in in the Wachau and Kremstal.”
We ask how much the terroir varies from region to region.
“Quite a bit! Especially in the Kremstal where there are really prehistoric rocks, and the vineyards are almost cliff-like, with drystone walls. There is very little topsoil. Then, towards the east there are more loam/loess soils, but still rougher, with more stones and big rocks. Here in Wagram, most of the vineyards are pretty heavy formations of loam and loess; very rich and soft soils with good water supply. Sometimes in the Kremstal we also get some gravel and small rocks on the top of the surface. But mostly we deal with loam/loess soils which are ideal for wine growing, as they give a lot of extract to the grapes and to the wines.”
These unique circumstances ensure that they consistently find balance in their wines; they are concentrated yet remain fresh. Lukas continues,
“We don't need a lot of sugar, not high alcohol. Usually, we have low pH levels yet still achieve good body in the wines. Plus, so far, the vineyards are easy to work; we don’t need to irrigate. Being quite spread out also means that the hand work is a bit easier, as not everything has to happen at the same time. We have somewhere between 40 and 50 parcels in total, over around 15 hectares. We work with a lot of small, old terraces. We prefer to keep the old vines rather than grub them up and plant new vineyards.”
They decided to convert fully to organic farming in 2012. Clemens explains,
“At the beginning, we had less knowledge and education about organic wines. But we began to learn more and more and became very interested. Some people told us that it’s not really possible to make organic wine, but I read a lot and spoke with winemakers who work organically, and I became sure that I wanted to change and move in that direction. It’s a big movement, not only for the wine itself, but also for nature and for the climate.”
It wasn’t just a case of ditching the chemicals; it has been a long and gentle process of fine-tuning their practices, learning what methods best suit their soils and climate. Lukas says,
“Cover crops are a big topic for us, but always along with the natural cover crop. We don’t force cover crops on a vineyard if we don’t think it needs it. I’m not a big fan of ploughing or digging up the soil or anything like that, so I’d rather leave it. But if you cut the grass, then all that stays is pretty much a lawn after a few years. So that's when we start seeding some plants again.”
They do this with the intention of keeping the soil healthy and increasing its organic matter, which in turn supports the vines, resulting in healthier vineyards. Lukas continues,