Birgit Braunstein lives in the village of Purbach in Austria, located in the Burgenland region. Her family has a long tradition of growing grapes and making wine. The tradition goes back to the 17th century, but Birgit’s first vintage under her own name saw the light only in 1996. Since 2000, the farming has been according to biodynamic principles. Most vineyards are located on, or close to, Leithaberg. Compared to the majority of the vineyards in Burgenland, the vines are therefore at a relatively high altitude, approximately a few hundred meters above sea level. The soil varies, but mostly it consists of slate and limestone.
I met Birgit and tested a selection of Weingut Birgit Braunstein’s wines when she was in Gothenburg recently, at the invitation of the importer TM Kvalitetsviner.
Birgit is an extremely passionate wine maker who likes to talk about soil, biodynamics and terroir for hours, which almost became too much during our relatively short meeting. Mainly because I’ve heard that so many times before. Everything is about the wines and how the terroir is expressed in the final result, which she has been very successful with. Thankfully!
Her wines are consistently honest, elegant and well-made. Despite some “natural wine” tendencies they feel mostly “conventional” and clean without any noticeable tones of oxidation, brettanomyces or other “funky” elements often found in “natural wines”. I think this is a good thing, although I like “funky” wines as well. I also appreciate wines that sometimes are on the edge of how a “correct wine” should be, but variety is a spice and I want variety in what I drink.
The eight wines Birgit brought were divided into four white, three red and a sparkling made with the ancient sparkling wine method, pétillant naturel (méthode ancestrale), which was the original way of making sparkling wine before the “champagne method” became the norm. The big difference is that the wine is bottled before the fermentation has finished. Then the wine bottled without the need for added sugar and / or yeast, as opposed to the “champagne method” (in which both sugar and yeast are added at bottling).
The wine also does not undergo degorging, where the yeast is removed, which means that the wine may have some yeast sediment remaining and may be a little cloudy.
2016 Pet Nat Rosenquaz, Birgit Braunstein
~22 euro ex-VAT (not available in retail in Sweden)
Really nice, albeit quite simple wine. Lightly berries with lingonberries, grapefruit and blueberries. Crisp and dry with a beautiful flowery bouquet of roses and jasmine. Light pebbly mineral tone in the background. Made only from red grapes, zweigelt and blaufränkisch. (87/100 points)
And now over to the still wines!
2016 Pinot Blanc, Birgit Braunstein
Tasted blind, I would probably have exclaimed “Chablis!” And been pretty sure I’d been right. Distinct minerally with flint and gunsmoke on a bed of crispy citrus and green apple fruit. Good intensity and delicious acidity. An excellent seafood wine for a reasonable amount of money. Really delicious and a clear recommendation if you like the style. (88/100 points)
2017 Welschriesling, Birgit Braunstein
13 euro ex VAT (not available in retail)
Like all the wines presented, this wine seethes quality, but in this lineup it did not stand out from the crowd. Grey pears and peppery citrus. Crisp and dry with some minerals, but none of that little extra that puts it one notch up. A nice summer-drinking wine of good quality, but there’s a lot of competition within the style. (85/100 points)
2017 Chardonnay Felsenstein, Birgit Braunstein
Correct and elegant chardonnay with light tropical framing. Yellow apples, butter, candied citrus and some yeast. I thought it had a touch of oak ageing, but apparently it was only kept in stainless steel tanks on the lees. Absolutely a good wine that does justice to the grape and the region. (86/100 points)
2015 Nimue, Birgit.Pur, Birgit Braunstein
~30 euro ex VAT (not available in retail)
Now we are talking serious wine! Absolutely delicious wine! I would never had guessed that it was made from sauvignon blanc. Skin-macerated with deep yellow colour. Complex and nuanced. A panoply of floral elements is the first to reach the nose. Jasmine, honeysuckle and possibly even a little elder. The fruit is deep and strawy with a kind of “dirty” honey, smoked yellow plum, apricot, blond tobacco and a pleasant earthy background. Impressive wine in a style all of its own. (93/100 points)
2015 Pinot Vom Berg, Birgit Braunstein
The first impression was a bit modest. Lots of lactose and fruit yoghurt. Within a minute, the wine comes alive and expands into a complex flow of lovely aromas. Light, fresh and red fruit. Lingonberries, rhubarb with some violet leaves meet gunpowder, herbs, liquorice and grass. Nicely ethereal. Not a big wine in any way, but splendidly elegant, slim and stylish without the least touch of heaviness or difficult structure. This is one to best drink straight down without major pretentions. Really good price for a delicious but not complex pinot! (87/100 points)
2012 Blaufränkisch Leithaberg DAC, Birgit Braunstein
Structure, power and ambition, not entirely different from a barbera from Italy with quite apparent, though “polished” barrels. Dark red fruit primaryily with cherry, but also some blackberries and raspberries. Can find a trace of ripe banana. Spices from the barrel, as well as some roasted pine nuts that put golden a golden edge on it. Generous and youthful, but a little impersonal. Need to be aged for a few years to reach its full potential. (89/100 points)
2012 Oxhoft, Birgit Braunstein
~25 euro ex VAT (not available in retail)
The grape blend is blaufränkisch, zweigelt and cabernet sauvignon; the 20 percent cabernet is distinctly present. Acidic plums with hints of root vegetables and fresh tomatoes meet tobacco, leather, cedar and toffee with a some bitter almonds and whiff of blue cheese on the top. Long, intense and well-balanced taste. Almost as if there were some CO2 on the palate. Tight and delicious! Still young, but ready to drink if you like some resistance. Certainly some bordeaux feeling all over it, but with its own special expression. Big thumbs up! (91/100 points)
The producer: Weingut Birgit Braunstein
The importer: TM Quality wines
Mattias Schyberg is guest writer on BKWine Magazine. He is also one of the persons behind the very active wine forum www.finewines.se.
This post is also available in: Swedish