This is why the best wines grow on Lake Neusiedl
Today we accompany Peter Szigeti to a vineyard on Lake Neusiedl. The vines stretch in long rows over the gentle hill from which we enjoy grandiose views of the shimmering water surface. Here, the owner of the world-renowned sparkling wine cellar tells us more about the topic of "terroir".
For more than three decades, Peter Szigeti has stood for the production of worldwide award-winning premium sparkling wines with local character. When selecting wines, the native of Golser relies without exception on the wine-growing regions around Austria's largest lake. The Pannonian climate, the most diverse soils and geological conditions, selected grape varieties and traditional winemaking skills together form what wine connoisseurs call "terroir".
Dear Peter, can you start by telling us something about the geography and location of this unique wine-growing region in the very east of Austria?
With pleasure. As you rightly say, we are in Burgenland, the easternmost province of the Alpine Republic. A small part of Lake Neusiedl is already on Hungarian territory. To understand the influence of geography on wine quality, you should know that Lake Neusiedl is one of the largest steppe lakes in Europe. It directly influences the climate of northern Burgenland and thus the wine-growing regions in its vicinity.
The wine-growing regions begin in the north at the hills of the Wagram, extend over the eastern protected areas of Waasen or Hanság and reach into the southern, flat Seewinkel. In the north and northwest lie the Leithagebirge as a natural barrier. Lake Neusiedl is a full 36 kilometres long and has an area of 315 square kilometres. Evaporation, the day-night exchange of air and the prevention of low temperatures in winter are climate factors emanating from this large lake.
Speaking of temperatures: What actually characterises the Pannonian climate?
We are standing on a hill right now, but you can see that most of the land is flat. We are talking about the Pannonian lowlands, which are characterised by a special climate. In the east of Lake Neusiedl, i.e. also in Gols, we experience hot, dry summers and moderate winters with little snow. On average, it is not less than -2 degrees Celsius even during high winter.
In addition, we can look forward to the most sunny days in all of Austria! The intense sunlight gives the grapes an unmistakable depth of fruit and power. Due to the cooling during the summer nights, which we owe to the lake, the wines achieve a fine, elegant acidity and a distinct fruit flavour.
What characterises the soils around Lake Neusiedl?
Actually, due to the geological situation, we are dealing with quite different soils, which directly affects the character of the wines. That is an exciting thing! In the wine-growing region of Leithaberg in the north we are dealing with limestone, shell limestone, clay, mica and gneiss - the wines are therefore particularly mineral. A large part of the sites in the Seewinkel are characterised by sandy-loamy soils and varying degrees of gravel. We also find salty and slightly sandy soils in the vineyards.
In the west of Lake Neusiedl the soils are rather light, here the vines can really take root deeply and are thus optimally supplied with moisture. You can imagine that the wines are very different depending on the location of the vines and the soil conditions. This is the only reason why we can offer an unbelievably wide range of wines - and thus sparkling wines - in Burgenland. There really is something for every taste and every occasion.
Do you really only source the basic wines for your premium sparklings from the Neusiedlersee region?
Definitely. Whether white or red grapes, I find exactly the high quality of grapes right on my doorstep that I imagine for the production of sparkling wine according to the "Méthode Traditionnelle". My cellar master and I spend a lot of time in the vineyard with our winemaking partners, because that is where the foundation for the finest sparkling wine is laid. I will be happy to tell you more about the most suitable grape varieties later during a small tasting!
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