Gebeshuber • Gumpoldskircher • Thermenregion

The name of the winery is Spätrot; the name of the family is Gebeshuber. Späatrot-Gebeshuber is in Gupoldskirchen, also in the Thermenregion, and the winery has a fascinating and complex history. It is in the heart of the Thermenregion, in what once was the most famous wine village in Austria. A lovely little village less than a half an hour south of Vienna, it is packed with wineries and Heuriges (the wonderful little taverns that feature the local wine and simple or not so simple food). In the Summer, the place must be like Carmel or Disneyland. Even in May, it’s pretty busy. A well-known Co-op in the 19th Century, it was purchased and refurbished by the famous (one could say notorious) Fin de Siecle Mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, in 1905. (We could talk a good deal about the beast, interesting though he was – Brahms hated him.) The cellars he built are impressive and quite large (It is here that my selections from all the estates will be consolidated). There is even a funky wine museum. My sense is that the Co-op had been in long decline, probably in part due to the wine scandal in 1985. It was then purchased in 1999 by the Gebeshuber family, Johannes and Johanna (easy to remember those names!). Ambitious and energetic, they have transformed the old winery and have insisted on the highest quality both in the vineyards and the cellar. This is a winery in motion, with energetic young people directing it, but with a fine, old tradition to work from.

However, there have been quite a few changes  since I first visited in October, 2005 at this protean winery. Johannes Gebeshuber is altering his focus, beginning with the 2005 vintage. Instead of vinifying Zierfandler and Rotgipfler separately, he  decided to go back to the tradition in these parts, which is blending the two. In the old (and for that matter, not so old) days, when the two grapes were blended, the result was called Spätrot, because the late ripening caused these grapes to blush red, especially on the sun-facing side. This, of course, is a bit confusing, because the winery is called Spätrot too.

At any rate, our good Mr. Stadlmann, down the road in Traiskirchen, says the tradition began because wineries needed a fairly steady crop, so that if there was little of one grape, the other could be blended in and you’d have a more or less constant amount of wine to sell. This is especially important given that there is not much wine to begin with. Gebeshuber says no, there is a reason the two are blended together. You combine the acid and minerality of Zierfandler with the fruitiness and body of Rotgipfler and get a perfect wine. Me, I just sit by the side and watch. I understand each argument, and love the results of both wineries. In fact, this is the best possible solution for us all. We get to have it all. So Johannes has trimmed down his wine production to six wines, three blends of Zierfandler and Rotgipfler, and three blends of St. Laurant and Pinot Noir (with 10% Zweigelt thrown in for spice). Well, and then there are a few oddities and dessert wines that he is willing to make as well. The three blends differ in grape selection, oak, and aging. The oak made me nervous at first, and I had a good chat with Johannes about it. And I will go cautiously in the future with the ‘fancier’ wines. What can be said, however, is that this winery is, in some ways, the most exciting winery of my portfolio, both for what it is now and for what it surely will become.

Further note: Beginning in 2010, Johannes has changed his mind again and decided to make two super wines, one entirely of Zierfandler, and one entirely of Rotgipfler. The results are tremendous, though the wines are not cheap. In 2010, the Rotgipfler was awe-inspiring, the Zierfandler very fine. In 2011, it is the reverse. These are wines to splurge on a little, and confirm the growth and brilliance of Johannes. All Austria has begun to take notice. We should as well.