Josef Fritz


Fritz is s family managed weingut farming 15 hectares cultivated with roughly 85% of white varieties with a production of 100.000 – 120.000 bottles per year, located in the village of Zaussenberg, in the heart of the northern part of Wagram region. The estate has been managed by Josef Fritz and his wife Irene since 2003. The single-site vineyards Mordthal, Himmelreich, Steinberg, and Schlossbergwith their loess, tertiary gravel and sandstone soils, together with the mild climate of the region, offer the best conditions for Roter & Grüner Veltliner, Roter Traminer, Pinot Blanc and Riesling, as well as the Blauer Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and St. Laurent varieties.

The most planted grape is Gruner Veltliner with 35% of the total vineyards, followed by Roter Velliner (30%).

The official appellation of Wagram was introduced in 2007 when it switched the name from Donauland. This area is part of the so called Lower Austria (Niederosterreich) which comprises several wine regions, including the famed Wachau.

Wagram (coming from Wogenrain meaning shore) is a plateau in the landscape which stretches along the river Danube. Which is Wagram main characteristic? Loess, loess and, once again, loess. A deep layer was deposited on the shore of this prehistoric sea forming a unique landscape with soils that are high in fossils and mineral contents.

The 2,720 hectares of vines are planted in two distinct zones; one to the north and one to the south of the Danube River. The northern, actual Wagrampart, is a striking terrain that stretches some 30 km along the northern bank of the river as far as Kamptal,while the area toward the south encompasses the quaint villages around the Tullnerfeld region as well as the historic wine town of Klosterneuburg, just outside Vienna.

Loess provides very fertile soil to the vines and imparts highly distinct characters on the local wines marked by an unusual full bodiness compared to the other viticultural areas in Low Austria. Loess soils offer high water retention capacity, thus enabling viticulture without irrigation.

As mild Pannonian aircurrents meet slightly harsher air from the Weinviertel north of Wagram, they create a favorable microclimate that supports the cultivation of wine grapes in this area. The microclimate under Pannonian influence with high temperature differences between day and night is another important factor responsible for the delicate fruitiness, piquant acidity andpronounced bouquet of the  wines. Yet in the end it is the vintner’s hand that determines quality!

The winery strives to produce dry, elegant wines with pronounced fruit. Pruning and green harvest restrict yields to below 50hl/ha. Ecological balance plays a primary role in Josef Fritz vineyard strategy. Cover crops and compost preparation from plant wastes sourced from own vineyards serve to fertilize healthy vines. Controlled integrated plant protection allows  chemicals to be eliminated and supports biodiversity in the vineyard in order to preserve our multifaceted, untouched nature for future generations.

The new press facility is built into the slope over three stories and allows gentle movement of grapes and must by gravitation without the use of pumps. Quoting Josef: “Wine to us is the result of an overall concept between man, cultural landscape and natural awareness. It would be very much desirable to have modern economy think exactly like we winegrowers do!”.

Fritz works with moderate yieldsso that the vines will be able to optimally feed the fruit and bring it to perfect physiological ripeness, even under poor conditions like aridity or late growing seasons. Rigorous selection in the vineyard, careful grape picking by hand and cautious transport of the fruit are the prerequisites for quality-conscious winemaking.

The three-story press house, which was built according to the latest findings, allows for low-pressure pressing as well as grape and juice conveyance solely by gravity, without the use of pumps. In order to preserve aromas and flavors, the wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures and after their first racking are stored in the climatically ideal cellar dug into the loess soil. The vast majority of the white wines are matured in stainless steel tanks until bottling. Red wines are aged either traditionally in large wooden casks or increasingly in small oak barrels. Vinification above all is just like having fun!

Josef Fritz is a recognized winemaker not only with the almighty Gruner Veltiliner, but he presents a special touch with Roter Veltliner with consistent world class wines produced. His wines have been praised by wine critics for years and years. His best red is an elegant Pinot Noir.

As Josef says: “Roter Veltliner is a high yielding variety, which is why yield limitation is necessary for achieving high quality versions. Very characteristic and elegant, extract-rich wines with fine aromatics and enormous ageing potential can be created. Without yield regulation, the wines are somewhat thin and simple” . This grape variety is almost in oblivion at the moment as winegrowers turned their back to it. “It’s a pity, it’s a shame. Roter Veltiliner lost its importance because the sites needed are extremely good for the Grüner Veltliner. The variety needs early warming sites with deep loess soils. During flowering, it is extremely sensitive to winter and late frosts. It is also very prone toBotrytis and mildew. Overall, it does not have easy varietal characteristics and this limits its growth”.

No, Roter Veltliner is not related to Grüner Veltliner and currently the parentage is unknown. This seems difficult to believe given the similarities of their names, but in 1998, an Austrian research team was able to show that not only were Grüner Veltliner and Roter Veltliner not related to one another, but furthermore that Roter Veltliner actually seems to be the more important of the two cultivars in terms of genetic history. Rot in German means red and this variety is white but with a thick reddish/light blue skin (just like Pinot Grigio). It ripens unevenly. Currently only 195 total hectares are planted with this variety (0,4% of the total Austrian vineyards) and Wagram plays a major role in preserving this historical varietal.   

What the hell does Veltliner mean? Many believe that it comes from the word “Veltlin,” which is the German word for Valtellina, a famous valley in northern Lombardia in Italy that borders Switzerland. As always tracing back varieties’ history and ampelography is a true pain in the neck!

Guess what? The Fritzs produces so many wines compared to the number of hectares available which is somehow common to many experimental weingut in Austria. Josef’s young son Johannes by the way has so many creative ideas in his head all leaning to the production of minimal intervention’s wines.

Currently the estate produces roughly 25 references divided in 4 different ranges: Classic, Single site wines, Premium and Sparkling (one of the sparklers is undisgorged with the yeast of the 2ndfermentation left in the bottle).

The white grapes cultivated are: Grüner Veltliner, Roter Veltliner, Riesling, Chardonnay, Roter Traminer, Weissburgunder. Among the reds Zweigelt is the most planted, followed by Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent.

Steep Hill currently imports three wines:

Grüner Veltliner Sandstein 2016:From a vineyard with sand and mineral soil with south-east exposition. The 30 year old vines allow rather easy drinkable and very GV with a spicy, tasty finish. Scents of white orchids, on the palate it’s a nice crisp wine with fresh acids and lots of minerality marked by citrus tones.Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks and bottled the spring following the harvest. This wine has been counted among the best Grüner Veltliner under 13 Vol% of the country by Falstaff. Already pleasurable already in his youth, his freshness guarantees at least 4 years of pure enjoyment. 12,8% AbV, TA 6,4 g/l, RS 2,0.

Roter Veltliner Wagramterrassen 2016: coming from three different vineyards loess dominated, among which the oldest one is 50 years old. Roter Veltliner, an ancient grape variety, is a speciality of the Wagram area and creates wines that stand out for their fruit and elegant finesse. This grape variety is regarded as very long-lasting and, at the same time, the  most valuable rarity that Austria has to offer. The 2016 is a tropical full bodied with intense yeasty notes supported by a mineral backbone. Touch of green herbs and dried spices emerge when it is not served too cold. Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.

Pinot Noir 2015:Pinot is the youngest child among Fritz red wines, though the vineyard has been planted already in 1995 and each year reliably produces excellent Pinots, with plenty of typical varietal character and dense tannins.

Vines grow on deep loess soils and feel very comfortable here, with a certain amount of lime providing a plus to this Burgundian noble grape. Harvested on Oct. 20th, the must ferments in tank and the wine ages in big used wooden barrels for at least 11 months. Gault Millau listed Josef’s wine among the best Pinot coming from Austria. 13% AbV, TA 5,5 g/l, RS 1,0.

In a nutshell



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