The Judith Beck estate is based in the commune of Gols, in the Neusiedlersee region, on the eastern side of the Lake Neusiedl. Gols is part of the larger Burgenland region in easternmost Austria, with a very warm climate defined by the Pannonian plain and the Lake, whose temperature can 85 degrees in the summer and is only 1.5 meters deep. Indeed, this is the country’s warmest wine growing area and the first to harvest. It is the center of the production of Austria’s finest dry and full-bodied red wines.
The family estate was founded in 1976 by Matthias and Christine Beck. Their daughter, Judith, assumed full control of the winery in 2004, having made her first vintage in 2001. After graduating from the Klosterneuburg Viniculture College Judith Beck gained international experience at world-renowned wineries, including Château Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux, Braida in Piedmont and Errazuriz in Chile. Managing the family winery comes naturally to Judith who has an innate “sixth-sense” for the regional varieties zweigelt, blaufränkisch and st. laurent.
Judith Beck owns a total of 15 hectares of vines in Gols, with holdings in the vineyard sites Altenberg, Gabarinza, Salzberg and Schafleiten. 85% of the area is planted to red varieties – Blauer Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, Pinot Noir and Merlot, with the remaining 15% planted to white varieties – Welschriesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. In addition, grapes are brought in from another 5 hectares in the communes of Apetlon, Halbturn and Winden, and used in the production of the basic red wines. Vines are planted at high densities of up to 7,000 vines per hectare to limit yields and ensure ripe fruit at harvest time. Soils range from loam and clay on the lower vineyards to limestone, higher up on the ridges.
The Becks built an impressive new production and aging cellar in 2005. It allows Judith to manipulate her wines as little as possible in the vinification process, resulting in wines of pure and vivid expression of the variety and unique vintage character. Judith Beck’s wines are at once elegant, powerful, complex and possess good aging potential.
Judith and her father Matthias practiced sustainable viticulture from the outset, and converted to biodynamic practice with the 2007 vintage. She uses only native yeasts in the fermentation process. The Red wines are fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, in new barriques or in open vats. The wines undergo malolactic fermentation in new barriques or in large oak barrels. Some of the red wines are also matured in large oak vats, some of which are quite old, and are already being used by the third generation of owners.
The philosophy of the domaine is aptly put by Judith: “Wine and the joy of living and pleasure all go hand in hand. We prefer wines which captivate all of our senses with each new bottle and each new sip.”
Uwe Schiefer began assembling his estate in 1990, when vineyards were available on the cheap in Sud Burgenland. He astutely saw potential in the schist-laden slopes of Eisenberg, where the variety blaufränkisch seems to have found its most profound resonance. Schiefer has risen to the top echelon of this region’s producers in recent years, and with his “less is more” winemaking philosophy, any rise in quality must come from what’s happening in the vineyard. To that end, and with a foundation in organic viticulture, he has been moving toward biodynamics for several years now.
We found him at a booth at the ProWein trade fair in Düsseldorf a few weeks ago pouring his entire range of reds, and finishing with a strangely beguiling gewürztraminer that underwent a long skin maceration. While this might seem at odds with “less is more”, what was interesting about the wine was it retention of varietal character and typicity, perhaps in spite of the overt expression of the “orange wine” technique. In any case, it’s at least an indicator that Schiefer isn’t content to rest on his laurels.
We happily feature Schiefer wines this month, including three distinctive reds made of blaufränkisch and a joyously refreshing welschriesling that’s just begging for a little warm sunshine. All four wines are available with a 10% discount throughout the month of April.
Sometime people ask me what got me into this business. I usually start by saying that I was fresh out of school and needed to pay the rent, so I found a listing on Craigslist for a job working in the wine department at Marty’s in Newton. Initially, I spent most of my time throwing boxes around in the basement. As more opportunities arose to taste wine, I slowly made my way up the stairs.
One night, after a particularly long day of taking in deliveries, a slew of tattered boxes of already opened wines appeared in one of the back rooms of the store. My manager told me that these were the remnants of that day’s Terry Theise German portfolio tasting, and that whatever dregs were left in the bottles were fair game. I had only ever tasted a few of these wines before, and this was surely the most wine I’d ever seen open at once. I had begun to learn how to spit when tasting wine, but it was the end of a hard day, and I wasn’t driving home, so I dove right in. Every wine was delicious and completely different from the last. Mosel, Pfalz, Rheingau; Muller-Catoir, Donnhoff, Christoffel-Erben, Merkelbach, Leitz; kabinett, spatlese, auslese…! Places, growers, and flavors that were all new to me. I quickly lost the ambition to try to form judgements in my mind about any of the wines for later recall, and allowed myself to be consumed by this new, ecstatic, sensory event. This was my introduction to German riesling; and it was the crystalline moment when I knew I’d be in the wine business for a very long time.
So, YES, I am truly thrilled and humbled to have Terry Theise visit the store this Friday, to taste a handful of his imports from Germany, Austria, and Champagne. Signed copies of his book Reading Between the Vines will available for sale. We will also show some clips from his most recent project, Leading Between the Vines, a film featuring a personal glimpse of the gang of Terry’s German winegrowers. Copies of the film will also be available.