Recently we run a feature on Weingut Andreas Tscheppe, the Austrian winery producing Orange Wines. Today we will talk to its winemaker Andreas Tscheppe.
Guten morgen, Andreas, and thank you for your collaboration. You established your winery in 2006. Why did you decide to start producing Orange Wines?
Guten morgen, Aitor! In 2004 we made a wine with skin contact for the first time, our Stag Beetle/Earth Barrel. After I have gotten acquainted with different wines of this type (mainly from the Slovenia and Friuli in Italy), my interest for Orange Wines was increased. I also had the opportunity to taste amphora wines, which also piqued my curiosity and I began to research. It became clear how important the influence of the earth energy is on the vitality and agility of the products.
What is the reason for a prolonged time of skin contact taking away the wine’s acidity and providing it with more texture?
There are many reasons. As a result of longer skin contact, especially the structure of the tannins changes and other flavors are initiated in the wine.
Do the varietals you grow adapt to this method in a difference way?
No. The weather conditions play a prominent role there. For example 2016: After the hail I had to use grapes of other vineyard than the years before. Because of the extreme frost in spring and the hailstorms in summer, I had to select the grapes especially for the orange wines.
You employ biodynamic agriculture. Can you explain us how this works?
I have my own connection to this topic. For me it is a “total work of art” with regards to our earth, a kind of mosaic. I try to understand the individual mosaic stones and to use and connect them accordingly. With the help of the biodynamical vision I try to equilibrate the nature, which is out of balance. I want to support the important power and energies of our earth and cosmos, and the resulting synergies. However I’m of the opinion that the human bears the most responsibility. Your character and spirit influence your environment!
What is the reason for burying the oak barrels underground for around six months?
My intention is to give the wine the opportunity to be stored in a place without electromagnetic pollution, vibration, noise and without variations in temperature. Additionally there is the maximum of “soil energy”. These conditions are found underground during the winter months, when nature and vegetation outside conclude and they go back under the Earth’s surface.
When spring comes, the nature awakens and when everybody can feel that, then it is time to dig out the barrels. Then they will be taken to the cellar again and stored until bottling. Although this is not a fixed ritual, it also happens that we have buried the barrels underground on January 6th and have digged them out in May. For the 2014 vintage, it never was the right time to move the wine underground, so we left the barrels in the cellar and we called this wine “Hirschkäfer”, not as Earth Barrel.
Orange wine is an old tradition coming from Georgia. Centuries ago they used amphorae for burying the wines underground. Do you plan on using these ageing recipients in the future?
No. In collaboration with my brother Ewald Tscheppe (Weingut Werlitsch) and Sepp Muster we bought three amphorae from Georgia. At that moment, it was the second time I already had my Earthbarrel in the cellar. So I decided instinctively not to use the amphorae. Three years later I bought two little amphorae, but I didn’t fill them either. Today I know the reasons why. In history, people used the amphorae only in that region, where they have less or no oak-trees. In our area, the oak grows wonderfully and I think the oak is more associated with the wine grapes than an amphora.
How do the white varietals you grow adapt to the cold weather of Southern Styria?
It is precisely because of this cool, fresh weather that the white wine fits well into Styria. However, with the climate change new challenges are coming to us.
Only in exceptional years it is possible to produce red wines with a warm “sun character”. We have planted Pinot Noir. This is the red wine that is most similar to the white wine! Pinot Noir can fit here very well; this variety was historically always native in our region.
Which varietal is easier to grow here? Any one giving you a great satisfaction working with?
Actually, there are several varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Welschriesling and Muscat (this is the most difficult variety). The Burgundian varieties grow well. We have planted Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, two variations of Muscat and Pinot Noir.
Could it be possible to produce a red wine like the orange wines?
Yes, I think this is possible with the Pinot Noir. However, some friends of mine have the varieties Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and Blauen Wildbacher and they make really good wines with them!
How many bottles do you produce of each of your wines per vintage?
It is hard to say. I started in 2006 and expanded in 2012 and 2016, so I can’t refer to experience. Unfortunately, since 2009 we have had hail every year. Then the worst year was 2016. We had both frost and hail. The harvest was not even 1,000kg per hectare.
Which wine is giving you the highest satisfaction working with?
All! All of them have their personality. Because I have established more than 90% of my vineyards, I know every m² of soil and location there. The vines develop year to year their own character and I try not to destroy it in the cellar – I love my grapes and my wine!
What is your approach to winemaking?
I am careful not to destroy the ground when I set up a new vineyard. I want to keep the ground that is developed over the centuries and to maintain the surface tension. That is so important. For this reason, I make gentle vineyard terraces, where 70-80% of the upper floor is still the upper floor even after terracing. Then I immediately work with bio-dynamic preparations, supported by copper tools. So I can maintain the surface tension – for me it’s very important. And when there is this energy in my grapes, I try not to destroy it in the cellar. So I can accompany the wines in their development in wooden barrels in the cellar while elaborating their character without adding any technical assistance. Filling is happening without filtration.
What’s your personal touch in your wines?
I can only say what the customers and critics tell me. They describe the wines as fine, elegant and energized. The wines have always a stimulating acid structure, and they are fresh and clean.
What kind of wines do you drink when you are not working?
That depends on the mood. Since I am more and more guided by the spontaneous, individual input, I’m open to all wines. Indeed, I have problems with technical wines, because I miss the love of handcraft. Important is the salubriousness of a wine!
With which one of your wines would you advice me to start tasting first?
Usually with the Blue Dragonfly – Sauvignon Blanc. It is difficult to taste, because the first wine is tasted it is always underestimated.
Photos © Weingut Andreas Tscheppe