Recently I was in one of my favorite restaurants, la Bodega Cigaleña (@BodegaCigalena), in Santander, when I was offered a tasty and very special white wine. Andrés Conde (@CondeLaya) told me it was produced in Austria and it was done keeping the wine more time in contact with the skins. As far as I know this is very unusual in Spain, as here the white wines tend to have a pronounced acidity and this wine was more about texture rather than about acidity.

So I started investigating about this wine. Weingut Andreas Tscheppe is a winery located in Gamlitz (Glanz/Leutschach), a small village in Southern Styria, an Austrian region close to the Slovenian border, between Graz and Maribor. Andreas runs a small family boutique winery producing white wines.

Now, what’s so special about this winery? For me it is the way Andreas produces his wines. The one I tasted was Andreas Tscheppe Hirschkäfer Erdfass 2012. This is a wine elaborated in a way it is called Orange Wine. An Orange Wine is a white wine made with skin contact for a prolonged period of time. This is an ancient tradition going back in time for several centuries. Georgian winemakers were using this method for developing wine with tannins.

Following this Georgian tradition, though not using amphorae or clay vases but oak barrels, after a time of up to two weeks with skin contact the wine is transferred to 300–600 liter capacity oak barrels and then buried underground during the Winter. According to Andreas, during the Winter months life stops above ground so under it is where vitality is found. Thus, the wine stays buried for 5–6 months during wintertime. In Spring the barrel is buried out and it is stored again in the cellar. Two years after harvest the wine is bottled and usually after filling, it’s released into the market. That means the wine spends 24 months in the oak barrels, 5–6 months of those months underground).

This style of elaborating wine was abandoned halfway through the Twentieth Century, and it was recently adopted again, not without the controversy about a tannic white wine. Nowadays Orange Wines are really appreciated and rare to find. Orange wines are full-bodied, complex, mineral wines, far from the pineapple, green-apple white wine mainstream style. There are highly appreciated producers of these quality wines in Croatia, Slovenia and Northern Italy.

Andreas Tscheppe started his winery in 2006. His vineyards are in a very special location, surrounded by rather steep hills and with the vineyards in terraces. He follows the biodynamic philosophy and the complexity of the soils is the basis for expressive wines. Their wines spend 18–24 months on average in oak barrels. Harvest is carefully done by hand.

Besides the Hirschkäfer Erdfass, which is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Andreas elaborates the following wines:

Blue Dragonfly – Sauvignon Blanc

Green Dragonfly – Sauvignon Blanc

Salamander – Chardonnay

ButterflyYellow Muskateller

ButterflyGoldmuskateller

The Goldmuskateller is also an Orange Wine.

Soon we will talk to Andreas about his winemaking philosophy and his wines.

Photos © Weingut Andreas Tscheppe