CHRISTOPH HOCH is a Biodynamic wine-grower in the Kremstal region of Austria. He started making wine in 2009 at his parents’ winery (founded in 1640), aged 19. However, after two years he decided to work in his own way from 5 hectares (12.3 acres) of family vineyards, feeling that Biodynamic farming offered more possibilities compared to what he says is the ‘more conservative, limited world of conventional winegrowing.’ His first solo vintage was 2013.
FAMILY HISTORY / The Hoch family has resided in Hollenburg on the Danube River since 1640 and their original coat of arms is depicted on the wine labels. The Danube and nature in general have always been the determining factors for the family: in their main occupation as regulators of ship navigation and as winegrowers.
VINEYARDS / 2018 5 hectares (12.3 acres). Christoph took vines on a range of different sites.
TERROIR / There are four vineyards in Hollenburg which is on is on the south side of the Danube. Like the other areas of the Kremstal, the subsoil is conglomerate, the “Hollenburger conglomerate” [Hollenburger Konglomerat and Loess] being a unique geological formation. This was formed by the Traisental and Danube river crashing together and compacting chalk and river stones together. The chalk comes from the Alps and it was brought by the Traisental River. It kind of looks like a construction mortar that you would make a building with. Christoph compared it to the chalk in the Côte des Blancs in Champagne and with equal active limestone. Christoph described the area around Hollenberg as “a chalky island, on almost primary rock (Demeter Austria tasting, Vienna 26th February 2018).
COVER CROPS / Christoph grades each vine plot into four categories: dry, chalky, nutrient rich, water-retentive. Depending on the category, he will sow mustard, rye, and phacelia in varying proportions. Mustard brings sulfur to the soil, which protects the plants and transfers it naturally to the wines, so that he can use as little as possible at bottling. Rye brings organic matter to the soil when ploughed in, creating humus, and carbon from the rye works with the phacelia and creates nitrogen.
CERTIFICATION / 2015 was the first vintage with full Demeter Biodynamic certification.
PRODUCTION / Hoch makes less than 3,000 cases per year, 70% Gruner Veltliner and 30% Riesling, of which 30% are sparkling.
WINERY / In the cellar, there are two levels – one is a bit warmer and the wines all go through malo (naturally) and the lower cellar is cooler and the wines mostly do not go through malo. Christoph feels that limiting a wine to a single vintage does not show the best of the terroir expression and so each year he releases a wine with a base year and some previous years blended in. Up to this point, 15% of the previous year’s vintage is blended into the current release. The main vintage in the blend (aka – 85% of the wine in the bottle) is always shown in parentheses, but technically, it’s a non-vintage wine.
WINEMAKING / Spontaneous fermentation in wooden barrels (oak and acacia), some whites fermented on the skins and some racked. All of the wine is aged in barrel (all used) and he treats each barrel as it’s own project. Fermentations happen naturally and slowly in neutral barrels.
KALKSPITZ is a petillant naturel. ‘Kalk’ is chalk, ‘Spitz’ is acidity. Kalkspitz is mainly Grüner Veltliner, blended with Zweigelt, Sauvignon Blanc, Blauer Portugieser and Muskat Ottonel. Christoph Hoch decided to start making sparkling wine after a friend of his criticised a barrel sample of a 2012 still wine: “this wine is too acidic. You won’t be able to make anything but sparkling wine out of it!” So, Christoph thought ‘why not?’ and began his research. Christoph Hoch has very active, chalky soil much like what is found in the Côte des Blancs in Champagne. As he wanted to try making a pet nat he went to learn about sparkling wine in Champagne, spending time with Eric DeSousa, Michel Laherte, and Benoït Tarlant of Champagne Tarlant. The latter made a bet with Christoph that it would be nearly impossible for him to make a stable pet nat. The bet was that if Christoph succeeded, then Tarlant would give Christoph twelve barrels to use. After his first bottling, Christoph sent him twelve bottles to try and after trying the bottles, Benoit conceded that he lost the bet and Christoph drove to Champagne to collect his barrels! NV (2016) Very nice orange/nat style at Millésime Bio 2017, very good. / NV (2018) Dry. No more than 11% alcohol. Maximum 3 bar of pressure. Lightly beer-like at the Demeter Austria tasting 2018.
KALKREICH / ‘Chalk rich.’ Sparkling. 6.8 bar pressure. Dosage for the second in-bottle fermentation was grape juice taken from vines treated with stinging nettle to get bigger (more juice-rich) berries grapes for the dosage. 36 months on lees. Totally dry. Verty salty, exceptionnally good at the Demeter Austria tasting 2018.
GRÜNER VELTLINER, HOLLENBURG / 100% Grüner Veltliner aged in various oaks, containers, giving a number of lots which is indicated on the label eg #10 means blended from 10 lots. NV Lovely acid, smooth, savoury at the Demeter Austria tasting 2018.
RIESLING, HOLLENBERGER NV / Lovely weight, refreshing salinity at the Demeter Austria tasting 2018.
ROSÉ NV Pet nat. Powdery plum fruit at the Demeter Austria tasting 2018.
Christoph Hoch, Schlossteig 3, A-3506 Hollenburg an der Donau, Austria / Email hollenberg [at] christoph-hoch.at / www.christoph-hoch.at
Demeter Austria tasting, Vienna 26th February 2018.
Millésime Bio organic wine fair, Marseille, January 2017.