Not necessarily everyone’s darling: Karin and Erich Machherndl are building their success on classic Wachau styles and their own Pulp Fiction series
Learning by doing. That’s the motto at the Erich Machherndl winery in Wösendorf. Sometimes, this means learning by drinking. Karin and Erich Machherndl love to explore wines from everywhere. The inspiration gained helps them tweak their wines to adjust parameters that play a role in winemaking.
At the Erich Machherndl winery, a portion of the wines are matured to become Federspiels and Smaragds, the classic Wachau styles. But with roughly a third Erich Machherndl uses another approach: longer skin contact, no sulphur or filtering. Especially natural wine fans love the Pulp Fiction series. These wines are available in varying hues. “With Pulp Fiction there’s no middle ground. You either like it or not,” says Karin Machherndl with a laugh.
Learning by doing. The same goes when seeking new ways of cultivating the vines. As early as 2011, Erich Machherndl banned all herbicides from his vineyards. “It was challenging, but it put us on the organic path,” the vintner recalls. Since then, in 2018, the estate received organic cerfication. “It’s all about evolution. One step leads to another.”
Things are also moving forward in the vineyard at the Ried Weitenberg site. Young Riesling vines are thriving here — despite the hot summer weather. Erich Machherndl newly planted 0.3 ha with a selection of Mosel Riesling clones in 2022. Spectacular is a fitting way of describing both the view of Weißenkirchen and what Erich Machherndl and his helpers are pulling out of the earth: stones, some almost man-size. These need to be taken out before building can start on a dry stone wall extending 200 metres, to be finished by winter. “A lot of sweat is going into that third of a hectare,” Erich Machherndl reports. Stone on stone, he and his people are erecting another of the walls so characteristic of the Wachau. “The soil here is typical of Weitenberg,” Erich Machherndl explains. A mixture of loam, residual soil from weathering and layers of sediment. Along with a few ‘small’ stones.
How many vineyards does he work in all? “I’d need to sit down and think about it.” And that he does. He has ten separate plots, at Wösendorf, Joching and, with the new Weitenberg site, at Weißenkirchen. The different sites vary from one another, as do the grape varieties grown within the Erich Machherndl estate. Alongside Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, the Machherndl family also work plots of Chardonnay, Grauer Burgunder, Zweigelt and Syrah. A minor share is also used to make sparkling wine. “Last year I ‘sacrificed’ three rows of Burgunder for our first PetNat,” he tells us. Here too, learning by doing proved effective, so that again this year the bubbly pleasure will find its way into the bottles. Before that, though, more than one tonne of stones are waiting to be moved, and metres of stone wall need to be finished before harvest.