Austria boasts over 2,000 years of winemaking tradition. Now, 21st-century technology and architecture has transformed the perception of its wines into modern-day masterpieces. Here’s a sample.
F.X.’s Functional Beauty, Oberloiben, Wachau
Client: Pichler family, F.X. Pichler Winery
Architect: Thomas Tauber
Located in a UNESCO World Heritage area, the F.X. Pichler winery—situated between the hillside vineyards of Loiben, the ruins of Dürnstein castle and the Danube river as it passes the Wachau—had to be appropriately beautiful.
The building reflects the river in the curved, wave-like aluminum facade. The glass of the tasting room reflects the vines. The grey granite walls sourced from the Weinviertel, a few miles to the east, echo the rocks of the mountains behind, while the main internal supporting wall is made up of rocks gathered from the vineyards.
The Danube drove both artistic and technical elements of the winery. Beautiful and inspiring as the river can be, it can also be dangerous. The flood of 2002 devastated the winery and the family home.
“We couldn’t let our winery be flooded again,” says owner and winemaker Lukas Pichler, so today, the winery is one story throughout.
“We planned the inside so that it functioned for us as a winery,” says Pichler. “And we asked [Tauber] to put it in a lovely box.”
Pichler used Tauber because he could handle the complex permissions needed in a World Heritage area.
The building’s first vintage, in 2009, came from the family’s 50 acres, where Pichler’s father, F.X., still works every day. But there’s capacity to handle more grapes.
“I wanted to make it too big, but not too expensive,” says Pichler.
Above the winery, like the prow of a boat on the Danube, the tasting room offers unforgettable views of the Wachau vineyards. It’s a building that works on both practical and aesthetic levels.
95 F.X. Pichler 2012 Loibner Oberhauser Riesling Smaragd (Wachau); $NA
93 F.X. Pichler 2012 Urgestein Terrassen Grüner Veltliner Smaragd (Wachau); $NA
91 F.X. Pichler 2012 Loibner Burgstall Riesling Federspiel (Wachau); $NA
90 F.X. Pichler 2012 Loibner Klostersatz Grüner Veltliner Federspiel (Wachau); $NA
90 F.X. Pichler 2012 Loibner Frauenweingarten Grüner Veltliner Federspiel (Wachau); $NA
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler
Neumeister Cascades into Wine, Straden, Styria
Client: Neumeister family, Weingut Neumeister
Architects: Werner Schüttmayr, Andreas Burghardt
The Styrian (Steiermark) wine country in southeastern Austria is full of steep hills and steep vineyards. Why not, thought the Neumeister family, make use of the slope to create a gravity-fed winery?
So, like a waterfall, the Neumeister winery cascades down the hillside just outside the hilltop village of Straden.
Stand on the road at the top and there is hardly any sign of buildings. From below, the simple glass and concrete structure, bathed in greenery, reflects the surrounding valley.
Most of the time, it feels as if the building is made of glass. Glass doors look onto wide terraces. The staircase that seems to tie the building together has large glass windows.
“We wanted to build a cellar that didn’t look like a cellar,” says Christoph Neumeister, the winemaker. “When we built it, half the visitors came to look at the architecture.”
The building was constructed in two stages. The first, built in 1997–98, is now the winery and some offices. The second, created in 2005, is a bottle-lined curved tasting room and entertainment area, with barrel storage below.
The winery is functional, filled with custom-made cellar equipment to suit the size and shape of the building, allowing Neumeister to fashion his iconic Sauvignon Blancs.
“We aim to handle the wine as little as possible, and with this winery, we can do just that,” says Neumeister.
This beautiful building is simple, yet attuned to its surroundings. The tasting room has memorable views, across the green Styrian hills and valleys to Slovenia in the distance.
94 Neumeister 2010 Saziani Essenz Trockenbeerenauslese (Südoststeiermark); $NA
92 Neumeister 2011 Klausen Sauvignon Blanc (Südoststeiermark); $NA
91 Neumeister 2011 Steintal Roter Traminer (Südoststeiermark); $NA
89 Neumeister 2011 Steirische Klassik Sauvignon Blanc (Südoststeiermark); $NA
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd.
Fred Loimer’s Black Box, Langenlois, Kamptal
Client: Fred Loimer, Weingut Loimer
Architect: Andreas Burghardt
What Loimer wanted most was a black box.
“It was so simple,” he says. “You don’t see it so easily in the vineyards, and it doesn’t stand out.”
It’s also in complete contrast to Loimer’s neighbors, a row of multicolored old cellar buildings.
Begun in 2000, the black box concept appears throughout the property, in the form of the winery itself, the tasting room and office, and a refaced old tractor barn. Another black structure—Loimer’s house—sits atop the nearby hill, and was completed in 2011.
Loimer asked Burghardt (who also designed the Niepoort winery in Portugal’s Douro Valley) to “make a building that was terraced, was made of cement, glass and wood. It had to be light.”
The light comes from huge windows that pierce the external walls of the office and tasting block, and a wall of glass that wraps around a delightfully hidden internal courtyard.
Across the road, the opening to the winery, tucked half underground, is a pair of huge doors. Linking the two buildings is another surprise—a 200-year-old cellar, extended during World War II to manufacture munitions. It’s now a cool, self-regulating bottle-storage facility.
Loimer is pleased with how the complex turned out.
“It works 90 percent, but you can always see things that could be improved,” he says. “But we have the space and it’s a great place to work.”
92 Loimer 2011 Schell Mann in Gumpoldskirchen (Thermenregion); $24
91 Loimer 2011 Lenz (Kamptal); $20
90 Loimer 2011 Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal); $22
89 Loimer 2011 Riesling (Kamptal); $25
89 Loimer 2010 Schell Mann an der Südbahn (Thermenregion); $24
87 Loimer 2011 Lois (Niederösterreich); $16
Imported by Circo Vino and Winebow
Andi Kollwentz’s Vertical Taste, Grosshöfflein, Burgenland
Client: Kollwentz family, Weingut Kollwentz
Architect: Anton Mayerhofer
Since taking over from his father, Anton, in 2006, Andi Kollwentz has expanded the family winery, situated close to Lake Neusiedl on the Austrian-Hungarian border.
“I needed two things: room for my barrels and the appearance of a typical Burgenland house,” says Kollwentz.
But typical it’s not. Once inside, you can see all four floors of the structure at once, whether standing in the tasting room and looking down through the glass floor at the barrel cellar, or glancing up to the offices and the kitchen, where the family meets every day for lunch.
At the very top sits a billiard room, a library where Andi’s kids play, and a bedroom, “in case friends can’t drive back to Vienna after dinner,” says Kollwentz.
Despite the building’s innovative design, its facade is deceptively traditional. Pointed roofs, typical of Burgenland, mark all four sections. Just an extra amount of glass shows this building is different.
“An architectural magazine decided the facade was too traditional,” says Kollwentz. “That pleased me.”
Inside, the light is astonishing. The higher you go, the brighter it gets. And the building seems to be held together by thin rods and a staircase. Only the barrel cellar shows solid walls and concrete pillars.
At Kollwentz’s property, it’s the little details that delight, like the banister that also acts as a pipe to move wine between the cellars, and the tiny terrace where the family eats on sunny days.
Kollwentz may be one of Austria’s top Chardonnay and Blaufränkisch producers, but he has kept his family winery on an interestingly human scale.
94 Kollwentz 2011 Leithagebirge Chardonnay (Burgenland); $38
93 Kollwentz 2010 Gloria Chardonnay (Burgenland); $80
92 Kollwentz 2009 Leithagebirge Blaufränkisch (Burgenland); $38
90 Kollwentz 2010 Föllikberg Zweigelt (Burgenland); $35
Imported by VOS Selections