Welcome on stage the most recent member of the Vinea Wachau family: Weinhauerei 378. After launching “Projekt Höll”, Florian Ruhdorfer and Peter Mandl have now gone big – by starting their own winery.
When coworkers tell about their morning jogs, Florian Ruhdorfer can only smile. “In summer, I work the vineyard between 5 and 7 am,” he explains. Anyone who has been to the incredibly steep Ried Bach at Wösendorf knows: working these slopes is a real workout. No tractor could make it up here.
Peter Mandl and Florian Ruhdorfer have taken up an occupation that once was very popular in the Wachau: part-time winemaking. The two half-brothers originally joined forces five years ago, initially under the name of “Projekt Höll”. “But because every project has a finishing date, we started our own estate in 2020,” the two of them recall.
The wines they now produce carry the name of “Weinhauerei 378”. “That’s my address in Weißenkirchen,” Florian Ruhdorfer explains. His daytime job is managing Business and Career Services at IMC Krems University of Applied Sciences. He is a former student of the university, like Peter Mandl, who studied International Wine Business. This put him on a clear trajectory towards the wine industry, and today Peter is active in distribution for the city of Krems winery.
Why does anyone voluntarily make wine in their off-hours? “Because I have always been interested in the practical side, in working with my hands in the outdoors,” is Peter Mandl’s answer. With little time for mere dabbling, and adopting the motto of “just do it”, the two brothers soon hit on the plan of turning the seven vine rows behind the family house in Weißenkirchen into wine. Not just “one day when we retire” but two weeks later. That was in 2016. “But then we had to look for a home. We still didn’t have a place to press the grapes and mature the wines. Hansi Donaubaum just said ‘cool, let’s get on with it’, and we started at his place. Later, Mathias Hirtzberger also took in our wines.” So the tale the two brothers have to tell.
Peter Mandl and Florian Ruhdorfer recently located a permanent residence: an earthen cellar in Wösendorf, where the 2021 vintage will soon mature in pre-owned wood casks. Here they work mostly by hand and as naturally as possible, using only a press, a pump and hoses. “This lets us create elegant, subtle wines of the kind we ourselves enjoy drinking. Personally, I am not that fond of wines that audibly jump out of the glass,” Florian Ruhdorfer admits.
The two like to gather occasional inspiration in the Burgundy region and from makers of natural wines. “There’s a lot to discover there. I like pure wines with nothing to hide,” Peter Mandl reports. Organic farming is also an important consideration, and currently the estate is being converted to such methods.
Sub Divo is the experimental wine of the house. “With such small quantities, we can obviously afford to try out new things. That’s the advantage when you enter the trade from the outside. We are free to develop our own style.”
What have the two vintners learned in recent years? “You can do a thousand things at once. Something always turns out.”