Weninger Pincészet is a certified Biodynamic estate winery in the Sopron region of Hungary. It was created in 1997 when Austrian wine producer Franz Weninger of Weingut Weninger–which is located just across the Austro-Hungarian border in the neighbouring Mittelburgenland region–purchased vineyards in the town of Balf. In 2000 Franz’s son Franz Reinhard took over as enological and organizational director of the Balf estate near Sopron. He says ‘The Sopron region is predominately a red wine area. We focus on the Kékfrankos variety, which has a strong tradition here. Other international varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Syrah also thrive. Recent successes with Féherburgundi (Pinot Blanc) motivated me to continue exploring the potential of white wines in the Sopron region.’
Franz Reinhard Weninger was born in 1979, and grew up on his parents’ wine estate in Horitschon in Central Burgenland. He learned winemaking from his father Franz Weninger. After graduating from enology school in Klosterneuburg, he did internships at Schloss Sallegg (Italy), Kendall-Jackson’s VinwoodCellars, California (USA), and the Mundrakoona Estate (Australia).
Vineyards | The Sopron region is predominately a red wine area. Weninger concentrates on the Kékfrankos variety, which has a strong tradition in this area. Other international varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Syrah also thrive. Féherburgundi (Pinot Blanc) has also showed promise.
There are 22 hectares of vines; Kékfrankos, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Féherburgundi (Pinot Blanc). There are two sites around in the southwestern corner of Lake Neusiedl in Balf near Sopron, Hungary called Spern Steiner and Frettner. These sites are considered some of the best ones in Hungary because they are located on a hillside (220 metres above sea level) with a view of the reed zone and the lake (90 m above sea level). The site slopes gently south-eastward, exposing the grapes to the morning sun and providing optimal light conditions. In addition, the vineyards are sheltered by the Sopron mountains and also influenced by the warm, moist microclimate along the shore of Lake Neusiedl. The Sopron wine area is characterized by its division into small zones all facing the lake. The various soil types produce a great diversity of microclimatic conditions in a relatively small area.
Frettner | (ha of vines at the edge of an oak wood on loamy soils. The old rock of the mountains between the foothills of the Alps and Lake Neusiedl have transformed themselves into brown soils with deposits of extremely weathered bedrock. The soil here is very deep and is rich in humus and lime deposits. Proximity to the woods provides a cooling influence. Cold air blows over the vineyards and keeps the grapes constantly cool. A good site for Cabernet Franc.
Spern Steiner Vineyard | 14ha (or 10ha?). The Steiner site was the main attraction for the Weninger family. The Spern Steiner site once belonged to the Church of Sopron. In the town chronicles it was always mentioned as the finest and most precious vineyard in the region. This terrain has been used for viticulture since arounf 16000. It is a flat slope inclined to the east towards the lake. Soil: brown soil, stony, lime-free. Geology: weathered light-colored gneiss. Age: about 340 million years. Rich in gneiss and mica schist, the rare mineral composition of the soil on this site provides a particularly exciting basis for Kékfrankos. These particular vines were planted back in the 1960s and the roots of this variety reach deep into the rock, break it down, and draw the minerals into the plant. The rocks in the soil store heat, which accounts for higher soil temperatures compared to other sites.
2004-2005 First Biodynamic trials. | 2006 22ha First year of official organic conversion certified by Biokontroll Hungary, and the first Hungarian winery to convert to Biodynamic cultivation, in its case with advice from Dr Andrew Lorand. | 2009 The estate was making its own Horn manure 500 and Horn silica 501.
Biodynamic compost | ‘We make a lot of Biodynamic compost every year,’ Franz told me in 2009. ‘Compost is very important for us. We use mainly the manure form Szürkemarha or Graurind variety of long-horned gray-colored cattle, but we also use sheep and sometimes horse manure. We use reeds as well. The Biodynamic compost preparations 502-507 are inserted into the piles. To dynamize, we stir by hand in a 400-litre barrel made of seven different types of wood. For plant-based sprays like teas we use stinging nettle on the soil and vine leaves, chamomile on the vine leaves, equisetum on the vine leaves and birch on the vine leaves.’ In addition, the vines are treated with sulphur, copper, baking powder, and biodynamic tea.’
Biodynamic certification | 2009 First vintage with full organic certification. | 2016 First vintage certified as Biodynamic by respekt-BIODYN. | 2019 Still certified as Biodynamic by respekt-BIODYN.
Winery | This is in the small, tranquil village of Balf, at the southern end of Lake Neusiedl. During the first few years of operation, Franz Reinhard Weninger vinified his wine in an unfinished hotel that he temporarily converted to serve his purposes. In 2004 he decided to build the new cellar. A small competition was held with top-notch architects, and the winning design came from the Vienna-based architecture firm propeller Z. The base of the facility consists of two large rooms – a cool cellar, which has been recessed into the slope in order to tap the geothermal energy, and a high-ceilinged, airy production hall, that leaves plenty of space and possibilities open for future changes. A slightly sloping ramp allows use of gravity for filling tanks beneath the protective awning. The barrels lie undisturbed in the recessed cellar. Protruding from the front side of the hall is a cube which houses the office and tasting room. The new wine cellar was completed in time for the harvest in the fall of 2006.
Fehérburgundi | Fehérburgundi is Hungarian for Pinot Blanc. | 2011 13.72%. Hand picked, fermented spontaneously in wooden barrels. 12m on lees, then bottled. 3,400 bottles. | 2016 12.5% alc. Full bodied, clear, savoury and with a precise, firm softness of fruit (at home Sept 2019).
Cabernet Sauvignon, Balf | Franz Reinhard Weninger says that ‘When people ask me which variety fits best to the Sopron climate (after the Kékfrankos), I tell them Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Why? Having grown up at my family’s winery in Burgenland, where we only work on loamy soil, I know how Cabernet Sauvignon needs the stones [for reflected solar heat].’ The estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon is located on ‘Spitze Steiner“, a dry, hot, hill site with a lot of gneiss, which suits Cabernet, althought it took us six years for the vines to produce their first meaningfull crop. With low vigour, and low yields Franz Reinhard Weninger says the wine has ‘strong tannins, so this wine stays unsulfered until bottling.’ The wine ferments wild in stainless steel and ages in barrel with no pumping, fining or filtration. | 2011 14.67%. 13mg/l total sulfur. Unfined, unfiltered.
Frettner | 2011 12.96% alcohol. 24m/g total sulphur. Cabernet Franc. Selective hand harvest. The grapes were moved into the tanks only by using gravity. Native yeast fermentation in stainless steel. After three weeks of maceration the wine runs freely into the barrels (unpumped). Natural malolactic fermentation takes place in a naturally cool cellar. This wine is bottled without being fined or filtered. | 2015 13.5%. Smooth, tangy, focused clear fruit, a generous wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with a big dish, very good (L17-086. Bottle 0527 / 2100 tasted Oct 2019).
Kékfrankos, Balf | Kékfrankos is the wine variety of Sopron. Here it has its origin. Over the past years this variety got a lot of international reputation, whereas in Hungary it is still an underdog. For a long time, this grape was misunderstood and treated the wrong way. Nobody took care of it until my father made the first quality Kékfrankos of Hungary in 1997,’ says Franz Reinhard Weninger. Selective hand harvest. The grapes were moved into the tanks only by using gravity. Native yeast fermentation in stainless steel. After three weeks of maceration the wine is pumped into big barrels. Natural malolactic fermentation takes place in a non-climate-controlled cellar. This wine is bottled without being fined or filtered. | 2011 13.11% alcohol. 9,000 bottles. Crisp and lively, dark berries at Millésime Bio 2014. | 2013 13%. Nice bright colour, crunchy sweet fruit, plenty of ripeness but still savoury at Manincor 24th June 2016. | 2017 Soproni Kékfrankos. 12.5%. Well constructed fruit and tannin, tasted Sept 2019.
Kékfrankos, Steiner | This Kékfrankos used to be called Spern Steiner. See notes to the Spern Steiner site, above. | 2010 45 year old vines. 13.2% alcohol. 13mg/l total sulphur. 1,300 bottles. Firm, well structured at Millésime Bio 2014. | 2016 13.5%. Unfined, unfiltered. Fullish, lots of dark fruit, smooth and easily digestible (Tasted August 2019).
Merlot, Balf | 2011 Grapes into tank via gravity. Steel. Run to barrel via gravity. MLF occurs with no temperature aid. 5,300 bottles.
Merlot–Cabernet Franc, Balf | 2011 60% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot. 12.65%. 30mg/l sulfur.
Pinot Noir, Sopron, Sopron | ‘In the 16th century, Pinot Noir was the most common wine in Sopron and at that time was the only Hungarian wine exported around the globe,’ says Franz Reinhard Weninger. Vine density of 5,500 vines/ha. The grapes are hand picked and are gravity-fed to tank. Regarding winemaking Franz says ‘I destem it only partly and let it stay on the skins for a long time in steel tanks. The wine ferments wild in stainless steel and ages via gravity in barrel with no pumping, fining or filtration. Natural malolactic fermentation takes place in a non-climate-controlled cellar. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.’ | 2011 13%. 10mg/l total sulfur. 3,700 bottles.
Sopron Cuvée | 2011 35% Kékfrankos (Blaufrankisch), 34% Merlot, 27% Pinot Noir, 4% Cabernet Franc. 13.04% alcohol. Selective hand harvest. Native yeast fermentation in stainless steel. Natural malolactic fermentation and 12 months ageing in wooden tanks. 12,000 bottles.
Syrah, Sopron | Franz Reinhard Weninger says this is ‘from the oldest Syrah vineyard in Hungary (5,500 vines/ha): when my father examined the soil of the Spern Steiner vineyard in 1997, Syrah was the variety that came to his mind. The soil is rich in gneiss and mica schist and very hot, that is what this variety needs. At harvest time, I try to reach the point when the berries shrink a bit like a golf ball. at this stage it seems that a lot of taste in the berries is changed, from pure pepper it goes more into a taste of black olives and the body gets richer. This wine is only produced in top years.‘ | 2011 13.84%. Selective hand harvest. The grapes were moved into the tanks only by using gravity. The wine ferments wild in stainless steel and ages via gravity in barrel with no pumping, fining or filtration in a non-climate-controlled cellar.
H-9494 Balf, Hungary
Tel 99.531082 | www.weninger.com