Good wine from holistic organic farming

Wine is our most important asset economically, but we are more than just wine. Fruits, crops, sheep, wood and hospitality are also part of our farm!

In the fourth generation, our Winkler-Hermaden family manages the lands around Kapfenstein Castle, which are also owned by our family. On 40 hectares of vineyards, 21 grape varieties are cultivated according to organic farming. The most important varieties are the Blue Zweigelt, the Sauvignon blanc and the Gewürztraminer. Wine is our most important economic culture and is particularly close to our hearts. Through careful work and careful experimentation, we grow wines with which we want to be one of the world’s best.

“Like organs in an organism, the individual areas of our agriculture work together. Each institution has its own task, but only in common are they are a whole.”

Christof Winkler-Hermaden, after Rudolf Steiner

Although viticulture is the most important economic for us, we cannot imagine our agriculture without fruit growing, agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry and the inn. As Rudolf Steiner stated in his agricultural course, we want to consider the agricultural good as an organism and the individual segments as organs. For us, viticulture would probably be the heart of the business, the family and employees the brain, the restaurant our mouthpiece…

The changeover to biodynamic agriculture is the logical consequence of our actions and although it may take some time before we feel ready to go down this path, the biodynamic economy is most in line with our philosophy.

Organic vineyard cultivation

Steep slopes on volcanic basalt tufts and tertiary marine sediments, as well as high rainfall make manual work inevitable.

Since 2009, our entire agricultural area has been organically managed. This sustainable economy has increased biodiversity and positively changed the quality of wine. Lost insects, deer and birds have settled in our corridors again and a typical site greening has established itself in our vineyards and on our green areas, depending on the soil and microclimate.

The soil in which the vine grows influences the resulting wine. For this reason, we want to preserve and promote our soil life as much as possible. Because a diverse habitat with a wide variety of living beings is more resistant, more resistant in times of heat, drought or high disease pressure from fungi.

We want to keep the soil alive and maintain it with all the microorganisms, plants and insects that find a home in addition to the vines in the vineyard. That is why we are constantly looking for new physical and biological systems for the care of vineyards. For example, mycorrhiza mushrooms are used, which live in symbiosis with the vine and are intended to help make important nutrients available for plants. On the other hand, we also try to bring more diversity and more humus into the soil by properly greening.

Our vineyards are greened all year round and are mulched 3-4 times a year. We use an alternating mulching system, in which every second row is mulched at a time. This guarantees flowering and seeding of the plants.

In almost all vineyards, the Guyot education can be found as a double-decker plantation with a density of about 4500-5000 canes per hectare. Promising experiments with cone cordon double stick are currently underway in one of our vineyards. In order to increase our quality, thinning is done in certain layers. The quality in the remaining berries is increased by reducing the yield. It starts shortly after flowering, sometimes even in bloom, to reduce the yield to about 3000-4000 kg per hectare or even less.

During the harvest, every hand is needed, because with us every grape is still harvested by hand, tested by people and carefully brought to the cellar. But it is not only for harvesting that a lot of work is necessary in our vineyards. One hectare of vineyard is used to provide about 500 hours of labour per year. Because we couldn’t do it alone, we get help from the best employees we can imagine. All come from the surrounding area, partly from the volcanic country, but also from Slovenia, which is 6.2 miles away. Most of them have been in operation for many years and form a well-coordinated team.

The highest possible complexity and pronounced odour components, as well as an elegant body and ripening potential are the central goals for us in winemaking. Every year you can see for yourself at the wine presentation in autumn. Together with the STK winemakers, who have the same goals in mind, we offer interested people the opportunity to taste several vintages of top-layered wines.

Traditional varieties & PiWi

Traditional grape varieties make up the majority of our vineyards. In recent years, however, there has been an increasing focus on fungus-resistant grape varieties (PiWi varieties). These require 80-100 less effort in plant protection. In this way, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and the vineyard ecosystem can be treated more gently. With around 7 of the area, the PiWi varieties Muscaris and Souvignier gris are already strongly represented, but especially with the customer, the traditional grape varieties have a big advantage due to their popularity.

The wine cellars

All our wine production takes place in a complex of buildings consisting of the Drachenkeller (1999) and the Löwenkeller (around 1800). While the Drachenkeller is primarily about gentle grape processing and red wine fermentation, white wine fermentation takes place in the Löwenkeller. In order to process the grapes as gently as possible, an attempt is made to keep shear forces and pressures on the grape material low. In this way, the amount of trough possible is reached and thus a controlled, clean fermentation.

In fermentation, most of the work is done with pure-breeding thefe. Mixtures of yeasts, also known as wild yeasts, are also used to increase complexity. However, spontaneous fermentation, i.e. yeasts present on the grapes, is constantly being experimented with. Most white wines ferment in a temperature range of about 18-20°C, while the red wines are fermented at temperatures around 28°C.

We attach particular importance to our oak barrels, which are made of Kapfensteiner oak. The 80 ha of forest, which is family-owned, has been supplying enough oak for 30 years to develop the wine in wood. We see this as a very distinct form of terroir.