Alexander and Maria Koppitsch

Salt of the Earth, Joy of the Lake

 

Location: Neusiedl-am-See, Burgenland, Austria

Owner & winemaker: Alex & Maria Koppitsch and their family

Vineyards: 6.3 hectares spread over four sites, estate-owned

Vineyard management: practicing organic & biodynamic

Soils: very diverse depending on the vineyard – sand, clay, gravel, loam, limestone, schist

Main varieties: Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay for the whites; St. Laurent, Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Syrah for the reds

Winemaking: spontaneous fermentation only, aging in old barrels of different sizes, no filtering, no fining, little to no SO2 added.

 

Fun facts:

  • the historical roots of the family run back to 1523, when the first Koppitsch – a winemaker and mayor of the town of Neusiedl – was recorded in a city chronicle
  • Maria comes from a family of strong, emancipated business women—one of her grandmothers ran a successful soft-drink business, while another managed an all-male carpentry shop
  • The Koppitsch vineyards were never conventionally treated, and Alex took a further step into biodynamics when he and Maria took over in 2011
  • The family still uses their grandfather’s old press, barrels and other equipment, in line with their belief that “If you take good care of your tools, you can use them forever”
  • Sustainability is a really big topic for the Koppitsches: they try to lessen their impact on the environment as much as possible, from their own humble lifestyle to using natural cork closures, very light bottles, one-piece-labels or a simple recycled paper cardboard box without any tape or print.
  • Other than respect for the environment, their wines should mainly convey joy – as Maria and the colorful labels say, “we want to make fun wines that bring you pleasure and happiness”

 

Jump to winesKoppitsch Website

 

Bottles of Koppitsch are ones that capture your attention right away, with their vivid labels and the juicy, easy-drinking wine inside. Just like the area where they’re born, the popular vacation spot of Lake Neusiedl, these wines ooze the lazy holiday vibe of days spent sun-lounging and boat- or bike-riding. “We want to make wines that bring you this kind of easy feeling of joy,” Maria nods, “that you can open anytime and they’ll always put a smile on your face.”

Similar to many other growers in our book, the Koppitschs’ journey wasn’t always this joyful. The present-day winery started with a complex post-war story, as Alex’s grandfather Leopold went missing during WW2, becoming a prisoner of war. As a trained baker and agriculturalist, his Russian captivators put him to use as a teacher in Moscow. When he finally managed to return home in 1947, he found the estate of his meanwhile-deceased father divided up among his nine siblings who, having had no contact with him for years, had considered him dead. Luckily for him, his mother kept a small field for herself, which he then turned into a mixed farm including a winery. The farm would mainly sell eggs–you can still spot a rusty metal sign with the inscription Frischer Eier (”Fresh Eggs” in German) outside the tractor shed–with wine in dopplers (the local slang for 2-liter bottles) only as an up-sell item. 

The farm gradually added some vineyards here and there, building them up to their current 6.3 hectares, but kept things running in the same way, using the same old equipment and labor-intensive techniques. When young Alex, influenced by his conventional training in the nearby Eisenstadt wine school, wanted to try these modern methods in the family winery some twenty years ago, he was met with an impermeable “no” from his father. A hard thing to swallow for an ambitious youngster, but “I am now beyond grateful for the fact that the winery never went through a technological phase or used chemicals in the vineyards. The historical yeast population and all the old “rubbish” remained in the winery and we still use my grandfather’s tools for making wine, and will do so as long as they last,” Alex explains.

The young couple took the helm in 2011, when Alex felt it was time to start his own thing after spending five years as a winemaking and biodynamics assistant for Gerhard Pittnauer, another star winemaker in the area. Seeing that innovations and thinking outside the box pay off, Alex and Maria took the leap of faith, only to be met with… a steep decline of the family’s financial situation. With little kids to care for and similarly little income from their wines, which were quite different from what people would expect of Burgenland back then, Maria recalls how at one point they didn’t even have ten euros to fuel up their car. “But that’s OKif things are too easy, they don’t really make you grow as a person. Everything Koppitsch is now stems from all these hardships. It also made us grow a lot as a couple; going and talking through all this together truly strengthened our bond,” Maria explained in an interview, with her typical humble acceptance of the things that life throws your way.

A bond it definitely is: these two strike you as the harmonious, “together-for-ages” couple, although they actually met when both were around their thirties in a local bar where “I think half the marriages in Neusiedl started,” Maria chuckles. And a rather rocket start it was: three months later she was pregnant, and their first son Jakob was born a day after the 1st anniversary of their bar encounter. To make things even more frenetic, all of this happened right around the same time they were taking over the winery. “I wouldn’t recommend this as a dating strategy to everybody,” Maria roars with laughter, “but luckily it worked for us.”

Besides their mutual respect and the will to fight through tough times together, the thing that tipped their fate, as the tale often goes, was a lucky encounter with the right person. In their case, it happened at the 2017 Weinsalon Naturel in Cologne, “one of the last fairs we decided to go to before I’d return to my accountant job in order to sustain the family,” Maria recalls how close they actually came to quitting the family winery idea altogether. Luckily for us natural wine lovers, David Ward of Ward&Associés, our Montreal colleagues, tasted their wines there, leading us to discover the couple soon thereafter. “I’m forever grateful for this trust that was put into us back then, as it became an inspiration for other markets that came to work with us afterwards. We could make all the wine we wanted, but really, there’s no way we could be living this dream without the people who buy and represent it,” she says solemnly. 

To give credit where it’s due, the Koppitsches have worked very hard for this dream, and their wines have gotten better and better each year we’ve worked with them. Alex went through a phase of vinifying all of their plots and varietals separately, which, besides having their tiny cellar crammed with 24 different wines at one point, also led him to a close understanding of all the terroirs and grapes he had at hand. “And he became practically one with the vines, he lives and dies for them. He’d never let anybody else prune them, for example,” Maria describes while Alex shyly smiles next to her.

In line with this intimate relationship to the natural wealth of their vineyards, the couple has been delving deeper into biodynamics – Alex closely follows the biodynamic calendar, uses the preparations and herbal teas, and lets the soil live healthily under a permanent cover crop. Caring for vineyards in this way is very time-consuming, and the couple is only aided by Alex’s father and an occasional paid intern, which means the space for growth is very limited – and Maria seems quite happy with this. “Yes, we could sell more wine if we had more vineyards, but there’s no space for that in our current setting. We’re not chasing growth or profit; we live a good life. A modest one, but one that’s led on our own terms, connected to nature, without unlimited consumption, without any debts. And it’s this independent spirit that I want to hand over to our three sons rather than a fancy winery.”

This down-to-earth, humble and environmentally conscious approach also shows in their branding choices – well aware of the footprint of shipping natural wine around the globe, the Koppitsches try to lessen their impact on the environment by working on every detail, like using natural cork closures or the lightest bottles available. “We also opted for a one-piece-only label to cut out the hundreds of kilometers of plastic they’re stuck on, and a simple recycled paper cardboard box without any tape or print on it, even though it disqualifies us from the “who has the coolest packaging“ race,” Maria laughs. But, as the myriad of fans that their wine has amassed show, the Koppitsches are more than winning in a race of their own.

 


Homok — Back to the top

Homok means “sand” in Hungarian, symbolizing both the type of soil that this wine is born from and the important historical role of Hungarian culture in this border region.

Vineyard: Seefeld. A flat, dry and very windy 1.74ha plot in the west of Neusiedl am See, the last bits of solid land before the marshes of the lake. This location means that the grapes grow very intense aromas. Vines planted between 1978 and 2018.

Grapes: the 2020 vintage is roughly 40% Grüner Veltliner, 40% Weissburgunder, 20% Sauvignon Blanc 

Cellar: all grapes are hand-picked and processed as whole bunches in the old
screw press. No additives, no temperature control at any stage of winemaking. Juice goes straight into stainless steel + large acacia + oak barrels (2000L) + fiberglass tanks. All vats are racked once before the spontaneous fermentation kicks in. All 3 varietals (Grüner + Weissburgunder + Sauvignon Blanc) were mostly co-fermented. Everything aged on gross lees for 6 months without any additives. Bottled unfined, unfiltered, the 2020 vintage didn’t get any SO2 addition.

Personality: easy breezy with nice energy coming from the old vines. The holiday feel depicted on the label (imagine standing at the vineyard site & looking at the lake) continues inside the bottle as well – think sun, mango, citrus, and careless fun.


Rét— Back to the top

Rét translates from Hungarian as grassland or field, since the land where these grapes grow used to be a pasture for feeding the livestock of the village.

Vineyard: Hutweide and Prädium plots on top of the Wagram-Plateau. Mostly sandy soil underneath a very thick layer of gravel, alluvial soil from the ancient Danube river. Healthy but poor and very dry and early-ripening. Planted 1988 – 2002, a total surface of 1.86 hectares.  

Grapes: 80% Zweigelt, 20% St. Laurent

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed, and fermented naturally on skins for 6 days. Pressed into stainless steel (Zweigelt + St.Laurent) and large acacia vats (Zweigelt), where they matured on gross lees for 9 months without any additives, without fining, and without filtration, or temperature control. Blended together shortly before bottling. Bottled unfined, unfiltered, the 2020 vintage didn’t get any SO2 addition.

Personality: a joyful celebration of Austrian red varietals and bright light style of red wines – fruity and spicy with great drinkability.


Juh— Back to the top

Juh means “Sheep” in Hungarian, named for the “sheep hill” vineyard site these grapes come from.

Total Bottles Produced: 2100

Age of Vines: 85 years

Yields: 30 hl/ha

Soil: Clay

Varieties: Gemischter Satz field blend of Gruner Veltliner, Brauner Veltliner, Weissburgunder, Welschriesling, Sauuvignon Blanc, Traminer, Muskat, Neuburger and more.

Vinification Method: Grapes are hand-harvested and whole bunches go into the screw press. The wine ferments without additives and without temperature control in fiberglass tanks. The wine matures on the gross lees for about 6 months. It is bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with an addition of 10 milligrams of sulfur.


Rosza— Back to the top

Rosza means “pink” in Hungarian.

Total Bottles Produced: 11,000

Vineyard: a blend of all family plots in Neusiedl am See (clay, sand, limestone), a total of 2.5ha planted between 1988 and 2003.

Grapes: 40% Zweigelt, 40% Blaufrankisch, 10% St. Laurent, 5% Pinot Noir, 5% Syrah

Cellar: all grapes are hand-picked and processed as whole bunches in the old
screw press. No additives, no temperature control at any stage of winemaking. Juice goes straight into stainless steel and fiberglass tanks. Racking before natural fermentation kicks in. All 5 components of ROSZA were mostly co-fermented and matured together on gross lees for 6 months without any additives, without fining, and without filtration. Bottled in February, completely without sulfites. 

Personality: juicy fruity pink goodness! You’ll understand the need for a sun lounge chair (on the label and in your life) right after the first sip.


Pretty Nuts Pet-Nat— Back to the top

Maria&Alex on this wine: “This wine is a joyful result of so many different factors: the ripeness of each red variety, the speed of fermentation, if there’s space available in the winery for manual bottling, the weather… as there’s no control over the fermentation process, we need to be ready for PRETTY [nʌts] 24/7, to start bottling at the right point. But we love our PRETTY [nʌts] so much that it is worth every tense moment we share.”

Pretty Nuts Pet-Nat comes with 4 different labels to represent the 4 seasons, mix-matched in the cartons. Collect them all!

Total Bottles Produced: 3,000

Vineyard: Neuberg. 0.68ha of limestone and schist, planted between 2000 and 2003

Grapes: 50% Blaufrankisch, 50% Syrah

Cellar: all grapes are hand-picked and processed as whole bunches in the old screw press. No additives, no temperature control at any stage of winemaking. Juice goes straight into fiberglass tanks, racked before natural fermentation kicks in. At the right point during fermentation, the wild juice by hand by the entire family. During the first warm days of spring, when the nights are still freezing, the bottles are put into the backyard for cooling and manually disgorged by Alex, filled up and resealed. No sulfur added in 2020. 

Personality: very merry cherry. “PetNat is a very appealing and super fun drink, with bubbles that can drive you crazy (positively – this explains the name), suitable at any time of the year, not only in summer,” says Maria about this wine, and we couldn’t agree more. ONE JUICE FOR ALL THE SEASONS FTW! 


Perspektive Weiss— Back to the top

Alex & Maria on this wine: “Perspektive derives from the Latin „perspicere“, meaning: „to look through“. When it comes to natural wine, the closer you look, the more flavors and aromas you get. AND, to us, natural wine puts wine as you knew it into a whole new perspective. We wanted to capture this contemplative nature of this wine on its label as well: the night suggests elegance, mystery, depth and even something romantic. It creates a certain emotion, which is essential to us when drinking the Perspektive Wines. it calms you down, you focus and relax, yet at the same time, you get excited and curious: the perfect mindset for indulging in these wines that we took a great deal to make!”

Varieties: 50% Chardonnay, 50% Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc)

Vineyard: Neuberg. One of the best and oldest vineyard sites in the Neusiedl area, with hundreds of years of viticultural history. Rocky limestone hill in the northwest of Neusiedl, part of the Leithaberg Mountains with some schist as well as heavier rich loam parts. The Chardonnay grows on 2 plots, planted 1965 & 2017, the Pinot Blanc comes from a plot planted in 2005. Total size 0.81 hectare

Making of: hand harvest. ¾ of the grapes were directly pressed and the juice went straight into old Barriques (225L). ¼ fermented on skins for 8 days. Natural fermentation, no temperature control at any stage of winemaking. The wines matured on gross lees for 10 months with an occasional battonage. The barrels were blended together and bottled without any additives, without fining and without filtration. 

Personality: very out there! There’s the electric backbone of citrus, grapefruit rind and salt, then some lush tropicana vibe of exotic fruit, so fragrant it’s almost honey-like; maybe a hint of peach, dried herbs and wet stone. Enough to get happily lost in for ages.


Perspektive Rot— Back to the top

Alex & Maria on this wine: “Perspektive derives from the Latin „perspicere“, meaning: „to look through“. When it comes to natural wine, the closer you look, the more flavors and aromas you get. AND, to us, natural wine puts wine as you knew it into a whole new perspective. We wanted to capture this contemplative nature of this wine on its label as well: the night suggests elegance, mystery, depth and even something romantic. It creates a certain emotion, which is essential to us when drinking the Perspektive Wines. it calms you down, you focus and relax, yet at the same time, you get excited and curious: the perfect mindset for indulging in these wines that we took a great deal to make!”

Varieties: 70% Blaufrankisch, 30% St. Laurent

Vineyard: Neuberg. One of the best and oldest vineyard sites in the Neusiedl area, with hundreds of years of viticultural history. Rocky limestone hill in the northwest of Neusiedl, part of the Leithaberg Mountains with some schist as well as heavier rich loam parts. The Blaufrankisch is planted 2002, St Laurent in 2003; total size of their plots is 0.65 hectare.

Making of: the grapes are hand-harvested and destemmed, with approx. 10% stems left in. Fermented naturally in stainless steel and fiberglass vats. After about 10 days, the mash is pressed and the wine pumped into barrels (225l Barriques) in the cellar. Everything matured on gross lees for 22 months without any additives. The barrels are blended together 1 day before bottling and bottled without fining, filtration or addition of sulfur.

Personality: what the label promises, the wine delivers! A wonderfully layered red with the piquant peppery depths and compelling tannic structure of a good Blaufrankisch, lifted by heaps of red fruit and sweet spices.


Touch Skin Contact— Back to the top

Alex and Maria on this wine: “Have you ever had a glass of orange wine that did not touch you? Skin contact whites very often trigger intense reactions. Therefore our name, also referring to skin contact, obviously. The majestic bird on the label is great white egret, very common around the lake. He loves to visit our vineyards and we love to watch him during take-off,” Maria enthuses.

Grapes: 50 % Welchriesling, 50% “Gemischter Satz”, literally mixed plantation. Fieldblend of many varieties like Grüner Veltliner, Brauner Veltliner, Weissburgunder, Welschriesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, Muskat, Neuburger, and many more that Maria and Alex don’t even know since it’s an old vineyard.

Vineyards: the Welschriesling comes from Neuberg, a rocky limestone hill with very poor soil in the northwest of Neusiedl that is part of the Leithaberg mountains. The Gemischter Satz grows on the clay soil of the Schafbühl plot. A gentle southwest slope oriented towards the lake, planted more than 85 years ago.

Making of: once hand-harvested, most of the grapes are destemmed and let to ferment in open-top vats; about 30% are kept as whole bunches for carbonic maceration. After a couple of days of maceration, the juice is taken off the mash and the remaining is pressed. Everything is blended into small oak barrels to finish fermentation naturally. Maturation on gross lees for about 10 months without any additives. No fining, no filtration, no temperature control at any stage of winemaking. The 2020 vintage was also made without any sulfur addition.

Personality: a true balance of terroir characters here! The expressive character of the old vines of Gemischter Satz on rich soil combines with the delicate acidity of Welschriesling on limestone. “We’re playing around with carbonic maceration and length of skin contact, to have both the crispness and elegance as well as more earthy flavors and challenging fruit notes, typical for good skin-contact whites!” Maria says.


AEON white — Back to the top

The estate’s top white cuvée made in a very limited quantity (1200 bts only), only when the year permits. It comes from a vineyard that has been part of the family estate for the longest time and bears very special energy for Maria and Alex. As they put it themselves: “The Koppitsch family has been making wine in Neusiedl since the 16th century, therefore we profit from a very long winemaking tradition. Alex’s grandfather and father taught him everything they knew about the weather, soil types, the vines, and the grapes – all very precise knowledge, unique for our land in Neusiedl am See, passed on from generation to generation. As a farmer, one has a very deep connection to his/her land. The land has always been and will always be the very basis of what we do, connecting us with both past and future generations. Hence the name: eternity for us means we are part of our land’s timeline, reflecting the past and believing in the future, forever.”

Grape: 50% Weissburgunder, 50% Gruner Veltliner

Vineyard: Seefeld, a 0.27ha flat, dry, very windy plot right at the lake’s edge. The microclimate there gives the grapes very intense aromas. Old vines, planted in 1978 and 1980.

Making of: grapes are hand-harvested, then 50% goes straight into screw press outside and 50% are destemmed and kept on skins for 2 weeks. Juice then goes straight into barriques (225L) where spontaneous fermentation occurs, each variety separately. The wines then spent 20 months on gross lees without any additives, manipulation, or temperature control. Blended together shortly before bottling, bottled unfiltered, unfined, no sulfites added.

Personality: super intense and vibrant, might leave you starry-eyed, just like its label. “The disco vibe of this label is very deliberate – our land is our Disco, the place where we dance, get excited, get emotional, get upset, fall in love, get drunk
and make new friends,” Maria says.