Traditions Never Wane
One of the oldest known wineries in Austria, Stift Göttweig, has been producing wine since the Middle Ages. Located in the Kremstal districtus, the twenty-six hectares of vineyards at an altitude of 449 meters is situated on the southern banks of the Danube and on the eastern edge of the famous Wachau wine-growing region. The estate sits beneath the majestic overlook of the Göttweiger Berg mountain upon which the well-known Stift Göttweig Benedictine Monastery has stood since 1083. The winery has enjoyed a colorful history: From its formative years leading up to the 14th century when wine production began to flourish, to the 16th and 17th centuries when “Göttweiger,” wines became synonymous with nobility across Europe. The modern Stift Göttweig wine label still bears elements of the famous fresco, “Apotheosis of Charles VI as Apollo,” painted by the famous Austrian artist Paul Troger in 1739. Fast forward to 2006 when the powers that be placed Fritz Miesbauer of Domäne Wachau fame, already successful in his management of Weingut Stadt Krems, took charge of Stift Göttweig to revitalize its name and its wines. Under his expert hand, and that of Franz-Joseph Gansberger, whose dedication to all things epicurean has helped the winery at Stift Göttweig experience resurgence in quality and availability. Concentrating on the traditional Austrian grape varieties of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, the wines of Stift Göttweig display unmistakable dryness, fruit, and spice. The unique climate in the Kremstal also imbues a certain aromatic and fruity quality in the wines. (These specific terroir characteristics helped Kremstal to garner a “DAC.”) Stift Göttweig, has endured the test of time to now shine as one of the totemic pillars of Austrian wine estates.
Situated on both banks of the Danube River, the Kremstal DAC is nestled between the famous Wachau wine-growing region to the southwest and the notable Kamptal DAC to the northeast. These three regions make up the most prestigious wine growing area in all of Austria.
With climatic conditions similar to the Wachau, if only slightly warmer, the Kremstal benefits from the easterly warm winds of the Pannonian basin and cool, humid breezes from the Waldviertal forest to the north. These weather patterns are as always influenced by the almighty Danube, whose effects help to mitigate the hot days and soften the harsh winters, creating the special microclimate found in the Kremstal. The single vineyard site of “Gottchelle,” with its soil composition of weathered sediment covered with löss realizes superb Grüner Veltliner. While the single vineyard, “Silberbichl,” lying on the eastern edge of the Wachau, composed of “Old Danube,” gravel and weathered stone, covered with Löss, produces outstanding Riesling. These two sites are Stift Göttweig’s most important growing areas. Vineyards upon the Göttweiger Berg, composed of varied soil types produce tantalizing Grüner Veltliner and contribute to the historically easy-drinking Messweins, or Altar wines.
Keeping the Legend
Imbued with rich history, from devastation by wars to triumphs from noble followings, the vineyards of Stift Göttweig are still thriving today.
Since 2006, the winery has been led by highly decorated winemaker, Fritz Miesbauer and Franz Joseph Gansberger. Together they have taken on the honorable responsibility of keeping the tradition of Stift Göttweig alive while integrating modern philosophies into the wine making process. Stift Göttweig could not have chosen a better duo to revitalize their operation. Fritz, at the tender age of 27, was awarded Winemaker of the Year in 1996, by Sweden’s Gourmet magazine for his work with Freie Weingartner. He took over winemaking operations at Weingut Stadt Krems in 2003, bringing the storied winery to new heights. The powers that be at Stift Göttweig recognized Fritz’s amazing talent and promptly hired him to oversee their vineyards, wines, and operations. To this day, Fritz is involved in the operations of both of these important Kremstal wineries. Franz Joseph Gansberger, “Goose,” as he is known, joined the new Stift Göttweig team in 2007. Coming from a background in sales, Goose’s connections in the wine world are far-reaching. You may recognize his broad smile as the public face of Stift Göttweig, as he travels extensively, promoting the winery all over the world. He is a great statesman for the wines of the Kremstal, and his expertise and knowledge has helped increase the winery’s stature globally.
Stift Göttweig is a proud member of the Österreichische Traditionsweinguter, the Association of Austrian Traditional Wine Estates (ÖTW.) The ÖTW is an alliance of wineries from the Kamptal, Kremstal, Traisental and Wagram regions whose aim is to classify the outstanding vineyard sites from the Danube area. Through this classification, the ÖTW aims to provide consumers with a sure sign of quality and consistency and terroir expression. The ÖTW bestows the title of Erste Lage, to vineyards that have demonstrated these characteristics year after year. The Stift Göttweig vineyards of Silberbichl for Riesling and Gottschelle for Grüner Veltliner are both ÖTW designated, Erste Lage sites.
The Making of Modern Wines with Character
The Stift Göttweig winery practices sustainable farming and can be categorized as Lutte Raisonnee. This adherence to mostly organic farming practices with minimal use of man-made chemicals is important to the winery’s sustainable vision. Furthermore, all grapes are hand sorted and carefully transported from the vineyard to the cellar in small batches for vinification. Once to the cellar at Weingut Stadt Krems, grapes from Stift Göttweig undergo a careful vinification process. Although Miesbauer continues his management of Weingut Stadt Krems, the wines of Stift Göttweig are produced independently, yet in the same facilities. Fritz’s goal is to produce characteristic wines, expressive of the historic terroir. Longer maceration times, fermentation in steel tanks, with an indigenous yeast regimen and appropriate use of wood in the maturation process have all become hallmarks of his vision for curating the legacy of the Benedictines. To this end, there have been many capital improvements to the winemaking facilities, with new steel tanks and a new cooling system having been installed within the last five years. As a result, the wines of Stift Göttweig display a singularity only found in the delicate balance between tradition and modernity.
Rosé Messwein 2015
The Göttweiger Messwein, or Altar wine, has been an institution at Stift Göttweig for centuries. Grüner Veltliner and Rosé (from Pinot Noir) are vinified as light, dry wines. From the nature friendly cultivation of the vineyards to the care and processing of the grapes and wine, the “Reinheitsgebot”, or purity law, of the church must be obeyed. Messweins cannot be produced without the permission of the bishop, and must not be chaptalized. With 12% alcohol (this may vary, depending on the vintage) Messwein is the lightest wine – very easy and drinkable.
A few candid moments with Goose, from Circo Vino’s trip to Stift Göttweig in 2015 and Grand Tasting 2016