The Nittnaus family of Burgenland, Austria, is family of renegades — but respectful renegades. They might have thrown the rulebooks out of the window, but it hasn’t just been for the sake of doing so, but rather to see if they could improve the way the rulebook had been written in the first place.
The sons of Anita and Hans Nittnaus, Martin and Andi, are joined by their cousin, Lydia, in their quest to take their family’s work one step further. Together, this trio is carving their own path, adding another dimension to the work already achieved. And in doing so, it’s like they’re forging a new genre for their region — they are the punk group to their family’s rock band.
People: Lydia, Andi (left) and Martin (right)
Place: Jois, Burgenland, Austria
Varieties: Grüner Veltliner and Blaufränkisch
Wines: Click here
Did You Know? Martin explains that Blaufränkisch and Gruner Veltliner are often made in an almost-universal style in Austria, so if anybody steps outside of the box, people aren’t used to it.
“There is this political side to the traditional grapes. Every time we taste with people from Austria, they are shocked and say, this isn’t a Grüner! It opens up a new chapter of how traditional grapes can be reinterpreted.”
When you chat to this trio, many jokes and friendly banter flies around. Martin says,
“I didn’t study winemaking, rather I chose a subject where I was really in it for the money — literature. As the saying goes, the first generation founds the company, the second builds up the fortune, the third runs it into the ground, and then… the fourth studies literature.”
We have a joker on our hands, but he gets serious:
“While I was studying, some people got me into wine. I found this new side of winemaking and got hooked immediately. Coming out of a famous winery, I didn’t want to follow exactly in my father’s footsteps, so it wasn’t easy at the beginning, as I wanted to create something of my own. But — one thing was for sure — I didn’t want to do it alone.”
Martin and his brother, Andi, grew up with their cousin, Lydia, as the family lived together at the winery. Lydia says,
"I am the oldest, but Martin and I are only a year apart. My mother is Hans' sister, she's a protestant pastor, and we all grew up together. We're very close — we're like siblings."
Lydia originally also chose an alternative path to winemaking:
"I studied culture and social anthropology — I wanted to do something different. My dad is from New Ireland in Papua New Guinea, so that’s where the anthropology interest kicked in. Then, during university, I worked in a winery, helping out for tastings, cellar door days... and I started to develop more of interest in wines — once I'd started drinking other things than just sweet wine."
She took her WSETs, then her sommelier diploma, and went to South Africa to do a vintage in Stellenbosch. Then, she worked in hospitality for a while, including a stint at Newcomer Wines in London, and also took a course in vinification and viticulture. Meanwhile, Andi had decided to go down the official winemaking route, going to wine school in Montpellier and then doing an oenology masters in Copenhagen. By 2019, the three decided to join forces: their own Nittnaus label was born.
“Our Manila cuvée is about subversion, and the beauty of subversion. We’re freeing the grape from its own stereotype and sending it on a journey. It is about experimenting — polarization — working with our material and turning it upside down, producing thrilling stuff.””
The 2018 edition was destemmed, the 2019 saw a longer period of skin maceration, and the 2020 edition was 1/3 whole bunch, 2/3 destemmed, fermented in amphorae for one week with skin maceration, and then pressed and aged in amphorae.