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Christoph Hoch is a new, young Austrian winemaker in the Kremstal. He started out in 2009 at his parent’s winery, making wine in a traditional style and he got bored. The schedule was too set for him. So he started experimenting in 2010 and split from his parent’s weingut in 2013. He has 5 hectares from his family spread throughout four different vineyards, all in the town of Hollenburg. Hollenburg is on the south side of the Danube, and like the other areas of the Kremstal, the subsoil is conglomerate. Conglomerate was formed by the Traisental and Danube river crashing together and compacting chalk and river stones together. The chalk comes from the Alps and it was brought by the Traisental River. It kind of looks like a construction mortar that you would make a building with. Christoph compared it to the chalk in the Cote des Blancs in Champagne and equally active, bringing minerals to the vines. 

Throughout all of Christoph’s vineyards, you find a mix of mustard, rye, and phacelia. He considers all of his parcels by four categories: dry, chalky, nutrient rich, or holds water. Depending on the category, he will plant the herbs and grains accordingly. Mustard brings sulfur to the soil, which protects the plants and transfers it naturally to the wines, so that he can use as little as possible at bottling. Rye brings carbon to the soil. He knocks it down after it has grown and it creates a natural humus. The carbon from the rye works with the phacelia and creates nitrogen. As of 2015, the wines are certified organic and biodynamic. 

Christoph’s first vintage was 2013 on his own. He makes less than 3,000 cases per year, 70% Gruner Veltliner and 30% Riesling, of which 30% are sparkling. His main goal is to make a wine that inspires emotion, hopefully enthusiasm for the wine itself, but he is okay with clear rejection as well. To do this, he wants to make wines traditionally, maximizing the terroir – this means spontaneous fermentation in wooden barrels (oak and acacia) some on the skins and some racked. All of the wine is aged in barrel (all used) and he treats each barrel as it’s own project. In the cellar, there are two levels – one is a bit warmer and the wines all go through malo (naturally) and the lower cellar is cooler and the wines mostly do not go through malo. Fermentations happen naturally and slowly in neutral barrels. He has bottled his 2015’s, but there was one barrel of Riesling still bubbling away and this will get blended into the 2016 Riesling eventually.  He feels that limiting a wine to a single vintage does not show the best of the terroir expression and so each year he releases a wine with a base year and some previous years blended in.  Up to this point, 15% of the previous year’s vintage is blended into the current release. We always show the majority of the vintage in parentheses (aka – 85% of the wine in the bottle), but technically, it’s a non-vintage wine. And the #15 on the front label, indicates the final number of barrels that were included in the blend. 

The Hoch wines are very original and are some of the best representations of the 'new' wines of Austria. It takes a lot of courage to push the boundaries of the classic Austrian-style and pushing boundaries brings a certain amount of risk.  In the end, Christoph has created something new and maybe it's not in the classic Kremstal fashion and outside of the appellation regulations, but it's certainly exciting to try a wine without limits. Christoph Hoch has an infectious enthusiasm and you can get just a hint of that energy in the wines. 

Winemaker Spotlight:  Christoph Hoch