Ein Königreich für eine Traube
Interview mit Markus Kirnbauer vom Weingut K+K Kirnbauer
Ohne Frage, auf den Dächern des Blaufränkischland im Burgenland gedeihen die besten Rotweine Österreichs. Dank 300 Sonnentagen im Jahr und mit Blick auf die schneebedeckten Berge der Ostalpen und die pannonische Tiefebene produziert das Weingut K+K Kirnbauer in langer Tradition ganz besondere Tropfen, die auch leidenschaftliche Fans am Arlberg haben. Im La Loupe-Interview beleuchtet Winemaker und Geschäftsführer Markus Kirnbauer die spannende Symbiose aus Holz und Rebe, weiht uns in ein Herzensprojekt ein und erklärt, warum die Weine in Lech Zürs anders schmecken.
„Am Arlberg sind die besten Häuser zu finden, deshalb werden dort auch die exklusivsten und besten Weine der Welt serviert.“
L.L./ Your fine wines can be found on (almost) every wine list in Lech Zürs. How did that come about?
M.K./ The Arlberg has the best restaurants so it’s only natural that only the world’s most exclusive and best wines are served here. And Austrian wines are among them, too. Back in the 1990s my father had contacts on the Arlberg, he visited the businesses here and today the hotels and their sommeliers pay visits to our winery where they inspect the harvest and the wine cellar. It’s important to see where the wine comes from. That makes it so much more approachable and the process of winemaking more transparent and relatable.
M.K./ At first French and Italian wines were particularly popular around here, Austrian wines only followed slowly. Our reds with their combination of fruit and a full body are inimitable and they go particularly well with food – something the guests in Lech Zürs notice. The Austrian wines make a holiday on the Arlberg a little more regional.
Das Weingut K+K Kirnbauer
„Die österreichischen Weine machen den Urlaub am Arlberg noch eine Spur regionaler.“
L.L./ You yourself like to spend your holidays in Lech Zürs. When someone at the next table orders your wine, how does that feel?
M.K./ It’s great, of course – all the more so when the guests enjoy it. That’s a beautiful experience.
L.L./ Deutschkreutz in the Blaufränkisch region is located at 192 metres above sea level, Lech Zürs at 1,444. Do the wines have to be stored and drunk in any particular way on Arlberg?
M.K./ The higher up you are the lighter the wine will taste, even though the alcohol content stays the same. The wood flavour is much less intense. And the air at high altitudes has different effects, too, the cork dries out more quickly and crumbles. That’s something to be kept in mind.
M.K./ The combination of fruit in the nose and the body on the palate is what characterises our wines and makes them stand out. In the mountains this comes out even more. Light classic wines seem too light higher up, reserves, however, have an extraordinary taste – almost better than lower down.
„Je höher man ist, umso leichter schmecken die Weine.“
L.L./ The red blend Phantom is an Austrian icon. Is it equally popular on the Arlberg? Or do people have other preferences here?
M.K./ Most of the wine we make is Phantom in its four varieties – which make it extremely varied in terms of character. And on Arlberg lovers of red wines will certainly fine one that suits them. Yet, our boutique wine Forever also is quite popular here. One particularity of the Arlberg: all bottle sizes are popular – no matter if it’s magnum, three or six litres. In larger bottles the wine will age more slowly; plus, opening such a large bottle feels like a very special moment.
„Die Kombination aus Frucht in der Nase und Körper am Gaumen zeichnet unsere Weine ganz besonders aus.“
L.L./ In your vineyards in Burgenland your vines enjoy 300 days of sunshine each year. What other factors make your wines so very delicious?
M.K./ Each bottle is made with passion and has our lifeblood in it.
M.K./ The maturing process plays an important role too, though: reds are stored in the barrel for at least one summer and one winter. This year’s harvest is bottled next year. However, with high-end reserves it’s all about the vintage: some will even be stored for 17 or 18 months which is where tasting plays an important role, of course.
L.L./ When do you know whether a wine has matured enough and is ready to be bottled?
M.K./ It’s tried constantly, and we look at the development – that’s a very important factor.
„Das Phantom ist unser meistproduzierter Wein und hat mit seinen vier Sorten ein sehr breites Charakterspektrum.“
L.L./ Your philosophy is: “Harmony of wine and wood”. What does that mean, exactly? How do the wine and the barrique barrels influence one another?
M.K./ It’s the careful choice the cooper makes, the toasting of the wood and the variety – which plays an important role here. Not every wood is suitable for every grape variety because each grape variety has its preferences. And we take good care of those and constantly look at what the wine needs. What’s fascinating is that our Zweigelt is matured in our own oak barrels. The wood comes form our own oak forest.
L.L./ In the Chardonnay Barrique Zwickl flavours like ripe pineapple and piña colada meet white pepper, sage and a salty note. How much creativity does it need for the job of a winemaker?
M.K./ Because of the wood and the rocky limestone soil the Chardonnay develops unique flavours that remind us of pineapple and piña colada.
M.K./ We have to look for the right balance every day, and it’s experiments like this make the wine unique and challenge us every day. The kind of variety you find in the winemakers’ job is truly unique. I am many things – gardener, entrepreneur, and even tax advisor.
„In jeder Flasche steckt unser Herzblut und wir stehen zu 100 Prozent dahinter.“
L.L./ Your wine is not just popular in Austria, meanwhile it’s known in the USA and Singapore, too. What goals do you have for the coming years?
M.K./ The German-speaking region certainly is our largest distribution area but in other parts of continental Europe, the USA, and Asia we also have sales partners like restaurants, good hotels, and wine sellers. We put a lot of work, lifeblood, and thought into our wines – which is also why it’s important for us to know where exactly you can buy them.
M.K./ At the moment we are turning a century-old hotel into a top restaurant cum boutique hotel. Because, while we may have the best Austrian reds here in Burgenland, there is only little going on in terms of modern gastronomy and hotels. That’s what our starting point is. And it’s a wish we’ve had for years.
L.L./ How well do food and wine have to go together?
M.K./ The wine is part of a whole and it’s important to look at the limits. The rule: anything that tastes good is ok. And wine without food definitely works, too (laughs).
Das Weingut K+K Kirnbauer wird als Familienbetrieb von Markus Kirnbauer und seinem Vater Walter geführt. „Unsere Weine stehen nachhaltig für höchsten Genuss, pannonische Lebensfreude und sind Ausdruck unserer Identität“, so der Geschäftsführer. Besonders die Rotwein-Cuvée Phantom ist seit 1987 nicht mehr aus den Weinkellern exklusiver Restaurants und Hotels wegzudenken. Besonderheit: Bis zur Abfüllung werden die edlen Tropfen in Barrique-Fässern gelagert, die für einen unvergleichlichen Geschmack sorgen.