Bottled poetry: How the Prieler family creates wine magic in Austria’s Burgenland
Austria’s Lake Neusiedl area is special, both in light and climate, and those who have seen it for the first time usually return soon after. The region features mild temperatures and, during the summers, even the air has its own aroma due to the special variety of plants growing here. It is an ideal terroir for growing excellent wines.
With a Pannonian climate marked by cold winters, hot summers and warm temperatures in autumn, the Burgenland area, where lake Neusiedl with its surrounding hills is situated, provides Austria’s highest average temperatures. The lake’s micro-climate adds a mild touch and some welcome humidity during the summer, a combination which guarantees ideal wine-growing conditions.
Winemakers for five generations now, the Prielers are situated in Schützen, close to the Lake Neusiedl National Park. Their terroir covers 20 hectares of the high hill of the ‘Schützner Stein’, west of the lake, situated in the Leithaberg area. The best part, the Goldberg, provides especially good conditions. The vineyards are facing east and south, catching the full force of the sun. The stony soil of the hills stores the heat of the day and the lake provides for mild temperatures throughout the year. Long slopes and an ideal geographical position with the protecting foothills of the Leithagebirge in the back allow long ripening phases for the grapes, especially for the excellent variety blaufränkisch.
Vineyard. Photo: © Joe Haider
The Leithagebirge forms part of the Alps and therefore the ground shows traces of the so-called Leitha Limestone. It both reflects the sunlight and allows good drainage. This soil is ideal for grapes like pinot blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and helps to create their full, mineral note. Other grapes need other soil and the Prieler terroir also features brown clay and mica slate. Brown clay preserves moisture, is rich in iron and provides ideal conditions for the ‘blaufränkisch’, a Burgenland-classic of a lush, fruity and peppery-spicy aroma. Last but not least, the mica slate of the Goldberg hill, known since 1555 for providing the best slopes in the area, acts as a kind of super storage for sunlight. Well known for its wine-growing advantages also in Spanish priories or northern Rhone, the heat-saving mica slate supports powerful wines with diverse mineral-rich bouquets.
“We’d like to put the character of the region into the bottle,” says Georg Prieler. Quality-increasing crop limitation and short pruning as well as high foliage walls and a great deal of patience allow the Prielers to reach that goal. They allow time for the grapes to mature and, as they say: “The rhythm is provided by nature itself.”
I am reaching Georg Prieler coming back from the vineyard as there has been frost alarm in this year’s unusually cold spring. As a trained winemaker, Georg Prieler has gained practical experience internationally before he joined the family business. His father’s expertise, fine-tuned over the span of three decades, lies within soil cultivation, pruning and harvest. With a great deal of patience and unrelenting support by his wife, it took 20 years for Engelbert Prieler until he was finally satisfied with the outcome of his meticulous efforts of growing a small but special grape range from great, great vineyard side. Each type is growing under respective ideal conditions. Today his son contributes to what has been always a family tradition of creating some of the most excellent and well-known wines in the area.
Photo: © Steve Haider
“In Schützen, we harvest the best nature has to give”, it says on the Prieler website. A close observation of the climate and a life at the pulse nature has given them the knack to produce quality wines praised by both experts and the press. “A lot of what we value about the region is mirrored in our wines. They combine a lightness with power and just like the people of the area, they are open and approachable but not easy to fathom.” Mystery wines? Well, with a little help of Silvia Prieler, who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology, they have already arrived at presenting one of the most hailed pinot noirs throughout the region.
Prieler wines are characterised by the terroir they grow on. Their extraordinary spot in the countryside around Schützen at Lake Neusiedl, set within protected nature and lined by the hills of the Leithagebirge, provides for a magic landscape – and magic wines.
TEXT: CORNELIA BRELOWSKI
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