Mariell • Großhöflein • Neusiedlersee-Hügelland

Mariell is located in Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, not far from Heidi Schröck, but away from the Neusiedlersee and up against a low range of hills called the Leithagebirge. Großhöflein is virtually a suburb of Eisenstadt. Those of you who love the music of Haydn will recognize that town as the seat of the Esterházy family, and where Haydn lived and worked for many years. History is everywhere here, and vines are grown as well.

The winery itself is down the hill from the main road into Eisenstadt, and, like so many Austrian estates, shows little more than a simple facade. But once the great doors are opened, there is a large courtyard, with rooms on either side, and the old winery in the back. In good weather, there is much outdoor living, and in fact, we had lunch there, under an umbrella, with various animals coming up to check us out. Through the door in the rear, you walk out to vineyard land, and one of their best sites, the Haussatz (Blaufränkisch). Then there is a brand new building, very modern in style, which is the new cellar. Always , in Austria, there is this combination of very old with ultra modern. The vineyards themselves, for instance, have dated records going back to 700 AD, and the individual names back to the 16th Century.

Richard and Gabi Mariel (they spell their name with one ‘l’, though the winery has two ? don’t ask) run this small (7.5 hectare) estate, and produce a little more than 3000 cases a year. 30% is white wine (Welschriesling, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer), and 65% is red ( Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Pinot Noir, with a little Cabernet Sauvignon, used for blending. 5% is for dessert wines. They also make Schnaps (in fact the official name of the winery is Wein und Schnaps Mariel). Richard is an energetic man, almost constantly in motion. My sense is that he has a good, if hearty sense of humor. He seems very much a man of the earth (the photo gives you an idea).

To begin with, I thought to bring in the two most important red wine grapes of Austria, Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch. There are also wonderful Pinot Noirs waiting in the wings. The soil here is mostly chalk and sandy loam with a number of named vineyards recognized for their outstanding quality. It’s a bit bewildering at first, exploring new areas and discovering hitherto unknown little corners of the world, but I have to say it is also heartening. Every discovery I make, or that someone who has made before and introduces me to, is a sign that there is something right about the world, in spite of all our troubles, that there are people tending small plots of land and releasing what that land has to say in wine. The style here is not to make tannic monsters; rather to make supple wines that are good at the table and can develop for a number of years.

I visited Mariell in October of 2005, and, though I loved the wines, felt a bit hesitant about bringing in a red wine estate. After all, my business has been mostly about whites, with a few reds thrown in as a soupçon. But several things are happening at once. First, Austria’s reds can be really wonderful. The quality has improved geometrically since I first started visiting. And secondly, you have noticed, and are buying these wines. Third, the prices are very attractive for wines of this quality. If you’ve not yet sampled Austrian reds, this is a very good place to start.

Richard and friend at lunch

Richard and friend at lunch