June 21, 2023

Thoughts on Authenticity and Terroir

The connection between soil, vine, winemaker, and craftsmanship

The market continues to be dominated by technically produced and standardized wines. It is actually not surprising when considering the high demand for such mostly industrially produced and therefore often cheap wines. However, there is also a growing desire for honest and authentic wines—wines that emerge from the creative interplay between the vineyard, vine, climate, and the winemaker's craftsmanship. Especially the emerging "natural wine scene" exerts a growing attraction on (young) wine lovers who crave authenticity. It doesn't matter whether one prefers alternative and unconventional styles or classic-traditional wines because both can be authentic and terroir-driven wines and the result of the winemaker's way of working. This development is undoubtedly remarkable and welcomed! We would like to briefly explain what "authenticity" means to us and how it is connected to the concept of "terroir."


Authenticity is a central concept for us when it comes to wine.

It means that a wine tells its own story and reflects the unique character of its origin—the terroir. These wines exhibit a natural elegance and expressiveness that is often lost in industrially produced wines.


Terroir, originally from French, literally means "region" or "territory."

Although terroir is often exclusively associated with the soil, it encompasses much more. The term refers to the complex interaction of soil, microclimate, and terrain. Various factors such as temperature variations between day and night, precipitation, hours of sunlight, slope gradient, soil composition, -color, and -permeability all play a crucial role.

While considering terroir as the combination of climate and soil is relatively clear, it also includes local cultivation practices, history, culture, and traditional craftsmanship. The winemaker shapes the terroir through a multitude of decisions made year after year (soil cultivation, vineyard management, etc.). When considering the winemaker's work methods, the selection of grape variety (selection massale, etc.), or whether the vineyard is worked with or without a tractor, the term quickly becomes more complicated. In a broader sense, terroir also encompasses the cellar and its unique microflora, the processing (pressing methods, aging, filtration, sulfur, etc.), as well as the palates of those who accompany the wine throughout its development. In other words, terroir is not a simply defined term.


What role does the soil play in this?

It plays a central role! Healthy soil is the essential foundation on which the quality of the grapes is built. It influences the nutrient supply of the vines and supports their growth and development. It allows the plant to work in harmony with the natural environment and thus promotes the development of the unique characteristics of the terroir. For these very reasons, we work according to the principles of regenerative agriculture. Simply put, this means that we place a particular focus on the topsoil. A healthy and vegetated topsoil promotes root growth, nutrient uptake, and water retention while providing a diverse habitat for soil organisms. Vines growing on it are vital and robust and produce particularly valuable grapes.

However, we always refer to the soil in its entirety as terroir. The topsoil just mentioned merely covers the underlying geology (bedrock, loess, sand, etc.) and varies in thickness. Sometimes it is only a few centimeters before one encounters bare rock, such as in our terraces in Steinhaus. The vines use the soil as an anchor and as a nutrient and water reservoir. The invisible root system of the vines, which often has more mass than the vine itself, depends on the properties of the soil at every stage of its life. The soil also influences the microclimate, which is important for the growth of the vines and the ripening of the grapes. Depending on its composition, soils can absorb, reflect, store, and release solar energy to varying degrees. Stony, heavy & dark soils like in Schenkenbichl need more solar energy to warm up, but can also store it longer. Light, bright & dry soils like in Thal, on the other hand, warm up faster but also cool down quickly.

In addition to fertile topsoil interspersed with fungi and microorganisms (nitrogen etc.), the vine needs minerals to grow. These mineral components are formed by the weathering of rocks and vary in size and chemical composition. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium are among the most essential plant nutrients. Which brings us to an important point:



Many wine lovers often feel mineral and salty notes (but mostly "only" in association with high acidity) as soon as they imagine, for example, the stony soil on which the vines grow. However, "minerality" is not explained so simply. Basically, we must assume that all wines are mineral, because in the end every wine reflects the soil on which the vines have grown, and in all soils, mineral components are absorbed by the roots. Even fine-grained soil is, after all, nothing but weathered rock, so it should bring even more "minerality" by that definition. There is no question that authentic wine reflects the soil on which it grows, but "minerality" is a very subjective sensation and cannot be clearly defined (nor scientifically proven). Ultimately, however, it is precisely this fact that makes this term so special. It describes a feeling that a wine conveys to the drinker and that gives it an identity that goes beyond the taste expression of the grape variety. Hence, authentic wines are terroir-driven.


What else?

It is also interesting and worth mentioning that the waxy layer of the berries, which develops as the berries soften, absorbs the scents of the environment. That, too, is terroir. Whether it is spicy forest air, the smoke of bush fires, or a salty sea breeze, during maceration, that is the contact of juice and skin, which in our case lasts up to 36 hours, this "information" is transferred to the later wines. There is no question that the yeasts also play a crucial role in the release of the berry's own aromas. However, a detailed consideration of their influence is beyond the scope of this blog article. Ultimately, there are countless factors that influence the taste of wine and make it the most fascinating beverage in the world for us for this very reason.


Our goal is clearly defined

We want to produce authentic, timeless, and artisanal wines that taste like Hiedler, the Kamptal, and the vintage. Accordingly, authenticity refers to the unique character of the Kamptal and thus of our terroir, which we express in our wines. This ultimately makes them unmistakable and personal. The term terroir encompasses all the peculiarities that distinguish not only the Kamptal, but also us as winemakers.