2019 Judith Beck 'Ink' Red
Region: Neusiedlersee <Burgundland < Austria
Grapes: 80% Zweigelt, 20% St.Laurent
Vineyard/Cellar stats: Biodynamic certified farming; de-stemmed, fermented in stainless steel. Fermenting juice is circulated over the cap 1x/per day for the first 10 days to attain a balanced level of extraction, then the wine is racked off skins and moved into large neutral acacia wood casks for 2 months. They finish aging for 8-10 months in 500-1000 liter barrels before blending and bottling unfined/unfiltered, with no added So2; zero-zero; 12.5% ABV
Winemaker: Judith Beck
While Austria is still mostly known for white wines, the red wines of the country are the insiders secret. Zweigelt, a cross between Blaufrankisch and St. Laurent, is the nation's signature red grape, producing wines similar to Pinot Noir: bright, tart and fruity. St. Laurent, another classic Austrian variety that is less common but super aromatic, is often blended with Zweigelt to add a base note of darker fruit and floral notes.
Judith Beck took over her small family estate, consisting of 15 hectares of biodynamically tended vines (certified since 2007), in 2014. She trained at the famous Bordeaux estate Cos d'Estournel in France before making her own wine back home. When asked about why biodynamic viticulture, she explains how the quality is exponentially better: "First, it was just a change in the vineyard and we focused a lot on improving soil life and building up humus. Then after a few years I realized just how much the quality of the grapes had changed and how much more vibrance and liveliness there was in the wines. For me it was liberating to forget pretty much everything that I had learned in winemaker’s school and just follow my instincts while working with that lovely fruit that I suddenly had."
This pristine grape quality is clear in the wines, which are simply made so that the fruit shines through. Like in this inky red, aptly named Ink, that is intense and concentrated but somehow light on its feet, with black cherry, tart currants and sweet spice notes (cinnamon, clove, sweet baking spice) and an acid backbone that stands up to even the richest of holiday treats. A most excellent winter wine.