The Muster wines have become some of the most celebrated wines of Austria, but this isn’t due to a specific or technical aspect of winemaking. There’s no magic recipe here — rather these wines are so good because they’re allowed to simply be themselves: this is wine, uninterrupted. There’s a certain energy found within these bottles; an energy that can only appear in wine if the raw material — the grapes — have an intrinsic balance. This balance, meanwhile, comes from years of getting to know their vines. And there’s one thing we can say with certainty: Sepp and Maria know their vines.
People: Maria and Sepp Muster
Place: Southern Styria, Austria
Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Morillon (local dialect for Chardonnay), Gelber Muskateller, Welschriesling, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and Blauer Wildbacher
Did You Know? Sepp and Maria are also celebrated for their orange wines, which they’ve made since 2005. Although now a popular style, back in the 2000s, they were still rare to come across. Sepp smiles, remembering,
“There was a guy who said something is going on in Friuli. We were at a restaurant and had a wine pairing, and there was one orange wine from Gravner. I didn’t know what it was, and I was so fascinated by the taste, so thought: I’ll also try this!
They have also learnt how to tend their vines via their own unique trellising system:
“We copy nature a bit. In nature, vines grow up trees — when they grow upwards, they’re in the vegetative phase. Then, when they’re heavier after some time, they move down by themselves, due to gravity. Then they’re in the ‘generative’ phase. The focus of the plant changes to growing grapes. By working like this, I think we get better physiological ripeness: more balance. Not more sugar, or more or less acidity, but just a balance of everything. We use stems for our orange wines, and even in cool and wet years, we never have green tannins in the wines. That’s a good sign.”
Sepp emphasises that there is no single biodynamic way, explaining,
“For example, we don’t use compost. That’s not common in biodynamic farming, and at the beginning, it was tough with the association (Demeter) but now they tolerate it. There’s no real name for what we do… It’s just farming. It’s watching nature, how it works, trying to see what’s going on with all of these complex processes. When you keep going, the complexity becomes simple. You learn that you’re part of the process, which is a nice thing of course, but you’re not the most important thing. You become connected.”
“At the beginning, we had to disconnect from our education. It took me ten years to lose what I had learnt previously about winemaking, as it’s always there in the corner of your brain. It disturbs you all the time. I’m doing the opposite to what I learnt. It works — it tastes different, but it works, and people like it.”
The first step was to embrace natural fermentation — ditching the packets of lab-cultured yeasts. Then, they moved from precise filtering to rough filtering, and then to no filtering at all. They also stopped racking as much (moving the wine off the lees), and began ageing their wines for much longe (20 - 24 months).