What two brothers share in common – besides a hundred folding chairs
It’s time to visit the wine cellar to sample the 2022 vintage. There we find brothers Franz and Mathias Hirtzberger, who tell us what they share in common, including party chairs. What’s the occasion? The 40th anniversary of Vinea Wachau.
So join us in a toast to 2023, the year of brotherhood, or better, siblinghood! What holds a family together? We first put the question to brothers Franz and Mathias Hirtzberger. While Franz continues the tradition of the family estate at Spitz, Mathias has established his own: the Weinhofmeisterei at Wösendorf.
A mere four kilometres separate the two estates. The two brothers get together most every day. For instance, to share a meal. Or, like today, to sample their wines. They take each other’s opinions seriously, as constructive criticism. “Whenever I have a new idea, I first let the family pass judgement. Then I know it’s worthwhile to follow up on,” Franz tells us. But obviously, the two brothers have by nature similar vibes. Steady progress, instead of buying into the newest trends, is their common conviction. “It’s hard enough to do something good well,” Mathias observes. “Exactly, that’s just when you see trends passing you right and left,” Franz adds.
“The biggest difference between us?
He’s the one with the curls.”
“It’s hard enough to do something good well.”
Both want to play an active part in helping define the Wachau’s unique wine styles, moving them forward. This means taking wine fans along on the journey, in their view. Their golden rule: rather than experiment with whole new styles, better to give more attention to detail. That’s hard enough. Especially with vintages like 2022, that put winemakers to the test. “Looking back, it was cool – literally,” Mathias jokes. “But challenging at times, with both extremely dry and wet periods.”
“This will make 2022 a winecrafter’s vintage, because it took daring, discernment and a highly skilled hand-picking technique to ensure good quality in the cellar,” France notes. The two share the satisfaction of knowing what is maturing in the barrels. Tasting through the wines in the new cellar at the Franz Hirtzberger Estate, it’s not only David Bowie we see, smiling down upon us. Here and there we also notice wooden folding chairs. Left over from the Christmas party, but borrowed from Mathias. At his Weinhofmeisterei at Wösendorf, he sets up some 100 such chairs for concerts and public readings.
“2022 is a winecrafter’s vintage.”
With the Weinhofmeisterei, Mathias created a whole new brand, while Franz concentrates on enriching the tradition of the Franz Hirtzberger label. Breathtaking challenges and expectations face both. In meeting these daunting tasks, their shared sense of humour is obviously no handicap. “With the family behind me it was much easier to develop my own brand,” Mathias tells us. Here it was important for him to strike an even balance between traditional and contemporary expectations. Even for the labels: “That was something we mulled over for some time.” Though their labels couldn’t be less similar, in winemaking, the two brothers often cross paths. Cork or screw-cap? Cork is a must, the two agree. As important as remaining faithful to your basic principles.
Still, despite such serious talk, the two never forget the lighter side. For instance, ‘Saint Godehard’, who solemnly mans his alcove at the Spitz estate, watching over the family. Every now and then the old frater gets a refresher in his glass. That makes for three brothers. In spirit, as it were. Cheers!