Earth Day is the perfect day to embrace biodynamic wines. Concerns over climate change and global warming have prompted winemakers to farm organically and biodynamically. Farming biodynamically is a movement that has gained momentum in many parts of the world, but farming biodynamically in a cool climate with harsh conditions is an even bigger challenge. respekt-BIODYN is a biodynamic group of winemakers in Austria that is taking on this challenge with a spiritual, ethical and ecological approach to nurturing mother earth.
What Is Biodynamic Wine?
Biodynamic wines are farmed using a method of organic farming and gardening with a specific holistic and spiritual approach to growing grapes sustainably. These farming methods are based on the principles of the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. He was the first to bring the perspective of the farm as a single, self-sustaining organism that thrives through biodiversity with the integration of crops and livestock. Steiner also brought forth a unique and comprehensive approach to soil, plant, animal and human health that recognizes the importance of the healthy interplay of cosmic and earthly influences.
Biodynamic vineyards are farmed without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. One of the concepts of biodynamics is that the farm is a closed sustainable system. Only natural crops, compost and soils utilized. Various animals are introduced to the vineyards to increase biodiversity. Crops are used to feed the animals, they produce manure which creates compost for crops.
Biodynamic farming utilizes cosmic energy that works with the lunar cycle. Treatments using 9 preparations (cow horns stuffed and planted, compost addition, soil health, biodiversity) are implemented in the farming process. All these factors contribute to a rich, diverse and nutrient-rich environment for healthy vines. These practices result in individual, wholesome wines with complexity, finesse and character. Wines that need time, time to mature and time to enjoy.
What is respekt-BIODYN
respekt-BIODYN is an association of 25 wineries, primarily from Austria, who have committed themselves to the goal of producing wines of the highest quality and individuality using biodynamic farming methods. The group was founded in 2005 by 12 winemakers as a way to learn, exchange ideas and share best practices in biodynamic farming. Founder, Fred Loimer says the group was inspired by Dr. Andrew Lorand who guided the members towards implementing Steiner’s biodynamic philosophy and practices. Read more respekt-biodyn.bio
Four Elite Producers of respekt-BIODYN
Fred Loimer, Fritz Wieninger, Gernhart Heinrich and Alex Sattler are four elite wine producers in the Austrian wine scene. Each is a member of respekt-BIODYN. Here they share their wines and insights on their biodynamic farming practices and the benefits to farming biodynamically.
From the Kamptal region of Austria, Fred Loimer is one of the elite winemakers of the region and is also one of the leaders in the biodynamic movement of Austria. Fred started working with his father Alfred in 1988 after completing his studies at Klosterneuburg with stints in Germany’s Nahe and Walter Schug winery in California. Fred took full control of his family’s estate in 1997 and purchased the cellar of the Haindorf Castle on the outskirts of Langenlois. He then constructed a hyper-modern black cube on top of the old cellar symbolizing his aesthetic for modern elegance.
Fred began practicing biodynamically in 2006 and is a founding member of Respekt. His wines are among the very best examples of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling in the Kamptal. In 2002, he was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Austria’s Falstaff wine magazine.
Fred Loimer believes that biodynamic wines have better aging potential. Loimer says, “we have better ripeness of fruit in our biodynamic vineyards which allows for better aging of wines.” In addition, they do spontaneous fermentation, where you get higher complexity of in the wines. Fred says these factors have contributed to longer aging potential in his wines.
LOIMER Brut Rosé, SRP $35
Loimer Brut Rosé Reserve shows the red-fruit aromas typical of Zweigelt, Pinot Noir, and Sankt Laurent with notes of fresh strawberries and cherries accented by sweet herbs and flowers. The palate shows firm acidity while 18-months aging on the lees in the bottle provides weight and texture.
LOIMER Langenlois Kamptal Grüner Veltliner 2019, SRP $24
Golden yellow with green reflexes, fruity nose of candied pineapple pieces and ring lots, lemon verbena, a hint of lardo resonates at first; mineral bite with a chalky texture, grape jelly and grapefruit, crisp acidity with salty piquancy, rich in substance with elegant extract sweetness, sparkling clean fruit, lots of tension and length, fine tart finish, superb development with air.
Fritz Wieninger is the leading wine producer in the city of Vienna and is a champion of Gemischter Satz (Geh-mish-ter Sah-ts), a traditional field blend and a favorite wine in Vienna’s heurigen (wine taverns). There are over 600 hectares of vines within Vienna making it Europe’s only capital city also demarcated as a wine appellation.
The Wieninger winery is in the 21st district on the outskirts of Vienna, home to many of the city’s heurigen and home to the famed Bisamberg hill where the Romans once cultivated the vine. Wieninger is a member of the vintner’s association Österreichische Traditionsweingüter and a member of Respekt.
Fritz Wieninger says “Biodynamic is not esoteric, it is based on hard facts, it is working with nature in the right way. I am not an organic junkie, I am doing it for quality, and I am achieving quality through biodynamic farming.” Fritz believes biodynamic vineyards are much more in balance, and balance is key to climate change. Climate change does not mean it is just warmer every year, it is also much more dryer. Wieninger says, “biodynamic treatment works to help the vines battle climate change, and in return also gives you better quality grapes and better quality wine”.
WIENINGER Wiener Gemischter Satz 2019, SRP $21
This fragrant and fresh wine shows plenty of complexity. The nose is rich of apple, sweet pea and rose petal. The texture is rather spare, but the buoyant finish is delightfully refreshing and at least fleetingly fascinating. Even as a young wine, the Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC delivers pure pleasure with its spicy, fresh character and makes an ideal companion for classic Austrian cuisine.
Gernot Heinrich founded the winery in 1990 with just one hectare and has steadily grown to 90 hectares today. Heinrich was one of the first in the region to transition from simple white wines to high-quality reds in the early 1990s and became famous for powerful red blends such as Salzberg, Gabarinza, and Pannobile.
In recent years, the focus has turned to Blaufränkisch from the nearby Leithaberg DAC, and to “Freyheit,” a line of wines produced with minimal intervention in the cellar. Heinrich converted to biodynamics in 2006 and is a member of respekt. Today Heinrich is regarded as one of Austria’s most innovative wine producers.
Heinrich feels his biodynamic efforts in his vineyards are both enriching and rewarding. He believes there are many forces working on the farm; mineral forces, astral forces, and eco forces. You can see the effects of these forces on the plants and the vines. They also use very low or no sulfur in their process. Heinrich says, “If you have healthy fruit due to biodynamic farming, you have natural resilience in the grapes, with thick skins and small berries. The phenolics stabilize the wines in a natural way, so reducing sulfur is not a challenge.”
HEINRICH Naked Red 2018, SRP $20
Naked Red showcases the enormous strides made in Austrian red wine and exhibits the quality of its native red grape varieties. Zweigelt serves as the wine’s base, providing soft and juicy red-berried fruit while notes of tobacco and spice come from Blaufränkisch. A small percentage of St. Laurent lends floral aromas and refreshing acidity.
Alex Sattler is one of the newest members of the respekt group. Sattlerhof is a leading producer in Austria’s South Styria region and produces benchmark examples of Styrian Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc. Alex Sattler and his family have been growing wine in the village of Gamlitz since 1887 and they were one of the first in the region to bottle high-quality dry white wines under their own name in the 1970s.
Today, the estate has grown to 40-hectares of organically farmed vines in some of the region’s most famous vineyards including “grand crus” Kranachberg and Pfarrweingarten. Sattlerhof belongs to the prestigious STK (Styrian Terroir and Classic Winegrowers), an association with strict quality standards and an esteemed vineyard classification.
Alex Sattler says, “we have changed a lot over the years and today we take pride in seeing our vineyards as a living organism and see the connection of the animals with the soils.” They found that this living soil plays a big role in developing healthy grapes, that are very resistant to the harsh conditions of this area. Sattler says “Biodynamic practices lead to greater soil quality and great diversity in the microbiomes. Resulting in healthy and stable vines.”
SATTLERHOF Südsteiermark Sauvignon Blanc 2019, SRP $19
Sauvignon Blanc Südsteiermark was hand-harvested from very steep hillside vineyards near Gamlitz and vinification occurred in stainless-steel tanks with 3-4 months of aging on its lees before bottling. The wine shows ripe stone fruit flavors while still being light, lively, and highly aromatic thanks to the cooling influence of the Alps.
** Photo Credits respekt-BIODYN **