If you attended November’s RAW Wine Fair in Brooklyn, the premier stateside event for naturally made wine, you would have met Judith Beck from Austria’s Burgenland. This winegrower is intent on forging her own path, crafting pours that reflect her vision of what Austrian wines can be.
Beck, whose winery bears her name, produces wines on the eastern side of Lake Neusiedl, close to the Hungarian border. Since the late 1970s, when her father ran the business, the estate’s vineyards have expanded from about a dozen acres to nearly 40 acres today. She focuses on native red grapes of the region — blaufrankisch, zweigelt, and St. Laurent among them.
While she could discuss the details of the business — managing the vineyards, crafting and aging wines, and representing her pours abroad — the topic she returns to again and again is biodynamics, a set of agricultural practices that regard a vineyard as a living organism. Those practices, a combination of ecological and spiritual, were codified by early-20th-century philosopher Rudolf Steiner, and go well beyond simply avoiding pesticides. The approach includes undertaking specific tasks according to the lunar calendar and applying special preparations of compost teas in accordance with the seasons. Beck talks about it as a way of healing the soil, and is enthusiastic about the changes she has seen since 2007, the year she committed to farming in this mindful manner. The results show up in the bottle.
A 2014 Blaufrankisch showcases what the late-ripening, dark-berried grape can do. Grown in a soil type called seewinkelschotter, composed of sandy, gravelly limestone, grapes ferment spontaneously from the vineyards’ native yeasts, first in stainless steel, then in neutral acacia casks, followed by aging in barrique. The multi-step process is key to achieving the complexity she desires.
A sinuous octopus adorns the front label of a 2014 bottle called “Ink,” a blend of two native grapes. Austria’s most widely planted red wine varietal, zweigelt, is augmented with St. Laurent, famous for yielding fruity-yet-elegant pours. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, then aged in large casks, resulting in a fresh, vivid red.
Both pours are poised and lithe, communicating the vibrancy and earnestness of their maker. Neither is a bruiser when it comes to alcohol or extraction, making each a pleasure at the table. Until Beck swings by on her next East Coast tour, we’ll look forward to every bottle she sends our way.
Weingut Judith Beck Burgenland Blaufrankisch 2014 Spicy aromas of berries, subtle oak, and freshly turned soil lead to a lithe palate of cherry, red plum skin, and violets, plus an attractive savory quality. Around $19. At Marty’s Fine Wines, Newton, 617-332-1230; Central Bottle Wine + Provisions, Cambridge, 617-225-0040.
Weingut Judith Beck “Ink” 2014 Scents of high-toned, crunchy red fruit and a hint of potpourri characterize this blend of zweigelt and St. Laurent. Pretty and energetic with lively acidity and flavors of berry, red plum, and a dash of white pepper. Around $15. At Bin Ends, Braintree, 781-817-1212; Pemberton Farms, Cambridge, 617-491-2244.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at email@example.com.