AUSTRIA > STEIERMARK
Blaufränkisch, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Riesling
Austria > Steiermark
Growing & Buying grapes
Weingut Karl Schnabel-Ermihof is a certified-biodynamic farm located in South Styria or Südsteiermark region of Austria, close to the Slovenian border. one of the trailblazers of the natural wine movement in Austria. Karl and Eva Schnabel run the estate since 2000, when they came back to the farm to reactivate the family winery, which paused due to the fact that Karl's parents died when he was only 17. Today, aided by their 3 sons, the Schnabels farm 5 hectares of vineyards, focusing on red grape varieties, which is an anomaly in the region.
Karl has studied agricultural economics while, Eva has studied business administration. After working in their fields for several years they decided to go to Burgundy in 1997 and 1998, where they gained practical knowledge of winemaking. This is also where Karl fell in love with Pinot Noir and decided to grow it back home at his winery. When Schnabels returned to Styria they weren't just the pioneers of focusing mostly on red grapes, like Blaufränkisch, Pinot Noir and Rotburger (Zweigelt), they also took a more holistic approach to their farming. In 2003 they got a biodynamic certification from Demeter. All economic activities at the Ermihof are shaped by the guiding principle that "we are only guests on our planet and it must be preserved for future generations".
This notion is carried with no compromise, hence the Schnabels created their own self-sustainable process that allows their farm to be a "living circular economy". In addition to vineyards, the farm consists of meadows that feature watering holes and nesting sites for wildlife, cairns which promote biodiversity, and herbs (yarrow, nettle, horsetail, chamomile, etc.) which are brewed and used for spraying. Since 2007, they also have cows that eat grass that grows lushly in the region and provide high quality natural fertilizer for the soils in the vineyards. To preserve all this life, Karl's approach in the vineyard is very radical. He believes that natural wines require manual cultivation. The grass under the vines is mowed with a scythe. The grass between the rows remains untouched promoting biodiversity in the vineyard. To avoid soil compaction, Schnabels ever use a tractor in their extremely steep vineyards.
Therefore, Schnabel vineyards are biotopes of plant and animal diversity. The biodynamic management in Hochegg, Koregg and Kreuzegg vineyards supports the farm in “being one” with nature. Due to our personal preferences, they mostly planted red wine varieties like Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and Pinot Noir. But white wine varieties such as Morillon and Riesling are also present. Schnabels purchase Sauvignon Blanc grapes from a biodynamic farmer. The vineyards are situated on the slopes of the Sausal mountain, formed in the Palaeozoic era, and is older than the Alps. The soil of the Sausal consists of siliceous primary rock and is lime-free because it was not flooded by the primordial sea. Slate soils were formed from this parent rock through weathering. Due to the high proportion of rocks, these soils are very airy and great for heat-retention. Barrenness and steepness with gradients of up to 70 percent of incline characterize the hills and provide for good water drainage, which is important in Styria, the wine region with most rainfall in Austria.
Since all the hard work is done in the vineyards, the vinification in the cellar is minimalistic. Again, the work is manual and very pedantic. Wine are made without any chemical or technical manipulation. Once the grapes make it to the cellar, they spontaneously ferment in open mash fermenters with manual pigéage (punch-downs) and the wine is transferred by bucket (no mash pumps) into neutral Burgundy barrels, to age until being bottled without fining, filtration. Since 2007, all Schnabel wines have been aged and bottled without the addition of sulfur. The bottles are rinsed with spring water, and wines are bottled manually in small batches and closed with high-quality natural corks.
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