Alwin and Stefanie Jurtschitsch could have taken over the family business and kept everything the same. There might be the saying if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but if we all adhered to that or remained sedentary, we'd be stuck drinking traditional wines and agricultural concepts wouldn't have advanced.
The current era of Jurtschitsch wines were born from a desire to work differently. From working on a biodynamic weed farm in Australia, to submerging himself in polyculture in the Ecuadorian jungle, Alwin developed an ardent belief in organic farming as a teenager and young adult. Seeing wine as an ever-evolving product of culture, their winemaking techniques have left old traditions in the past, making way for new ones to take their place.
"Being an organic winemaker isn’t this romantic ideal of a guy in a straw hat with sandals on. You have to be super precise and to have so much knowledge about how nature, climate, soil and disease functions. If you're an honest winemaker, you can never say, ‘Now I’ve made it.’ So much changes."
People: Alwin & Stefanie Jurtschitsch
Place: Kamptal, Austria
Varieties: Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc in German), Muskateller, Donauriesling, Johanniter, Pinot Noir, Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent
Wines: Click here
Did You Know? Alwin & Stefanie learnt the ancestral practice of picking by taste - deciding when the sugar/acid balance of their grapes is ready for harvest - in France, with Tom Lubbe of Domaine Matassa in the Roussillon.
“We’ve always been curious about the taste of the grapes we grow. We want to see all of the aspects of taste. For the last 100 years we’ve pressed directly - but couldn’t we be missing out on other aromas?”
He explains that many other winemakers are too afraid to step out of the stylistic box that has been drawn for them by their predecessors. Tradition, he argues, can be the Achilles' heel for so many.
"If you made wines like these thirty years ago, you would have been sent away because this is not 'tradition.' Tradition is a good base. It gives you a certain security, but it can be super boring. If you don't manage to get it right for you; for your heart and your personality; then you’re lost and just following some old papers."
Next on their agenda came sparkling wine. They had begun making traditional method sparkling wines in 2007, but the notion of making sparkling wines completely naturally had persistently intrigued them. In 2012, Stefanie bottled some wines that were fermenting from barrel, directly under crown cap, to see if fermentation would continue and result in sparkling wine. They forgot about the experimental bottles, tucked away in a corner of a room. It wasn't until Alwin came into contact with pét-nats in Australia while working with James Erskine of Jauma Wines on a working holiday, that he realised this was what Stefanie had unwittingly created. It would lead to a new collaboration pét-nat project between them and two close winemaker friends, Martin and Anna Arndorfer: Fuchs Und Hase.