Weingut Ernst Triebaumer, Rust, Burgenland, Austria
The first Triebaumer, a Lutheran fleeing from the Catholic Counter-Reformation, arrived in Rust in 1691, married the daughter of a local winemaker, and set the family on its course for the following three-and-a-quarter centuries. Rust is the centre of the production of Ruster Ausbruch botrytis wines, amongst the greatest sweet wines in the world, and the Triebaumers continue to produce a superb example. Yet their reputation in Austria and beyond rests as much, if not more, on their red wines. It is to Ernst Triebaumer and his 1986 Blaufränkisch Maiental wine that the Austrian red wine revolution is attributed. Certainly, when my husband and I dined with friends in Vienna at a Michelin-starred restaurant last autumn and I ordered a bottle of Triebaumer Blaufränkisch Mariental, the sommelier spontaneously remarked that it was the greatest red wine in Austria. In 2017 Ernst Triebaumer was presented with the award for his life work in wine (Lebenswerk) by ‘Vinaria’, the Austrian wine culture magazine.
The three Triebaumer winemakers, Herbert on the left, Ernst in the middle, and Gerhard on the right
This is a family-run enterprise. Although the main focus is their wines, particularly for Ernst himself and his two sons Gerhard and Herbert, who are the winemakers, his son Richard and Richard’s wife Beate produce vegetables, free-range pigs and products for a delicatessen. They family find the rules of biodynamicism too restrictive, but although not actually labelled organic, their methods closely resemble them without becoming entangled in forms. No herbicides or fertilizers are used, and only one corner of one vineyard is irrigated. Looking out over the vineyards, cover crop, made up of a variety of plant species, blankets the area between the rows of vines. This has two primary purposes (besides producing some lovely flowers): first of all, the vegetation competes with the vines for water, since very little of the land is irrigated, and the vines are thereby encouraged to send down deeper roots in the search for water. And secondly, the roots of the plants eventually become part of the soil, providing nutrition, including vital nitrogen. What is also noticeable is the flock of forty sheep which inhabit the vineyards the year around. They eat the grass, which lessens the need for tractors, they munch excess vegetation off the trunks of the vines by eating the lower leaves, and they provide manure, as well as three lambs per hectare. As is clear, great attention is paid to the growing of the grapes: it is impossible to produce top wines from indifferent grapes.
Grazing in the vineyard
The estate comprises twenty hectares, made up of five separate vineyards which are near to the Neusiedler See (Lake Neuseidl) and from which one can look out over the lake to the hot and dry Pannonian Plain beyond. There is, as noted above, little intervention in the vineyards, and the same restraint applies to the winemaking, although they add a little bit of sulphur to most of the wines. The exception here are their Urwerk wines, the results of an experiment which has been taking place since 2005 in which no sulphur was added to certain wines; as well, they are unfiltered and the white wines are fermented on their skins. The varieties change: in 2016 there was a Grüner Veltliner and a Blaufränkisch for sale, whilst in 2017 there were a Sauvignon Blanc, a Traminer and a Blaufränkisch. There is a striking difference in taste between them and the other wines; for example, the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Urwerk, which had been matured in the vat on the lees, had less intensity but was richer.
Of the twenty hectares, seventy-five per cent are planted to red grapes, predominantly their lead variety, Blaufränkisch, but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Blauburgunder, They also have a wide range of white grapes, including their lead grape Chardonnay, but also Grüner Veltliner, Gelber Muskateller, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, Welschriesling and several others. Between their varietal wines and their blends, particularly of their red wine grapes, Weingut Triebaumer produces an astonishing range of wines – in 2016 there were twenty-four separate wines for sale. One must ask, how can two winemakers pay appropriate attention to so many different wines? Their answer may well be that, since there is so little intervention in the cellar, it is not overwhelmingly difficult.
For those interested in outstanding Austrian red wines, their Blaufränkisch Ried Mariental is unmissable, but attention should also be paid to Blaufränkisch Ried Oberer Wald, made from seventy-year-old vines planted in the vineyard next to Mariental. For their wines, they rely on spontaneous fermentation, and age the red wines in wooden barrels of from three hundred to five thousand litres. As for their white wines, except for the Chardonnay, they are aged in stainless steel. Their Chardonnay is quite wonderful, whilst the Traminer Urwerk, which spent two months on the skins and four months on the lees and was a dark amber, was very distinctive, a wine for those interested in going beyond the ordinary. It should possibly go without saying that the Ruster Ausbruch is worth searching for.
Weingut Ernst Triebaumer is eminently worth looking out for, certainly because of the distinctive manner in which they farm their land, but even more so for the distinctive wines that they produce. Whilst widely available in the German-speaking lands, and exported to Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Japan, they are very difficult to find in the United Kingdom. This is a great pity.