The vines around Tadten are part of an enormous gravel bar that stretches more than five kilometers and formed more than two million years ago by the ancient riverbeds of the Danube. The soils are mineralic and layered with gravel, brown earth and occasionally sand.
Erich Sattler is emblematic of the new generation of Austrian vintners: a wine-school grad and the 4th generation in the family to take over his family’s estate, in 1999. "We make wine as my grandfather did," he says, "only with better machines." Located in and around the village of Tadten, Sattler’s vineyards are on the east side of Lake Neusiedl, which moderates the warm air from the easterly Pannonian plain’s continental influence. The soil here is composed mainly of gravel, part of a 5 kilometer wide gravel bed left behind when the Danube river dried up 2 million years ago. Sattler’s st. laurent and zweigelt vines, some of which are 40+ years old, are well suited to gravel soils for the production of wines with ‘ripe, soft tannin,’ Erich’s primary goal. Sattler practices certified minimal-impact vineyard management, does not irrigate his 22 hectares, green harvests to reduce yields to a mere 5 to 7 bunches per vine, and harvests by hand.
In order to produce dense, balanced wines with silky tannins, in his ‘classic’ wines Sattler de-stems, ferments in stainless steel, with elevage on the lees for 6 months in stainless and large oak casks. For the reserve wines, fermentation occurs in 2000 liter open top vats, punch downs are done manually, and then wines are matured for 12 months in Allier oak barrels for the St. Laurent Reserve, and new barrels for the Zweigelt Reserve. Erich never uses any technical concentration methods like reverse osmosis, or any additives before or after fermentation. Sattler succeeds in his objective of producing "variety-typical, dense and smooth wines with harmoniously integrated tannins, lovely fruit and pleasant acidity."
The source of Austria’s finest botrytized sweet wines, Burgenland covers a lofty portion of Austria's wine producing real estate. It encompasses the smaller regions of Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland. The latter two are most associated with their exceptional red wines. The region as a whole produces no shortage of important whites.
Neusiedlersee, named for the lake that it surrounds to the east, is home to a great diversity of grape varieties. The region’s most notable wines, however, are the botrytis-infected, sweet versions.
Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, which wraps the lake on its western side, includes the town of Rust, a historically esteemed wine community. Its close proximity to the lake’s fog and mist make it another source of some of the more prestigious botrytized wines. Neusiedlersee-Hügelland also produces fine Blaufränkisch, Pinot Blanc, Neuburger and Grüner Veltliner, though a label will usually name the more general, Burgenland, so as not to confuse it with its eastern cousin, Neusiedlersee, across the lake.
Blaufränkisch is well suited to and makes up over half of the vineyard area in Mittelburgenland. The region’s hills and plateaus, which are composed of variations in schist, loess and clay-limestone, produce high quality reds with interesting diversity.
Südburgenland, also known for its deep, complex and age-worthy Blaufränkisch, is beginning to turn out some alluring whites from Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).
Austria’s most popular red variety, the Zweigelt grape can make a charmingly fruity, snappy and spicy wine ideal for summer sipping. Be on the lookout for the one-liter bottles—perfect for the barbecue! It is also capable of more serious, concentrated, age-worthy version that can withstand a short number of years of age. Somm Secret— While native to Austria, Zweigelt is actually a fairly recent cross bred by Dr. Zweigelt in 1922. He crossed two native varieties, Blaufränkisch, for its peppery bite, with St. Laurent, chosen for its elegance.