Weingut Rebenhof, natural wines in Styria, Austria

Weingut Rebenhof by Tom Leitner

It was not the first time I was drinking a wine of Hartmut Aubell, but I have to say I was really thrilled about it. I didn’t do it well anyway, later I found out. I should have decanted the bottle, but not in order to keep the sediment at the bottom, but rather to shake the wine and have the sediment well stirred. Then put the bottle upside down on top of another bottle with a wider mouth and let the juice freely flow. That was the real way of doing it. Now I know.

Maischevergoren 2017. It means Fermentation on the skins. Therefore we are talking about an orange wine. Hartmut reminds me of those card players in the Mississippi river wheelboats. They played with their cards close to their chests. Hartmut makes wonderful wines but he keeps the winemaking for himself. I think Maischevergoren is a Sauvignon Blanc from South Styria, Austria, where Weingut Rebenhof Hartmut Aubell is located. But it could be something different, completely different. It reminds me of those Styrian Sauvignons I have really enjoyed in the past, from Andreas Tscheppe, Roland Tauss, Ewald Tscheppe or Franz Strohmeier. And it is an orange wine, as its name estates, but other than that, I don’t know much about the wine. Well, that I love it, for sure.

When we opened the bottle, the room filled with the silky aromas of the wine. Honeyed aromas coming from the skin contact and soft white stone fruit. When tasting, we all fell in love with it. Elegant, smooth yet powerful, or better said, intense, like caressing a suede jacket. I don’t think the bottle lasted long. It was one of those experiences that before you open the bottle, it is “let’s see how this one is” and when you are drinking it, you go “Wow, how can this wine be so good?” I had previously tasted his Sauvignon 2016 (yes, this one was a Sauvignon, as shown on the label) and it was also incredible. But this Maischevergoren (I have learned to write the name well because I love the wine) was absolutely special. So special I think it is one of the best wines I’ve tasted in the last months.

There is a special wine Hartmut produced in 2013. Herrenberg 200 was made with Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Riesling. This is one of those wines you enjoy easily. A wine with no harshness, with captivating honeyed aromas coming from the maceration on the skins. Soft tannins, evolving acidity, a wine that makes you want to keep forever.

Let’s go back to its maker, Hartmut Aubell. I mentioned South Styria in Austria, a place that, along with Oslavia in the Italian Collio and Goriška Brda and Vipavska Dolina in Slovenia, has become my favorite spot in the world for wine and for skin macerated white wines.

So, about Hartmut. He is managing a family winery called Rebenhof since 2008. Before him, the vineyard was in his family, but nobody was making wine out of it, Hartmut is the first one producing not only grapes but also wine. It was his great-grandfather Ludwig Kempl, who was the Imperial Councilor back in 1924, the one who introduced his family in the business. Hartmut’s philosophy has always been working organically and naturally, not adding anything to the grapes in the fields or to the wines in the cellar. Since 2013 he follows biodynamical methods and since 2016 his winery is certified by Demeter.

One important thing about some of the Rebenhof’s vineyards is their soil. Here it is called Opok, a marly marine sediment formed by a very fine-grained calcareous material. We are not far from the Collio, where this style of soils is called Ponca in Italian, Flysch in Friulano and Opoka in Slovenian. It is in these kind of soils where the best wines in the area are born.

The grape varieties Hartmut works are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Yellow Muscat, White Burgundy and Welsh Riesling. He produces an ample flight of wines with them, and most of those wines are orange wines. Then he produces his only red wine with Zweigelt. He uses stainless steel and oak for ageing, increasing lately the use of Austrian oak. He uses barrel sizes from 100 to 500 liters and he is producing a wine following the solera style of Spanish Sherry that nowadays has four to six different stages of ageing.

Hartmut is also one of the few winemakers in all Austria making a carbonic maceration white wine. This is a style amply used in Beaujolais and in Rioja with young red wines, but it is seldom used with white wines. Besides Hertmut, there is only another winery in Austria doing this. Hartmut produced Sputnik Interzellular 2015 and IZ Sauvignon 2014 following this method. In this link you can watch a YouTube video about the IZ Vintage 2013.

On a side note, Rebenhof also includes a Bed & Breakfast. And in a very special note, here is where Filipe Koletnik from Atimo is producing his MorMal, a wine that is made using Malvazija from Slovenia and Morillon from Styria. Another excellent wine.

We will talk soon to Hartmut Aubell to know about his love for orange wines and the rest of wonders he is producing.

Photos (c) by Tom Leitner