2013 Umathum Zweigelt Classic
Region: Neusiedlersee < Burgenland < Austria
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming; fermented and aged in large neutral oak casks, with a portion of stems added back into the wine as it ferments; 12.5% ABV
Winemaker: Josef “Pepi” Umathum
Austria, for good reason, is better known for its white wines than its reds. It’s hard to compete with such an incredible wealth of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner that thrive in the mineral rich, stony soils. And the local red Zweigelt, often makes simple, fruity wines that honestly have never thrilled me. Pepi Umathum is working to change this perception. A disenchanted landscape architecture student, Pepi jumped at the chance to take over his parents’ winery, which they founded in 1958. From the initial 10 acres of land outside of Frauenkirchen, near the vast lake Neusiedlerse in Austria’s center, Umathum grew his family’s holdings to nearly 90 acres. He has been practicing strict selection massale (a method of propagating grape vines using cuttings from an entire vineyard rather than selected clones) to replant his vineyards since the late 1980s, along with organic viticulture. In 2005 he converted completely to biodynamic farming and winemaking. This year, he’s beginning to run sheep in his vineyards. This wine is medium-bodied and peppery, with bright cherry and warm winter spices, and faint velvety tannins. Pepi adds a portion of the stem jacks back into the wine as it ferments, adding herbal, earthy notes and a mineral freshness to the wine. Such a beautiful winter wine, perfect for whatever is for dinner, and light enough to keep drinking long into the night, if such an occasion arises.