Duernberg. Sustainable Viticulture Uncorked

17th September 2020

Duernberg Heurige indoors small

What is sustainability and sustainable viticulture?

sustainability
/səsteɪnəˈbɪlɪt
noun
1.the ability to maintain growth at a certain rate or level without creating a negative impact on
the environment.
“the sustainability of economic growth”
•avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.
“the pursuit of global environmental sustainability”

Sustainability involves living in a balanced way so that what we consume does not vastly
exceed what we contribute. In a sustainable vineyard, there is a harmonious and healthy
equilibrium between the Earth and all of its inhabitants. It’s called Balance.

Sustainable viticulture means that a process or practice, in this case growing vines, can be
maintained at a certain level for as long as is wanted, meeting the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The practice involves
minimum intervention in the natural cycle of growth, with zero use of chemicals and total
respect for nature.

A stand out Austrian winery that encompasses all aspects of sustainable viticulture is Weingut Duernberg.

Weingut Duernberg is located in an ancient town called Falkenstein, which is itself, located in the historic heart of the best known wine region in Austria, the Weinviertal. Records show that Viticulture practices in this area date back to the 12th century.

Duernberg is a fabulous winery run by 4 dynamic and visionary individuals. Founding member Christoph Körner, Matthias Marchesani, Georg Klein and Christine Körner, who heads up the culinary side of the operation. Although wine is the main focus, Christine welcomes visitors from around the world to sample her gastronomic delights, created using traditional local recipes. Here, wine and food can be fully appreciated from the splendour of one of Austria’s best known and loved Heurige wine taverns.

The Duernberg team are motivated by a fierce commitment to Organic and sustainable viticulture.
Duernberg were officially certified sustainable in 2016, at the time, only the 12th Austrian winery to achieve this accolade. However, the sustainable practices needed to achieve this level of certification go back nearly 20 years, thanks to the great vision of Christoph and his commitment to the sustainability cause.

What makes Duernberg winery sustainable?

Creating and managing a sustainable viticultural programme has taken the Duernberg winery many years to develop. This involved reducing the amount of non renewable energy sources and ingredients used in the process of making wine to an absolute minimum and a step by step conversion to renewable sources (Water, energy, compost) with full respect for nature and its surrounding ecosystems.

Also, Careful cultivation of the vineyards with targeted greening and promoting the natural build-up of humus and soil life was fundamental to the project. The process of targeted greening involves leaving the land between every second row of vines grow without cutting and allowing nearby land surrounding the vineyard to grow naturally.

Weeds in a sustainable vineyard are treated as beneficial plants as their root systems break up the soil to allow air and water to enter, thus preventing erosion and soil compaction. Green targeting also promotes the surrounding flora and fauna and allow the small organisms in the soil to activate without chemical intervention, essential in the vineyard for healthy vines to flourish organically.

Cover crops such as beans and peas are also planted in every second row and mulched back into the ground to capture essential nitrogen, which ultimately returns compost to the earth and prevents soil compaction and erosion, creating a healthy environment for the vine with better irrigation.
Compost, hummus and natural sprays for use throughout the Duernberg vineyard are all made at the winery which adds further to the sustainable mission.

What constitutes a Duernberg sustainable wine.

The sustainable wines of Duernberg are produced by following strict guidelines set out by national government groups, who control every aspect of the winemaking process from bud break to final production. This is critical for sustainable certification.

This practice involves zero use of insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, which encourages positive insect and wildlife habitat in and around the vineyards. This practice is fundamental in creating an environment which naturally protects the vine against harmful bacteria and insects and lowers the risk of contamination from non organic farm practices nearby.

Fertilization is done by mulching all end of production remains, branches, berries, foilage etc and putting it back into the vineyard. Any additional sprays or treatments that are needed are also fully biological and made from natural ingredients.

Rainwater collection points and solar power is used throughout the vineyard and electric buggies are used by all staff to get around and manage the vineyard.

Tractors and the use of heavy machinery are kept to an absolute minimum to prevent soil compaction and CO2 emissions.

In the cellar, only natural products are used which gives the winery Vegan certification and all labelling and packaging are made from recycled material, making Duernberg one of the top sustainable wineries.

The wines.

All Duernberg wines are certified sustainable, organic and vegan.

The full range of wine is broad, from the sparkling range of white and rose which are made as aperitif wines with a low level of alcohol 12%.

The ‘Drinking pleasure’ range of still whites and rose, pair wonderfully with light food dishes and have an alcohol level of 11.5% making them the perfect aperitif, lunch or dinner party wine.

The Falkensteiner classic range are also low in alcohol at 12% and are a vibrant, fresh and easy drinking style. Fermented for longer and left on the lees for an extended period, these wines show all the qualities of Falkensteiner terrain and pair very well with fish and poultry dishes.

The Prime or Premium range of wines are all handpicked and made from low yielding old vines, some as old as 60 years, these wines are elegant, full bodied and have great ageing potential.

And finally, the holy grail of Duernberg wines are surely the Elementum selection. These wines, once fermented, are left to hibernate on the lees for up to 12 months before bottling and are only released in certain years. These wines are the culmination of many years of hard work and it shows as the wines have proven to mature incredibly well.

Now and the future of Sustainable wines.

There has never been a greater need to address the issue of sustainability in viticulture, and indeed in our lives, than today. As consumers who create demand, we are ultimately responsible for what retailers supply us. Therefore it is our responsibility to strengthen our resolve and give more support to wineries that are 100% committed to producing 100% good and sustainable wine for us to enjoy.

The wine market is awash with sub standard wine, produced to meet huge consumer demand.

Next time you plan to buy a bottle of wine, take a minute to think about your purchase. Question the source, who made the wine, where was the wine made, what grape varieties were used, when was it made, how far did the wine travel before reaching you? And the most important question of all, is it certified Sustainable?

If you would like to support Sustainable wine in the UK and the producers who make
these wines, visit www.slowfood.org.uk or www.circumferencewines.com

This article was written by Graham Herbert. I am an artisan farmer based in Le Marche Central Italy. For more info on our activities and what we do to support sustainable food and wine visit www.laughterintheleaves.com.

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