Grabenwerkstatt was founded in the year 2014, but the idea sparked a year before. We were working at Pyramid Valley Vineyards in New Zealand at the time and were introduced to a new wine world that continues to influence us. Biodynamic principles play just as important a role as does the meticulous attention to each vine, manual labour and the aspiration to discover the essence of a place.
Grabenwerkstatt stands for provenance, which in this case is defined by the frequently extreme environment of the Spitzer Graben in the Wachau. We strive to understand the essence of each vineyard plot and gain profound knowledge of all its idiosyncrasies with the goal of expressing these stories in our wines. Elegance, vitality, structure and of course depth are decisive parameters.
We rely solely on Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. We are not only convinced that these two varieties best reflect the full potential of the Spitzer Graben; this is also our own personal preference. And that should also be allowed, because ultimately you can only produce unique and distinctive wines when you identify with them enthusiastically and with conviction.
MICHAEL LINKE (right) - Several hearts beat within Michael’s breast. He is undeniably Palatinate, but has been rooted deeply in the Wachau for many years. Despite this, he was always attracted to the other side of the world. He toured Australia in 2005 and was astounded at how different Riesling tasted there than in Deidesheim and the surrounding area. Australia was a repeated destination and Riesling a constant companion. Without any previous experience, he worked for six months of the following year at the Dr. Deinhard estate (today von Winning) and gained knowledge of essential skills in the vineyard and cellar. Study of international wine business at the college in Geisenheim was the next logical step. He crossed a border again in 2009 to gain experience in Austria at Domäne Wachau. Fascinated by the vineyard terraces, he remained there for three years.
In 2012 he and Franz (left) embarked for Australia and later New Zealand. Akarua and Pyramid Valley Vineyards were decisive stations where he deepened his knowledge of biodynamic vineyard cultivation. Upon returning to Europe he spent a brief intermezzo in the Pfalz at Bürklin-Wolf that left a deep and lasting impression. The months spent there between steel tanks and wooden barrels in the cellar deepened his knowledge of the natural genesis of wine and continue to shape his philosophy today.
He found his final destination in the Wachau in April 2014. He works for the wine merchant Fohringer in Spitz during the day and in the evenings and on weekends at Grabenwerkstatt.
FRANZ HOFBAUER (left) - A child of the Wachau, Franz is one of the few locals that grew up without a family vineyard. This changed with the establishment of Grabenwerkstatt, yet his professional life was always spent in the wine branch. The springboard into the world of wine was employment at Wein&Co. During those years, he completed his WSET Diploma at the Austrian Wine Academy (2005) and then embarked on an on-going exploration of wine styles around the globe. What ensued was a constant commuting between two wine worlds that could not be further apart. After Domäne Wachau followed Felton Road (Central Otago, NZ), Sepp and Georg Högl (Wachau), Pyramid Valley Vineyards (Canterbury, NZ) and Weingut Hirtzberger (Wachau).
There are many unifying threads: the most important are the continued relationships with all the wineries and friendships with their representatives. And of course, there is Riesling. This variety played a major role in all the wineries in which Franz worked. It is only logical that Grabenwerkstatt also focuses on one of the greatest and most exciting grapes in the world.
Viticulture is an eternal interplay of natural factors and cultural interventions. The goal should be a balanced and vital vineyard in which vines play the central role, yet simultaneously provide a foundation for a complex ecosystem.
We abstain from the use of systematic plant protection agents and artificial fertilization. Our soils and vines are treated only with biodynamic preparations, plant infusions, sulphur and copper (in smallest possible quantities). We don’t own a tractor and do all work by hand with wheelbarrows, hoes and buckets. This may be laborious, but it is worthwhile. This allows us to respond to the needs of each individual vine and successively learn its idiosyncrasies. We cultivate old vines where we have the opportunity and plant new vines in extreme sites. Green cover grows in old vineyards throughout the year. Soils of young vineyards are vitalized with additional plants at least in winter in order to create warmth near the soil surface in cool parcels. Meticulous canopy management provides adequate ventilation. Picking times are chosen at the perfect point of ripeness – not earlier and not later.
This – and so much more – are the basic requirements. The rest is wine.
The metamorphosis from grape to wine is an awesome natural process and this is how we treat it. We allow things to evolve; we observe and guide. All our wines are fermented spontaneously. The most intense time for us is during the fermentation process. We heat the must with electric blankets to get the natural fermentation initiated. We smell the wine daily, follow its development and pay close attention to the exact temperature during fermentation, accepting up to 24 °C (75 °F). Only when the fermentation gets too wild and stormy do we cool with cold water.
After fermentation is completed, our wines remain on the lees in stainless steel – our only compromise. We would prefer wood, but because we work in a garage, we lack the space and sometimes one must simply be practical. Wines continue to rest until they have found a natural balance. This is dependant on vintage and varies from year to year. None of our wines are fined or filtered. We have a hands-off approach and intervene only by adding minimal sulphur-dioxide at bottling.