Johannes Zillinger is a Biodynamic estate wine-grower in the south-east of the Weinviertel region in Austria. The business has been run by Johannes Zillinger since 2012, when he took over from his father.
Background: The estate was founded in 1673 by David Zillinger, it is still owned by the same family.
Biodynamic certification: 1980 Johann Zillinger went organic in 1980. | 2013 Demeter conversion begins. | 2014 Full Demeter certification for the first time.
Reasons for going Biodynamic: I asked Johannes why go bio-dynamic and he replied (06 May 2021) in writing, saying ‘my sisters and I grew up on an organic farm. My father switched to organic farming in 1984. At this time [it was] not the easiest way of farming. Not for my parents and not for us as 10 year old kids. While our friends spent their holiday time in the public [swimming] pool we had to spend ours on the farm.
‘Years later, in 2011, one year before I took over the winery, I made a trip to the republic of Georgia and visited only tiny producers there. We saw the vineyards–which were very far from being industrialized–and we felt the soil, and then we tasted the wines, orange [skin contact] wines for sure, but full of life. These were not Biodynamic wineries; just growers who farmed and vinified in an arcaic way. And from one moment the the other, I had the wish to feel the same vitality in my wines.
‘The question I asked myself was this: we have been working organically for a long time, taking care of our soils, plants and environment. But we don’t have this liveliness in our wines. The answer for myself was: the [risk of] industrialization on organic farms too…I think with bio-dynamic farming, we as humans have the possibility to give back to our soils, plants and environment a small piece of this lost original condition and information. Bio-dynamic farming helps me to see the bigger picture of [grape] growing and low intervention winemaking. A feeling and understanding of the importance of trusting in nature. Biodynamics has led me to feel more of myself in the wines whilst the vines and wines are more expressive. We always bear in mind that organic farming keeps our yields at a low yet consistent level but above all provides us with high quality grapes. The concept of origin, in our view, should not be limited to single vineyards but must include the signature of the individuals who shape the way of cultivating the land.
‘Back in the day, the challenges my father was facing were very different compared to the ones of today. The ever changing climate, with hotter summers, warmer winters and erratic precipitations. The increasing industrialisation of agriculture (also of the organic sector) is a proof for them that they have taken the right steps – if sometimes ahead of their time – in the past years and decades.’
‘Biodynamic farming helps us to see the environment and our own agriculture with different eyes. Organic and biodynamic agriculture has always been a journey of ongoing development – a dynamic evolution as opposed to standing still.
Plant teas and extracts: Asked about his favourite Biodynamic tasks Johannes told me (06 May 2021) ‘the teas and extracts we produce from our own vineyard herbs such as thyme, chamomile, mint, yarrow and other plants.’
Cover crops: Asked about his favourite cover crops Johannes told me (06 May 2021) ‘I am m not really a fan of buying seeds for cover cropping. Normally you get seed mixtures mostly contaning seeds of plants that are not local to my home area. Next our vineyards I have a small area for super extensive agriculture, wild meadows and fields where we grow our own seeds. Mainly I have the meadows as home for insects because we live in a intensive agriculture area, but if I need seeds for cover cropping, we harvest the seeds from our meadow so they flower and grow in my vineyards too. This means we have a permanent wild and native sward between the rows. We also have two vineyards with with wild herbs too.’
Biodynamic certification Respekt & Demeter: Johannes told me (06 May 2021) ’36 years ago my parents were the only organic farmers in the whole area. Now 50% of the village is farmed organically. And there are more and more who thinking about a different way of farming. A big fire is easier to see then a spark. For me the same with [the co-operation between the Biodynamic certification bodies] Respekt–BIODYN and Demeter Austria. Better together stronger than alone against industrial agriculture.’
Climate: ‘We live in a cool climate region and it is our ambition to continue to produce cool climate wines – respecting climate change,’ says Johannes.
Vineyards: The vineyard area totals 20 hectares, with holdings in the following sites: Haidthal, Kellerberg, Lissen and Sonnberg. 60% of the area is planted with the following white varieties: Grüner Veltliner, Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Riesling, Welschriesling, Chardonnay (Morillon), Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Gelber Muskateller. Also Scheurebe (Sämling 88), Rivaner (Müller-Thurgau), I think. The remaining 40% is planted with the following red varieties: (Blauer) Zweigelt, St. Laurent, Blauburger and Cabernet Sauvignon. Also Roesler and Merlot, I think. Experiments are under way with some disease-resistant varieties or PIWIs.
Winemaking: ‘Unfiltered natural wines according to Austrian wine law, certified by Demeter Austria,’ says Johannes. Whites ferment mainly in stainless steel tanks. The best white Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay wines age in large oak barrels. As for climate change Johannes told me ‘it was logical for us to also adapt our wines [winemaking], sometimes significantly, sometimes slowly and gradually. Now we vinify over 60% of them using large barrels and amphorae as compared to 90% in stainless steel 10 years ago.’
JZ.velue 2.0 Range: ‘5 wines (Grüner Veltliner 2.0, Muskateller 2.0, Riesling 2.0, Rosé CR 2.0 and Zweigelt 2.0) will result from fusing the former Velue and Relexion series. We combine different harvest selections and vinification methods in order to achieve varietal typicity, elegance and lightness as well as complexity and depth. Standards: malolactic fermentation | max. 11,5% alc. | max. 40 mg/l total SO2 | Vinification: stainless steel, large barrels, amphorae,’ says Johannes.
Parcellaire Range: This range is a further development of the previous single vineyard wines. Three wines from the coolest parcels of the oldest vineyards: those close to forests, facing north and northeast and windy hilltops – all of them growing on limestone soils. These are the 3 unique cool climate personalities:
Parcellaire (blanc #1): 2019 62% Welschriesling, 38% Chardonnay. The label says the wine is unfiltered and comes from ‘two northeast vineyards near the forest.’ 11.5% alc. Bone dry. 11.5 alc. <15mg/l sulfites. 6.4 g/l acidity. Soft, creamy, tangy yellow fruit, nice juiciness, savoury and satisfying (23 May 2021).,
(rouge #1): Cabernet x Syrah – ‘my idea of a cool & elegant dark pink or shiny red’, says Johannes. Standards: malolactic fermentation | max. 12% alc. | max. 35 mg/l total SO2 | Vinification: large barrels, amphora.
JZ.revolution Solera N.V: 3 wines: White, Pink & Red Solera. No changes here thanks to my von-vintage concept,’ says Johannes. Standards: malolactic fermentation | max. 12,5% alc. | max. 35 mg/l total SO2 | Vinification: stainless steel, large barrels, 600 l barrels & amphorae
Numen Range: ‘here were be 3 Numen initially, now 5 of them: Grüner Veltliner, Fumé blanc, Riesling, Muskateller and Rosé St. Laurent + the PERPETUUM project. From day one, I have put my heart and soul into this series! Standards: malolactic fermentation | max. 12,5% alc. | max. 25 mg/l total SO2 | Vinification: amphorae & 600 l barrels,’ says Johannes.
Sparkling wines Frizzante, Sämling: Made from the Sämling 88 grape.
Grüner Veltliner, K2: Weinviertel DAC Unfiltered.
Grüner Veltliner Kellerberg, Weinviertel DAC: Grüner Veltliner
Grüner Veltliner, Numen
Grüner Veltliner, Reflexion Lage Kellerberg: 2013 Grüner Veltliner. 12.5%. 2.5g/l RS. Nice spritz, clean, modern savoury, well made and creamy, lift, ripe peach but not overblown (Millésime Bio 2015).
Grüner Veltliner, Velue: 2017 Grüner Veltliner 11% alcohol. Part-fermented in amphora for texture, the aim with this wine being to make it light but not thin. Lovely salty fluidity (Demeter Austria tasting 2018).
Muskateller, Numen: 2016 No added sulfites. Made like the Numen 2016 Fumé Blanc. Slightly coudy, musky, saline (Demeter Austria tasting 2018).
Revolution NV: A solera wine from more than one vintage to make a consistent style with each bottling of it. NV (2013 and 2014). Blended from Chardonnay, Scheurebe and Riesling. Fluid, soft, bright, very good (Demeter Austria tasting 2018).
Riesling, Numen: 2012 5 days on skins. Amphora-aged. Cool pineapple, grapefruit style at Millésime Bio Feb 2015.
Sauvignon Blanc, Lissen:
(Sauvignon Blanc) Fumé Blanc, Numen: 2016 Hilltop site on limestone. Sauvignon Blanc. Destemmed but not crushed. 100% fermented in amphora and acacia oak. Very slow ferment. Very salty green fruit, very very good (Demeter Austria tasting 2018).
Weissburgunder, Reflexion Lage Hohes Eck: Pinot Blanc from a plot called ‘High Corner’. | 2013 3.5g/l RS. Higher RS compared to the GV as this grape has more acid. Quite spicey at Millésime Bio Jan 2015.
Weissburgunder 2006: Auslese. | 2008 Beerenauslese.
Weissburgunder, Sonnber: ‘Sunny Hill’.
Welschriesling: 2008 Ausbruch. | 2008 Eiswein
Cabernet, Velue: 2017 Cabernet.
Rosé St Laurent, Numen: 2016 100 year old vines on limestone. Uncrushed berries are pressed, juice runs to sealed amphora. Salty, appetisizing, some reduction at the Demeter Austria tasting 2018.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Steinthal:
Other products: Red and white grape juice (Traubensaft), apple juice (Apfel-Traubensaft), and apple and blackberry juice (Trauben-Apfel-Holundersaft).
Bioweingut Johannes Zillinger
A-2245 Velm-Götzendorf, Austria
Tel+43 02538.85731 | www.zillinger.at
Demeter Austria tasting 2018, Vienna 26th February.