Schist Happens

Eisenberg schist
The schist-y terroir of Eisenberg

The first time we starting turning over rocks and looking for producers in Eisenberg was 2014. The area is certainly thematically ripe for Blue Danube given the confluence of Croatian, Austrian and Hungarian cultures and borders. A stone’s throw from the Hungarian border and a part of the Hungarian Empire for centuries earlier, but the Croatian connection is less obvious.

After the Turks were pushed out in the mid 16th Century, Hungary repopulated the war torn area with Croatian communities. For centuries, villages like Schandorf spoke a unique Croatian dialect and the culture was distinctly Croatian. This was the case up until 1921 when the borders changed, empires fell, and then were broken up again with the Iron Curtain. Things have of course perked up since then, but Südburgenland is still one of Austria’s smallest wine regions, and specific areas like Eisenberg are even lesser known.

The Kopfensteiner family
Thomas, Astrid, Edith and Manfred Kopfensteiner

Needless to say, the region’s wines are underrepresented in the US. As such we are proud to introduce Kopfensteiner. Largely committed to Blaufränkisch, Thomas and Astrid have 9 hectares in Eisenberg and 6 hectares in nearby Deutsch Schützen planted in iron rich clay, loam and layers of green schist.

The Eisenberg
The Eisenberg

Combined with the highest elevation in the region and cool winds from the Hungarian plain, these are most schist-y, spicy and mineral laden Blaufränkisch we’ve tasted. Eisenberg is literally Iron (Eisen) Mountain (Berg) after all.

Johannes Trapl
Johannes Trapl

Founded in 2003 with just 1 hectare, and now with 5 hectares on Carnuntum’s limestone and schist rich Spitzerberg, Johannes Trapl is considered one of the “largest” producers on the hill. Leading up to this, he interned in Napa, but turned down a job there to move back to Austria. He was then fortunate to apprentice with Dorli Muhr of Muhr-van der Niepoort. Her fervent belief in old vines and being able to buck the region’s trend of big overblown reds with bright and serious wines instead clearly influenced him.

Farming organically and working towards biodynamic agriculture, his Carnuntum Red (Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent) and Carnuntum White (Weissburgunder, Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling) are both foot trodden, spontaneously fermented and spend less than a year on the lees. Both a perfect introduction to his style and well priced. The Sankt Laurent is fermented in 500L and 600L and aged for a year on the lees. The Karpatenschiefer, literally “Carpathian schist,” is Grüner Veltliner macerated on the skins for 70-90 days and then aged for 6 months in both amphora and barrel. Perhaps not super traditional, but much like Dorli Muhr’s Prellenkirchen, shows a wonderful rarely seen side of Grüner Veltliner.

Ilse, Frank, Peter, Josef and Maria
Ilse Maier, Frank Dietrich, Peter Bernreiter, Josef and Maria Maier

We are also very happy to provide some “Ehrlicher Trinkspaß” (honest drinking fun) in California as well. These are our Austrian house wines. From the only metropolitan wine appellation in the world (Vienna), the 2017 Gemischter Satz from Peter Bernreiter is spicy, aromatic and really should be a in 1.5 liter, but these 750ml will have to do.

From Kremstal, the new Geyerhof StockWerk Grüner and Zweigelt from Josef Maier are both versatile wines for everyday of the week. Certified organic, juicy, bright and spicy.

Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl
Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl

Last but not least, the certified organic 2017 Zweigler and Blaufränker liters from the Pfneisl sisters are finally here. Put a nice chill on both and get going on some Central European recipes and picnics.