Anyone visiting the Baumgartner family’s vineyard has to take their hat off to what has been achieved here. Austria’s largest winery is an enterprise which has developed through the collaboration of generations.
The Baumgartner vineyard is a happy family concern, and this is something which is often by no means a given. Unfortunately, generational conflicts are, after all, a very normal occurrence in family businesses. Often, one generation prevails and suppresses the other. This is not the case with the Baumgartners! Their success story is based on the collaboration between father Wolfgang and son Wieland Baumgartner. The two are united by their goals and visions, and they complement each other perfectly with their respective skills.
The history of the Baumgartner vineyard goes back a lot further, however. References to the family vineyard can be found as far back as 1648. Prior to this, records and any trace of it were lost in the confusion of the 30 Year War. It is certain, however, that the Baumgartner family has been engaged in wine growing in Untermarkersdorf in the Weinviertel wine-growing area for 11 generations. Since then, the family has set itself the task of embodying the creativity and undisturbed nature of this beautiful landscape in its wines. Traditions and experience have been passed on from generation to generation and combined with innovation to produce wines with a special character. This exchange is a feature of the collaboration between Wolfgang and Wieland Baumgartner.
Despite the centuries-old tradition, there was nothing to hint in 1968, when Wolfgang Baumgartner joined the business, that the Baumgartner vineyard would become Austriaʼs biggest vineyard less than 50 years later. In 1968, the Baumgartners had barely three hectares of wine-growing land. Wolfgang extended the vineyard to include wine trading and grape processing for other businesses. He was one of the first in Austria to install large, modern tanks in the wine cellar. Wolfgang Baumgartner quickly recognised that it was only possible to produce quality wines in high volumes just by combining in-house grape processing with an increase in the land available for wine growing. Wolfgang found the perfect partner for this plan when his son Wieland started at the vineyard in 1987.
Today, the storage tank capacity is approximately 12 million litres, with 46 tanks with a capacity of 100,000 litres each available for cold fermentation. Up to 6,000 litres per hour can be bottled in the bottling hall. Just as Wolfgang planned, the wine-growing area has also grown in size. The Baumgartner winery cultivates 175 hectares of vineyard. As a result of the ever-increasing investment in technology, the Baumgartners have also become more interesting as a wine-producing operation and, amongst other things, now produce wine from the grapes of the 300-member Winzer Pulkautal wine cooperative.
The cellar is the realm of Wieland, who also assumed overall responsibility for the company in 2000. “Wine is fruit in a bottle,” is his motto and he follows it meticulously. Thanks to this philosophy, the Baumgartners are held in high regard by retailers - not least because they produce the necessary volume. With an average volume of 1.5m litres, they are the largest producer of Weinviertel-DAC wines. But the Baumgartners are not pure volume producers, as evidenced by the numerous awards they receive - for example, the title of “Austrian Winery of the Year” at the New York Wine Challenge 2013, where their 2011 Portugieser also received the very rarely bestowed Double Gold award.
Of course, the basis for this is provided by the vineyards, for which Wolfgang Baumgartner possesses a special intuition. His experience tells him exactly which vines are suitable for any one location. For the Baumgartners, the typical Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt grape varieties are key, but some other specialities are also welcome. Their Pulka valley origin works in their favour, and not just because they know the area well. The extensive landscape offers excellent opportunities for expansion. Additionally, the clay and loess soil make it possible to produce the typical Grüner Veltliner and full-bodied, velvety red wines.
It is a special privilege for visitors to the vineyard if the Baumgartners invite them to go underground with them. This is because here, buried 25 metres under the ground, is their vinothèque, which is more like a library of their own works. It is home to 140,000 bottles from the last 28 years. Perfect storage conditions at a temperature of 8° Celsius and a humidity level of 80 per cent are designed to preserve the wines and provide later generations with an impression of the wine of our times. Of course, not every wine is suitable for such long storage periods, and this is why the Baumgartners select which wines are kept according to strict criteria, having already established that the excellent micro-climate ensures the wines retain the respective grape variety’s typical fruity aromas.
The vinothèque fits perfectly with the Baumgartners’ philosophy of passing on their tradition from generation to generation. Wielandʼs daughter Katharina also fits in perfectly here. Currently she is studying at the federal college for wine and fruit growing in Klosterneuburg – just as her father and grandfather did previously. They are probably both looking forward more than anyone to seeing how she fulfils the second part of the philosophy – improving the vineyard through innovation.
Their own experience of this beneficial cooperation between the generations will surely help them to remain open to innovation. However, it will be important for them to retain their traditional values so that they remain a reliable partner who can convince others through their personal involvement and enjoy the trust that makes it possible to do business based on the shake of a hand – something that is becoming ever rarer.