I’ve been drinking a few of the new wines from Alexander Koppitsch recently, in fact three of them in only the last month. I thought rather than save them for my “Recent Wines” article, I’d write a short stand alone piece. Not only does it help me in my choice of wines to write about when the September tasting schedule allows, it also means I can give them a bit of a plug.
Alexander Koppitsch farms five-and-a-half hectares of vines around Neusiedl-am-See, a small town (or large village, perhaps?) just north of the Neusiedlersee, in Burgenland. I can’t imagine any regular readers are unaware of the Koppitsch family, because after meeting them a few years ago at Raw Wine I have followed them, and indeed got to know them very slightly. My biggest regret is that despite having been at Neusiedl last summer, I wasn’t able to visit (I’d planned to do so on a trip in January/February of this year, but in the end we met up in Vienna: see “Koppitsch Party” here).
“Yeah! You do seem to write about these guys a lot”. It’s true, but then a few years ago I was shamelessly plugging the Rennersistas, and a few years before that the incredible wines of Gut Oggau. There is hardly a village around the Neusiedlersee now where someone isn’t doing something special, and I just like the vibe here. It’s as much about the philosophy as the wines, if I’m honest, but these are very much “honest” wines, very pure.
Alex and Maria in Vienna, O’Boufés, January 2019
Alex took over his family’s vines in 2011, and immediately began to bottle himself. His mission, largely based on his wish to make a safe environment for his young children to grow up in, was to do away with synthetic chemical treatments (which his father had pretty much rejected) and to pursue minimum intervention viticulture and vinification. Biodynamic methods are followed here, and I definitely get a sense that nature has a spiritual side for the Koppitsch family.
There has always been in effect two main ranges of wines produced here. There are what I might call the more serious wines (perhaps a very poor choice of word, but they are wines which will benefit from age), and the fun wines. The former undergo a more lengthy fermentation and are bottled free of added sulphites, and are still known as “Perspektive”. The latter is an updated range, with fun, pastel but bright, labels which reflect the glugging qualities of the wines. These are, or were, called “Authentisch”.
A friend described one of them as “smashable”, a phrase I actually like to stand up and defend. It is perfect for a wine you are happy to knock back with friends and then order another bottle. The opposite of a wine you have to describe in a voice which sounds as if you’ve got a cork wedged somewhere uncomfortable. It’s four of these wines, which all have Hungarian names in order to give a nod towards the Hungarian heritage here by the lake, that I’m going to describe. A petnat, a rosé, a white and a red. There are more wines in the range, some of which, if you click on the link in the second para, above, you will find.
Pretty Nats #1 
I’ve seen this called “Pretty Nuts” because the u/a is actually an inverted “v”, and pretty nuts is indeed what this pink petnat is (in a good way). It’s made from an equal proportion of Blaufränkisch and Syrah grown on rubbly, sandy, soils. After harvest fermentation starts in fibreglass tanks before transfer to the bottle. There’s no temperature control, but in the early spring the bottles are taken outside to benefit from the cool nights before hand disgorging. No sulphur is added. 11% abv.
It’s a good rich coral pink in colour (less red to my eye than the photo below suggests). The bouquet is dominated by strawberry fruit, but bearing in mind both of the grape varieties, you expect that small hit of black pepper on the back palate. Otherwise, the fine bead gives a hint of minerality and it finishes dry. It’s a fun wine, but at the same time its joyfulness does make it something special. It needs to be drunk in sunshine, but I suspect it might cheer any of us up in the rain. It also comes with four different labels. I’ve only managed to find two of them, but more of that later.
You’ve probably sussed that the vintage date is in square brackets because these are all bottled as Table Wines (Wein aus Österreich) and Alex doesn’t use any sneaky Lot Code to let us know which vintage is. That said, production isn’t enormous for these wines and I don’t think there’s a lot of chance any of these will be left on the shelf by the time the 2019s come on tap.
Rosza is another wine made from relatively youthful vines (if 25-year-olds sound youthful, in vine terms). This blend of Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch (both 40% each) with 10% St-Laurent and 5% each of Pinot Noir and Syrah comes from pretty much all of the family’s vineyard sites, off a mix of clay, limestone and sandstone. Whole bunches are co-fermented and the only addition is a tiny bit of sulphur.
This is probably the most beguiling still rosé I’ve drunk this summer. It’s light with soft red fruits and it goes down just like fruit juice (though there is a beautifully balanced 11% of alcohol in there). It’s another happy wine. There were 6,000 bottles of this produced in 2018. Despite its simplicity, which for me is very much a positive, it is a great calling card for Alex and Maria.
I believe this wine comes from one site, with limestone underlying sand. It’s a white blend made up of three varieties: Grüner Veltliner (60%), Sauvignon Blanc (30%) and Weissburgunder (10%). There’s about four hours skin contact before direct pressing, and then fermentation lasts about seven days. Three different kinds of fermentation vessel are used – acacia for the Grüner, stainless steel for the Sauvignon, and fibreglass for the Pinot Blanc. The wines stay in the same vessels they were fermented in for nine months before the three cuvées are blended together. As always, there’s no fining or filtration, and I believe that unlike the Rosza no sulphur was added.
The best way I can describe the taste of this, and the closeness in flavour is uncanny, is like alcoholic pear juice. It’s a glorious wine. Immediately on drinking it, it was my “favourite”, though on reflection I believe all of these four to be just as good as each other. 3,600 bottles, 11% abv.
Rét is mainly comprised of Zweigelt (80%) with Saint Laurent (20%). Both varieties make gorgeously fruity natural wines on the sandy rubble around the northern side of the lake (cf Claus Preisinger and Rennersistas). The grapes are fermented, with a few hours initial skin contact, for ten days before being pressed into a mix of acacia and stainless steel, where the must sits on its gross lees for fourteen months. Sulphur addition is tiny, alcohol is, again, a moderate 11%. I think they also made 3,600 bottles in 2018.
The result is a slightly brambly, cherry juice, red with just a bit of acidity, bite and texture. As a perfect summer red serve it quite cool, and in autumn, just a little cool. This emphasises the bags of freshness. It’s the wine a friend called smashable. The alcohol, acidity and fruit are in that perfect balance which makes a simple wine so wonderful to enjoy.
Now the slightly more difficult bit – how to get hold of some. If you are in Vienna you will see these wines around, especially on restaurant lists. They are pretty well represented in the USA as well. Jascots was the first to import Koppitsch in the UK. I’ve not bought from them, and they want the whole name, rank and serial number thing to look at their Wine List, which just puts me off.
I’ve made a couple of Koppitsch purchases from the very nice people at Fresh Wines, up in Kinross (Scotland) and they’ve given me excellent customer service. However, they are a very small operation and their web site currently shows them as being out of stock of these wines (I understand I managed to snaffle their last couple of bottles of the petnat). There, when in stock, they retail from around £16 (Rosza) up to £21 (the petnat). I hope they will get some more in stock soon, but they are only a small company, fairly new, run by a couple called Neil and Kristen. See the contact page at freshwines.co.uk .
I did spot a bio for Alex on The Wine Society’s web site but no wines on the list. Perhaps someone can tell me whether TWS is importing Alexander Koppitsch. I’m not going to bother Alex and Maria with an email during harvest. If you do manage to find a bottle or two, I hope you enjoy them as much as we did. The 2019 harvest looks to be going well.