The Weinviertel has as many philosophies as vintners

“Popsicles. With lychee aroma!” René Willmann of the Poysdorf Weinmarkt (wine market) scoffed, a staunch defender of classical Austrian winemaking and not overly impressed by the trendy tipples in Generation Y’s watering holes. And he has good reason: The 30 winemakers whose nearly 500 wines are on display in his Vinothek are among the best producers of Austria’s signature Grüner Veltliner, a versatile chameleon of flavor. Standard descriptions always include “peppery”, and many are, but it comes in a dizzying variety from crisp and light carafe stuff to rich and mellow fellows fit for serious food. The Weinmarkt offers the big picture, a purpose-built modern blockhouse that is a bit charmless from the outside but inside is a glowing temple to the region’s finest.

Poysdorf is the heart of the Weinviertel (wine district). An easy 50 minutes from Vienna, it’s just short of the Czech border, past rolling hills of encouragingly orderly vineyards until the great parish church pops up. Poysdorf’s ancient icon, two unflagging figures bearing a bunch of grapes the size of a small grizzly bear, greet you in the center.

One wine, many techniques

Wine is the serious business of this town, and how to make it well a source of lively disagreement. Friederich Rieder is one of the local stars, a quality fanatic with an entrepreneurial touch. His winemaking turns the clock reassuringly backwards with selective hand gathering, letting the unfiltered wine steady itself for months on the natural lees – and for special parcels, only horse-drawn equipment, as tractors stress the ancient vines.  The payoff: eight of his 2016 wines have over 90 coveted Robert Parker points.

A short walk but another wine world away is the Riegelhofer winery.  Standing in the shadow of towering 8-meter-high, 25,000-liter tanks, Susanne Riegelhofer talks quietly about their business. Stress for the vines? They follow the German system of planting close to promote stress. “It makes them put the roots down deeper, more minerals, more good things,” she says. As you open one of her fruity young wines there is a gentle “zisssh“ of ongoing fermentation, possibly criminal at the top end of the market, but delightful for the casual drinker.

Between the international highflier and the domestic high volume producer are other typical family operations, like the Weingut Taubenschuss. Thomas Taubenschuss pampers his ancient 60-year-old vines and believes slow is better: “Let the wine make itself,” he says with a flippancy that belies the hard work in the cellars. His attitude: “I hope I never need Parker points.”

Minutes away, team Ebner-Ebenauer take the business as seriously as their ominously black bagged Black Edition products suggest, with a combination of professionalism and farmers’ fatalism.

Marion Ebner samples the young wines in her office, not in the cellars as most of her colleagues do: “Too many distractions for the nose.” But she also recognizes the ultimate authority: “We only have one boss – the weather.”

But take a run out to Poysdorf and see whom you believe. After all, it’s a matter of taste

Best of Poysdorf

Ebner-Ebenauer
2013 Chardonnay Black Edition – gently elegant at €30

Riegelhofer
2016 Saurüssel Grüner Veltliner – fresh & slightly frizzante at €6.30

Taubenschuss
2015 Grüner Veltliner Weinviertel DAC Reserve Ried Tenn – classically  peppery – at €12

Weinrieder
2015 Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben – mellow full–bodied at € 12.90