Ever since my first taste of Winifred at Ved Stranden 10 in Copenhagen – I knew I was in love. She was shy at first but turned out to be a sociable, open-minded, and charming young lady. That’s everything I look for in a woman! Ehrr, wine. It can be hard to tell the difference with Gut Oggau, because their wines have such strong personalities. Their labels also have faces and names. I am glad they are wines, however, because I love both Theodora, Timotheus, and Josephine as much as Winifred.
We recently paid a visit to the biodynamic winery Gut Oggau, situated in the region of Burgenland in Austria. The city is called Oggau, and the name simply means Domain Oggau. Our main destination of the trip was our dinner at Taubenkobel. Little did we know, though, that the hotel and restaurant’s co-owner and head sommelier, Barbara Eselböck, happened to be the sister of Stephanie at Gut Oggau.
The Gut Oggau Philosophy
Since 2007, Stephanie Tscheppe-Eselböck together with her husband, Eduard Tscheppe, has made some of the most interesting and delicious natural wines I know. Eduard’s parents were retired winemakers from a conventional winery, but he never learned their old ways. Stephanie’s (and Barbara’s) mother, Eveline Eselböck, was a pioneer of introducing natural wines to Austria. Stephanie and Eduard were never in doubt. They were going to produce naturally fermented grape juice without any use of fertilizer, pesticides, or other chemicals.
– We couldn’t ever work with a conventional grape. It’s impossible. Once you get the beauty of a natural wine – how could you make any compromises? Eduard tells us.
The former owner of their winery was a 92-year-old woman without children. She had lost her ambitions many years ago, and didn’t do much to take care of the vineyards. That was a good thing for the young couple.
– We inherited old vines with deep roots and could tell the vineyards would react well to a conversion to biodynamics, he explains.
They started off with nine hectares. Now, ten years later, they have fifteen hectares, and are Demeter-certified. Despite some vintages with rough weather conditions, the philosophy has always been the same – intervene as little as possible with mother Earth’s work.
– We never open the soil in-between the rows. There’s such a fragile balance in the life in the soil, between micro organisms and insects.
In Gut Oggau’s vineyards, there’s permanent green grass on the top surface, and they don’t fertilize at all. Only compost and cow manure is used in small amounts. It’s a gentle and slow approach, but very profound and sustainable.
– Too much compost causes overnutrition for the plants. We try to make the plants struggle to a certain extent. If they are spoiled they lose energy to protect themselves.
Why There are Faces and Names on the Labels of Gut Oggau
Stephanie and Eduard found their wines to be so full of life, each so unique in character and personality, that they wanted to transfer the personality onto the label.
– We describe the wines as if they are persons, and then a friend of ours create faces according to the personal profile and draws the labels, Stephanie explains.
At first, they didn’t know that the labels would have such great impact, but people recognize the bottles immediately.
– You see the label and you know it’s Gut Oggau! Stephanie says proudly.
Today, the different wines of Gut Oggau make out an entire family. There’s the grandparents, Mechtild and Bertholdi, the parents, Joschuari, Emmeram, Timotheus, and Josephine, and the children, Atanasius, Theodora, and Winifred. The younger the generation, the lighter and more energetic wine, while the older ones are heavier and more powerful.
The Future Generation & Natural Wines
Natural wine hasn’t been easy to market and sell in Austria, however. Denmark, UK, and the US are much more important markets for Gut Oggau. Restaurants in Norway can buy Gut Oggau from the wine importer Vin John, but no bottles are currently available at the Norwegian wine monopoly.
– There’s a lost generation for natural wines. People born in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. They have been educated with all the big wines in the world, and have large cellars with a huge selection of top brand names, says Eduard.
According to his theory, it’s difficult for this generation to rethink everything, because they have been drinking something else all their life. However, Eduard sees a middle generation, and especially a younger generation, which are much more open-minded.
– Due to their keen interest in organically produced food, they will also start to question the way wines are produced, Eduard concludes.
Have you drunk any of the wines from Gut Oggau? Which is your favorite? Please leave a comment below.