“Farming is more than just making a profit. As farm managers, we have a very special responsibility towards the maintenance of our centuries-old cultural asset, which has also become an incredibly valuable natural asset, not least thanks to our extensive management of our estate.”
– Winemakers Josef & Maria Maier
Taking a step into Geyerhof’s vineyards is akin to walking into a true nature reserve. This is one of the few (if not the only) vineyard in the world with that much flora, fauna and biodiversity.
The history of the old estate began almost 800 years ago, in the little village of Oberfucha in Kremstal, Lower Austria. The first mention of the estate was in 1135; It was originally a farm founded by the abbey where people lived and produced wine for the monks. The cellar, still used today, dates back to the 12th century. Since the 16th century, the estate has been owned by the Maier family, who have been involved in winemaking for more than 14 generations – an occupation deeply rooted in the landscape.
Arable land, hedgerows, cattle, pigs, chickens and bees complete their idea of holistic farming. Vineyards cover 19 hectares in Kremstal with plots in Gaisberg, Golberg, Hoher Rain, Johannisberg, Kirchensteig, Sprinzenberg and Steinleithn. The winery strongly advocates diversity over of monoculture, with the belief that their vines are a smaller part of a larger whole.
Organic Viticulture – Much more than just avoiding chemicals
Only by giving nature a place in and around the vineyard, are they able to receive back the best nature has to offer. Since 1988, their 23 ha of vines and 27 ha of arable land have been farmed according to organic principles. The winery has also been approved with the Demeter certification in 2019.
Over 13% of Geyerhof’s land consist of hedges and nature conservation areas. This is one of the most in vineyards across the globe. Diverse cover crops with numerous wild herbs offer an additional habitat for a multitude of useful insects in the vineyards. The ecological interplay renders the use of insecticides unnecessary, reinforces the resilience of the vines and promotes healthy soil life.
“Our wines tell the story of our homeland, the soil, the weather and the labour of an entire year. Honest and unadulterated, they reflect their provenance and touch our hearts anew, year after year”
– Winemakers Josef & Maria Maier
For the winery’s efforts in integrating nature conservation works into agricultural lands, Geyerhof was awarded the Austrian sustainability award in 2019. This award honours outstanding initiatives which highly contribute to the achievement of the 17 SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) of the United Nations.
Here’s a glance at some of the key protagonists in Geyerhof’s vineyards:
Not far from the vineyards, surrounded by old hedgerows and freestanding nut and fruit trees, are the farm’s crops scattered over 27 hectares. Wheat, sunflower, pumpkin and lucerne are some of the crops which are farmed on an alternating rotation. A multitude of weed plants, insects and birds also benefit from this extensive organic farming approach.
In total, 6 Murboden and Angus cattle spend their days from spring to winter roaming freely outside on a generous pasture. As stewards of the landscape, they contribute their part to the diversity of the land, the fauna and the flora, while reminding everyone of an almost forgotten form of land use in the region.
Inherently sustainable beekeeping, as well as the diverse landscape around Oberfucha, provide an ideal basis for the development of healthy bee colonies. With their incredible pollination capacity, the bees themselves contribute greatly to the conservation of this biodiversity.
Hedgerows and field margins
The crops and vineyards are surrounded by over 40,000m2 of hedgerows, shrubs, trees, extensive meadows and bodies of water. These elements unquestionably constitute the nature conservation backbone of their landscape, which needs to be protected more than ever. The smaller structures are home to numerous animal and plant species – including useful insects – which serve as protection against soil erosion, contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases, serve as a pantry for fruit and wood, minimise evaporation, stabilise soil humidity, function as biotope networks and create a biological equilibrium.
13th Generation Owners, and pioneers in their own right
The estate, already on its 13th generation of owners, is run by Maria and Josef Maier together with their parents. Studies and practical experience in New Zealand, Germany & Alaska have left their mark. As is the case in many places in the world, both of them have rediscovered the New in the Old. By keeping cattle, pigs and bees they are helping to revive not only viticulture but also the good old concept of a farm. Their objective is to focus on the most important aspects, to slow down, and practise respectful, sustainable farming in times where economic growth and intensification are kings.
Strong women enjoy a long tradition at Geyerhof. Maria Maier’s great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother took over the estate from their parents. The estate was then not only turned into a classically mixed farm with vineyards, crops, dairy cows and pigs, but also received an inn. Around the year 1900, Geyerhof was mainly destined for mining and a brickyard. What a turn it has been!
Manual Labour and Cellaring
The Geyerhof team spends over 5000 hours pruning, trellising and working on the rootstocks and canopies. The highlight of each intense viticultural year is the hand-harvesting process, where each year’s harvest bears fruit.
The courage to harvest late is rewarded year after year with fully ripe fruit, which in combination with low yields, lends the wines complexity, concentration and depth.
In the cellar, Geyerhof’s main goal is to safeguard the level of quality created in the vineyard and to maintain the individuality of the wines through a purposeful “low-intervention” approach.
Staying well clear of “magical” enzymes, fining agents and specially cultured yeasts, they try to make do with the absolute minimum of interventions and technology. Top wines are made in the vineyard, there is nothing one can add in the cellar. The hygienic advantages of modern cellar technology in the form of stainless steel tanks, steam cleaners and renewable energy from solar panels are of course part of the winery’s modern approach – giving birth to wines with individuality and longevity.
The Single-Vineyard Wines of Geyerhof
“Every year we feel a renewed passion for the craft of winemaking, an excitement for nature’s processes and an anticipation of the moment when we can bottle the result of a year’s good work. It is wonderful when we can share this joy with other people” – Winemakers Josef & Maria Maier
The single vineyards of Geyerhof grow on a wide spectrum of soils. Prehistoric stone, sandy soils and gravel provide perfect growing conditions for the various varietals. All Geyerhof wines are single-vineyard organic expressions of dry-farmed, hand-harvested fruit. In the winery, grapes are processed slowly by spontaneous fermentation in a facility both modern and ancient. Lees contact, neutral barrel ageing and malolactic fermentation are carefully utilized to add complexity to the wines without adding any additional ingredients.
Grapes are harvested only at their optimum ripeness to take advantage of their concentration and soft tannin structure. They are then destemmed and gently crushed. During fermentation, the temperature is carefully controlled between 18 and 28°C for 3 weeks to ensure a soft tannin structure. Only native yeasts are used in this process. The wine is not sweetened or aromatized in order to protect the typicity of the terroir and the vintage.