"I have the best time working in nature. I enjoy every minute, every hour — especially if I can work with my animals. When I am with them — outside in the vineyards — I can forget about everything else.”
It takes a lot of courage and conviction to go against the grain, especially when you’re from a region which is known for a very particular, more conventional style of wine.
But sometimes in life we have a penny drop moment — that ‘aha!’ moment that changes everything. We won’t ruin the punchline for you; instead, we’ll introduce Michael to your screen so he can tell you his story himself...
As you'll have learnt about Michael's story and farming methods from the film, we thought we'd delve a little further into his varieties and wines.
Michael’s land is spread out over 35 hectares; 10 of which are planted to vines, and 25 of which are agricultural for his animals (Scottish Highland cattle, Breton dwarf sheep, goats, chickens and horses). The soil is composed of varying degrees of loam, loess, sandstone, clay and chalk. The varieties are Grüner Veltliner — the most commonly planted variety in the Weinviertel — as well as Welschriesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Riesling, Muskateller, Scheurebe and Müller-Thurgau for the whites, and Rotburger (a synonym for Zweigelt), Cabernet Sauvignon, Roesler and Blauburgunder for the reds.
Michael’s wines are remarkably low in alcohol; often around the 10 or 11% mark. This is part of what gives them their special drinkability factor. He explains,
“When I was in school, it was ‘Big California time.’ Every Chardonnay we had was 14% or more and double oaked. It took me a long time to understand that a light wine with low alcohol content can actually be higher in quality, and age for longer. That was probably the hardest thing to learn.”
Now, however, his palate has done a 180 from those rich, ripe Chardonnays. Instead, he says,
“Now, in my wines — or in every wine for that matter — I search for a liveliness and balance. I’m a guy who likes freshness, acidity and good tannin.”
Sourcing local wood for his barrels is very important for him. He says,
“The barrels are very special for me; we work only with our own wood – we have a forest here with very good oak and acacia.”
In addition, he has a few amphorae, in which he macerates and ages both white and reds for longer periods of skin contact.
He makes around 12 cuvées, although not every cuvée makes the cut every year; for example his Sodalis wines are varietal expressions of Weissburgunder and Riesling when he feels the grapes from that year are particularly exceptional.
Little Buteo is Michael’s version of a little wine – this is a super approachable expression of Grüner Veltliner; half direct-press, half four to eight-hour maceration, and aged in stainless steel, this is thirst-quenching and shows Grüner in its birthday suit. Flora, meanwhile, is similar in thinking, but rather a blend of Riesling, Scheurebe and Muskateller; to show the synergy of these aromatic varieties together.
The older sibling to the Little Buteo is the Buteo; this is Grüner picked a little riper, and the whole wine undergoes four to eight hours’ skin contact. It's aged in foudres instead of stainless steel, giving it a little more oxygen and thus some nutty characteristics. They are like chalk and cheese — polar opposite expressions yet both equally delightful for their own personalities.
His White Bessis are the more experimental cuvées. The first edition was a blend of 2011, 2012 and 2013, and was composed of Riesling macerated on the skins for six months, and Pinot Blanc aged under flor (surface yeast). The next edition didn’t occur until 2016, when the second Bessi; a blend of 2016, 2015 and 2014 vintages of Welschriesling, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Weissburgunder was bottled. Bessi number 3 was similar, but 2017 and 2016 vintages, with Scheurebe in place of Weissburgunder. Maybe a tad confusing, but that’s the point - nothing is set in stone in this little corner of the Weinviertel. His neighbours might make very similar wines year on year, but that’s not Michael’s style. After all, would we want an artist to paint the same painting over and over again?
It’s this fluidity which reminds us of his approach to farming his vineyards — ever changing. No year is the same, and we cannot replicate nature’s pathways. The wines reflect this philosophy. He trusts his instincts in the winery as much as in the cellar. However, although experimental in spirit, there are no compromises. He says,
“If I don’t like a wine, I won’t bottle it. And to decide on whether or not a wine will need sulphites, I leave a half-full bottle open in the kitchen for four days. That tells me what I need to know.”
Although mainly a region for white wine, Michael’s expressions of Zweigelt have also gained a particular reputation. They are whole bunch, aromatic, juicy and fresh versions of the grape; a welcome relief to many who have been disappointed with the old-school, oaky, high alcohol Zweigelt wines that are so often found in Austria. In the same vein, a fun and quite simply utterly delicious pét-nat joined the squad. Its name, simply Bubbles, reflects the simplicity Michael craved from this wine.
But above all, the cuvée ‘Sol’ is perhaps the most emblematic wine from the Gindl stable; this is Grüner Veltliner and Pinot Blanc, but not as you know it. It is a perpetual solera-style wine from; meaning he takes some wine out to be bottled every year and replaces what’s been taken with wine from the current vintage.
It’s a wine unlike anything else in the world; with no precedent; yet it somehow manages to taste classical. It’s the kind of wine that makes us question what makes a wine classic; if it’s truth and dedication to terroir, then Michael’s wines fit the bill. We can’t help but ponder: one day, will we look back on Michael’s wines and think of them as classical, rather than experimental?