“Austria’s sweet wines are among the best in the world, led by the Kracher winery.” —Wine Spectator

It’s no secret that the Kracher wines are some of the most widely respected in the world among sommeliers, collectors, and wine writers. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few exceptional bottles occasionally over the years, and when Bowler started working with the wines this spring (for NY only), I was excited to learn more from Gerhard Kracher about the regions history and his family’s rise to fame. In May, Kracher came to New York to present the new releases of his 2015 TBA’s and in June I visited the winery with a small group.

Weinlaubenhof Kracher is in Burgenland, an hour southeast of Vienna and near the Lake Neusiedl. In June, we toured the area before we sat down to taste. As we were driving through his vineyards, which are in the National Park Neusiedler See-Seewinkel, just three kilometers from the shore, he described the landscape and the history of the region. The main attraction in this area is the Lake Neusiedl. It’s nearly 22 miles long, and very shallow, less than six feet deep at its maximum depth. The influence of the lake and the Pannonian climate (low precipitation, hot summers
and moderately cold winters) create a very special micro-climate, with fog occurring regularly in the fall; these conditions are ideal for the development of botrytis cinerea, the famous “noble rot”. 

Kracher explained that his area on the east side of the lake did not have a history of making sweet wines until after World War II. Sweet wines are made on both sides of the lake, west and east, but the west side was always richer because of the proximity to the rest of Austria and has made sweet wines for approximately 100 years. The east side, where the Kracher winery is located, is isoloated by the lake and the border with Hungary.

Today, the east side of the lake is considered the best area for making sweet wine and Gerhard’s grandfather, Alois Sr., was a pioneer for making sweet wines here. This area is very flat and sandy, with a gravelly subsoil. The sand goes up to four meters deep in some areas. On the east side, in addition to the Lake Neusiedl, there are twenty or so smaller lakes. These smaller lakes are so small that sometimes they dry up in the summer. There is such a high mineral content that you can see a build up of salt and minerals left behind where the lakes dry up. This explains this salty freshness on the finish of the sweet wines. It comes right from the terroir.

In the vineyards, Kracher follows sustainable farming. Gerhard explained that when his grandfather started the winery, they did not have a lot of money and they never used herbicides. The family could not afford them. Gerhard has planted the vineyards at a high density to lower yields, which gives the wines more concentration and complexity. Traditional varieties are planted—40% Welschriesling , 20% Chardonnay, and the balance is mostly Traminer, Pinot Blanc, and Scheurebe. Welschriesling and Chardonnay are traditional in the area and were brought to the area two hundred years ago by monks.

Today, Kracher own 35 hectares total and 85% of their wines are sweet - Auslese is normally 75-90 g/L sugar; BA is 110-135 g/L; and TBA 140+ g/L. Kracher makes some dry wines now too, notably, an excellent Grauburgunder, labelled Pinot Gris. The Pinot Gris mostly comes from vineyards that they own, but they do have some leases as well. They have agreements that the vineyards will be farmed following sustainable practices, just like the vineyards that are owned by the family.

At harvest, the grapes are strictly sorted according to ripeness. Fermentations are long and slow with natural yeasts in stainless steel or large oak barrels depending on the cuvée. Before bottling, each vintage blend is determined by blind tasting. The goal is to capture the balance of acidity, lusciousness, complexity, and sense of place.

2015 was the hottest summer on record in Burgenland, with two weeks of day time highs that topped 40°C (104°F). Fortunately, the best years for sweet wines are warm – botrytis can come quickly, and the grapes are picked before the acidity begins to drop.

We are very excited and honored to work with this iconic winery.