- Vienna, Austria
Jutta, a soft-spoken outsider, makes an unlikely champion of these (Viennese) traditions. Yet, in the 15 years since she started tending to vines here, she has joined the ranks of Vienna’s most established wine families—Wieninger, Zahel, Christ—thanks mostly to humility and hard work."
—Valerie Kathawala, Pellicle
Jutta Ambrositsch was born in Südburgenland, best-known for stunning Blaufränkisch, about two and a half hours south of Vienna. She moved to Vienna to pursue her career as a graphic design artist, but eventually decided that she needed a change. So, in 2004, she left behind her design career (although she does create her stylish labels) swapping an office job for a career in nature and started a special wine project in the city with only 650L of wine. Now, she spends most of her days in the vineyards; with winemaking, she has been able to find a perfect balance of city living and getting her hands in the dirt. She manages the business with her husband, Marco Kalkbrenner, who takes care of the administration, poetic wine descriptions, and logistics, while Jutta manages the vineyards and cellar work.
Vienna has the most vineyards planted of any city in the world: today, there are fifty growers managing 650 total hectares (of those fifty, only twenty are full-time winemakers, earning their living from the wine they make). The vineyards are on hillsides at the city limits, on either side of the Danube over-looking the city center. The surrounding vineyards provide a mini-escape from the bustling center and there is a long tradition of residents going to the hillsides to have a glass of wine and snacks at a Heurigen or Buschenschank overlooking the city. Heurigen could roughly be translated as a wine bar. Buschenschank is similar, but they are only allowed to sell products that are made in-house, wine included. Ambrositsch started her own Buschenschank in 2006.
Today, Ambrositsch farms a total of four hectares —three on the right side of the Danube and one hectare on the left bank— in ten different parcels. Each vineyard is unique, with a distinctive terroir and microclimate. She farms each organically, but does not have certification. Ambrositsch says that the biggest threat to the vineyards is hail and wild boars that live in the surrounding forests and using conventional products will not help against either!
The specialty of Vienna is a tradtional wine called Gemischter Satz, historically, it was a field blend with many different varieties picked the same day and crushed together for vinification. It sounds simple enough, but the different varieties ripen at different rates and it’s quite a skill to decide the exact day when the ripeness and acidity will be a delicious balance amongst all the varieties. While Jutta and Marco care very much about making traditional Viennese wine, they recently decided that they would not be a part of the newly established Vienna DAC. Ambrositsch feels that some DAC-regulations undermine what makes true Gemischter Satz unique: many different co-planted varieties, if possible the majority should consist of old, traditional varieties, picked together and pressed together.
The Ambrositsch wines are all micro-cuvées and they are a delightful way to discover the historic Vienna terroir through the lens of a young and fun artist. While her winemaking style could be called “natural”, with no additions of yeasts, enzymes, or sugar, and only a minimum amount of sulfur, very few of the wines show any of the funky qualities of many wines that share the moniker. Most are made in stainless steel and are classic, with a very special energy to them. Are they renegades? No - rock and roll is a more fitting description. In addition to the traditional wines, including three white Gemischter Satz bottlings, they make some playful cuvées, like the Roter (red) Gemischter Satz called Rakete, with its piquant cherry fruit and cloudy bright ruby color. All of their wines are a bit rebellious in that they are made without additions, which gives a lot of vibrancy and juicy flavors, and an unrestrained expression of Vienna's terroir. - Michele Peters, Austrian Portfolio Manager, Bowler.