Dec 04: Michael Moosbrugger , President of Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg, a historic winery in Langenlois in the Kamptal region of Lower Austria was In India last week on his way home after visiting several countries in Asia including Japan, when he visited Taj Lands End Mumbai and Hotel Eros New Delhi where he conducted an interesting Masterclass each followed by Wine Tasting of the two flagship wines of Austria, Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt, writes Subhash Arora who met him in Delhi
I met Michael Moosbrugger first in June 2011 at the winery in Kamptal after meeting Julien Bonnard, the Brand Ambassadorwith whom I tasted 4 wines from the Kamptal producer in February 2011. I was very impressed when he had told me about the traditional approach with modern technology only as a helpful tool. Some of the traditions are being still maintained by the winery including ‘the dynamic process of ‘barrel on wheels’, in which the barrels in which the juice is being fermented are moved outside for natural stress free temperature control’.
Taking over the Management
Michael who took over the long term 2-generation management of the winery owned and run earlier by Cistercian monks at this monastery in 1996, was not a winemaker but he had apprenticed in winemaking between 1992-95 before he came to Schloss Gobelsburg. He took the well-known producer of Langenlois, Willi Bründlmayer as his financial partner. Today he is a winemaker and considered a good quality, age-worthy white wine producer. I had tasted a range of wines he had arranged in the Tasting Room when I went for the visit in June 2011 but he ended up opening several more including a 1973 Riesling which had been otherwise a mediocre year, according to him. It was extremely elegant and balanced wine with a nice petrol smell and flavour and was still very much alive.
When I met him in the Lutyens Lounge at Hotel Eros for a Master Class organised by Arun Kumar, the Director of Aspri, on December 2, I found him in a great mood. He had valid reasons; amongst the countries he had visited on this trip to Asia, was Japan where Schloss Gobelsburg Ried Heiligenstein Kamptal DAC Riesling 2015 had single-handedly won 5 Awards-including the Best white wine of the Show, Best Austrian wine, International /Regional Trophy for white wine-and Best Value for Money wine in the premium category of 5,000 yens+ (read expensive at over €37.50).
Awards and recognitions are not new to Michael; he has been steadily rising in the Austrian winemaking since the time he took over the management with his wife Eva, with a little of help of from his partner and the well- recognised Willi Bründlmayer. In 2011, his expertise and efforts had resulted in the winery being awarded the status of one of the world’s Top 100 wineries of the year by the prestigious American magazine ‘Wine and Spirits’ for the second time since 2010.
The continuous efforts made by Michael have helped him increase his production to 800,000 bottles and though in 2011 only 20% of his 160,000 bottles were exported, today it is two thirds heading for the foreign palates. He was perhaps also jubilant because 2017 has been an exceptionally generous vintage; most of Europe has suffered a drop of up to 50% due to the vagaries of nature. Austria has been fortunate in having one of the best vintages in recent time and hopes to clock a record million bottles.
Master Class and white wines
Although most of what he said in the Master class has been already reported in delWine (see links at the bottom) -like Austria grows a majority of white wines (two-thirds), ‘tal’ means valley-thus Kamptal meaning Valley of the Kamp River, it is primarily a white wine country etc, he did not emphasise that he is also making a decent number of red wines like Sankt Laurent, Zweigelt etc.
‘The white wine will definitely change its character during ageing. It is like listening to music. If you like rock and roll, you’d perhaps like young and vibrant wines. After a few years these wines become like soft music, classical music or even opera. If you try playing classical music or opera to a rock and roll or hip-hop music lover, he won’t appreciate it.
White wines Ageing
Moosbrugger who is also a hobby musician is a staunch believer in white wine aging though he played a slightly different tune at the ‘concert’ this evening when he said that wines they produce are quite approachable as most drinkers liked to drink their wines young. He also explained the popularity of the Gruener Veltliner (GruVee, as it is known or should be promoted due to the difficult pronunciation otherwise) was like Chardonnay- it goes with so many foods and snacks that like Chardonnay, no sommelier would be fired if he suggested GruVee to the consumer.
He had told me earlier that the legacy he wants to leave behind for his children will be that of white wines. He believes they can last ‘forever’ (seriously, 50 years or more is a distinct possibility). ‘We often taste wines that are over 30-40 years old and they are still singing. Of course, they have to be stored at a proper temperature and humidity with the fungus over the year in the humid basement would protect the liquid inside.’
Clarifying his penchant for the whites, he says, ‘the wine will definitely change its character. It is like listening to music. If you like rock and roll, you’d perhaps like young and vibrant wines. After a few years these wines become like soft music, classical music or even opera. If you try playing classical music or opera to a rock and roll or hip-hop music lover, he won’t appreciate it.’
Knowing that most consumers, including the younger ones, prefer rock-n-roll to opera, he makes his wines which are approachable and drinkable young though they have nice structure. Michael says he has drunk Heiligenstein Riesling from the 1960’s from the library and finds them quite drinkable but some of the older vintages need cork replacement now. He also believes that the cork quality in the ’60’s and 70’s was very good; it’s only in the 90’s that it dropped due to sudden increase in volumes because of the new world countries starting to make big volumes and the demand outstripping the supply.
Michael explains that the small country with only 250 million liter production and a vine area of 45,000 hA compared to Burgundy (35,000 hA) and Champagne (37,000 hA) has over 5400 vineyards. To standardize, they have introduced the Erste Lage (Premium Cru) and Grosse Lage (Grand Cru) concept which is a wok-in progress at the moment with 52 vineyards classified in this category. Incidentally to avoid the fantasy names given by most old world producers, ‘Ried’ must be used before the vineyards name to denote a single vineyard.
Michael is the President of the Traditionsweingüter Österreich Association and has been the driving force behind the new Erste Lage project which identified over 50 new 'Premier Cru' vineyards in the Danube area in 2010. He produces three single vineyard Grüner Veltliner and two Rieslings in the Erste Lage classification. This association works in conjunction with German counterparts and as Michael says half the work has been done. Eventually, they will have to convince the national lawmakers to allow the producers to use this classification somewhat similar to Champagne and Burgundy region.
Having won several medals and awards and even those won at the Japan Wine Challenge 2017 Michael believes the wine is meant for drinking and not only to get Awards. While exhorting those present to drink what their palates liked and not what he or any other expert recommended or the points given by writers, he felt that the best wines were those which finish the fastest in the glass. It was no wonder then, that we had to open another bottle of Domaine Gobelsburger Grῦner Veltliner (also known as GruVee) since the first one was demolished quite fast. Zweigelt was a new experience for many and would have been consumed slower, if my guess is correct, although the change in weather could have well brought out the red bottles for many lovers who ae driven by the outside temperature.
At any rate, it was a very relaxed evening, reinforced by some wine gyan in an über- pleasant way. With the staff of Aspri playing wonderful hosts ans the staff at the Lutyens Room very efficient and business-like in service.
For more details, check out www.schloss-gobelsburg.at or contact at Schloss@gobelsburg.at. You may also contact Aspri Spirits and Wines who import the wine in India and whose website www.asprispirits.org promises to be back with a new Avatar soon!
For Earlier Articles, visit:
An Evening with Michael Moosbrugger of Gobelsburg
Austrian Wine :: Gobelsburg : Shattering Myth about Whites
Wines of the Austrian Monks