Sensing the Südsteiermark: A Tale of Two Hanneses

Hannes Sabathi brought individuality and prestige to the local industry | Photo: Steve Haider

A sea of vineyards surrounds Weingarten Hotel Harkamp in the north of the region | Photo: Harkamp

If perspective and sensory exploration is everything in wine, then the culmination of Steiermark’s landscape, aura, people, gastronomy and passion, manifests into a region that is quickly becoming the go-to place.

My focus is on one of the three classified wine-growing regions in the greater Steiermark (Styria) area, Südsteiermark. Triangular in shape with its northern point starting halfway between Graz and the Slovenian border, the key feature is a patchwork of twisting, woven hills of steep incline, providing a myriad of crevasses and corners within which picture-perfect terraced farm houses and vineyard rows coagulate into a rolling still life.

Welschriesling, Weißburgunder, Chardonnay (also known here as Morillon) and Gelber Muskateller in the whites, as well as red wine varieties such as Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and Blauer Wildbacher all make themselves known amongst the vigneron’s cellars. But the weight of expectation (and international demand), rests squarely on the cordons of Sauvignon Blanc, a variety that is often dominated on the world stage by producers from New Zealand, South Africa and France, but in Südsteiermark is presenting a more multi-layered stylistic profile to a growing, thirsty consumer base.

Two wine producers represent the dynamic nature of the region. Weinguts Hannes Sabathi in Gamlitz, and Hannes Harkamp in Framberg, are passionate producers who strive to delve deeper into the sub-structure of what mother nature offers, while maintaining a focused, rigorous eye on the technical procedures that combine to produce wines that respect their origins, while challenging the status quo of style and philosophy.

 

Hannes Sabathi brought individuality and prestige to the local industry | Photo: Steve Haider

Hannes Sabathi brought individuality and prestige to the local industry | Photo: Steve Haider

Hannes Sabathi

The Sabathi story is one that can be mirrored many times in this area, and indeed Austria, where generations of agricultural farming have slowly morphed into a fully focused vineyard with adjoining Buschenschank.

The philosophy changed when a very young Hannes Sabathi took over the reins at the property and decided to steer the ship away from the usual blended “table wine” commonly found through the towns, towards an expression of individual sights, technical proficiency and intuitive decision-making.

Hannes’ strengths and individuality has unleashed a superb list of wines, with a spotlight on Sauvignon Blanc being represented across the different classifications and quality levels. His mandate to mature the wines longer than the norm, especially Sauvignon Blanc, was unheard of in Steiermark, securing the Sabathi brand a certain level of prestige and individuality amongst wine lovers.

From the fruit driven and lighter bodied “Klassik” range is a Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (€9.80) that reflects the sensorial characteristics of the area, full of fresh cut grass, passion fruit pulp, white flowers and a balanced acid to fruit ratio. The Sheurebe 2011 (€6.30) is an obscure varietal (also known as Sämling 88), presenting subtle notes of lemon citrus, pineapple, strawberries and ginger with a crisp fresh finish. From the Gamlitz village range, where vines grow mostly on gravely sandy soils, it is the Gelber Muskateller 2011 (€13) that knocked my socks off, bursting with musky spice, rose petals, lychees and lavender with a mouth-filling structure that is unstoppable.

Hannes Harkamp

The Harkamp estate combines two very impressive constructions, the Weingut Hannes Harkamp, and the recently renovated Weingarten Hotel Harkamp, located in the northern parts of Südsteiermark around Flamberg. Here, steep slopes and vistas that take your eye over crescent horizons to Slovenia are simply breathtaking. The hotel is nestled atop a deeply carved wedge of hillside with views down over the sharply dropping vineyards, and through to an inviting, almost magical valley, reminiscent of a Disney winter wonderland. The Harkamp family has painstakingly undertaken a challenging renovation process, with each suite, styled in its own unique expression, from Swedish minimalist, to Austin Powers, to French Nuevo.

A sea of vineyards surrounds Weingarten Hotel Harkamp in the north of the region |

A sea of vineyards surrounds Weingarten Hotel Harkamp in the north of the region | Photo: Harkamp

Tasting wine with Hannes Harkamp and wife Petra will never be a quiet, subdued affair. A sense of unyielding determination and passion spills out of Hannes as he runs around the winery keeping abreast of the production of every drop, then appearing out of nowhere to launch a glaring appraisal of each wine. Vinifying classic Styrian varietals and styles with an emphasis on precision craftsmanship, his adventurous spirit has led to a new passion, being the production a quality Sekt.

Starting with the Morillon (Chardonnay) Steil 2011 (€9.80), the balanced juicy fruit salad flavours and lemony acidity is very drinkable. Of the two single vineyard 2011 Sauvignon Blancs on offer, one from Oberburgstall (€15.80), the other from Kogelberg (€20), it is the latter I preferred with a more pronounced mineral structure, and generous grapefruit, kiwi and lime characters, they are definitely both in line for further ageing. Finally, a terrific 2011 Grauburgunder Oberburgstall (€17.90), brimming with biscuity hay notes, tangerine, mango sorbet and a hint of vanilla makes for a power-packed display.

I keep trying to find excuses to travel to the Steiermark, for the landscape, the winding hillside roads dotted with delectable Buschenschanks serving what has to be the best farmhouse-styled food, the passionate yet personable people, or the stirring vignerons and their world-class Sauvignon Blancs. But at the moment, there simply are none!

 

www.sabathi-weine.at

www.harkamp.at

HaSabathi

The Sabathi story is one that can be mirrored many times in this area, and indeed Austria, where generations of agricultural farming have slowly morphed into a fully focused vineyard with adjoining Buschenschank.

The philosophy changed when a very young Hannes Sabathi took over the reins at the property and decided to steer the ship away from the usual blended “table wine” commonly found through the towns, towards an expression of individual sights, technical proficiency and intuitive decision-making.

Hannes’ strengths and individuality has unleashed a superb list of wines, with a spotlight on Sauvignon Blanc being represented across the different classifications and quality levels. His mandate to mature the wines longer than the norm, especially Sauvignon Blanc, was unheard of in Steiermark, securing the Sabathi brand a certain level of prestige and individuality amongst wine lovers.

From the fruit driven and lighter bodied “Klassik” range is a Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (€9.80) that reflects the sensorial characteristics of the area, full of fresh cut grass, passion fruit pulp, white flowers and a balanced acid to fruit ratio. The Sheurebe 2011 (€6.30) is an obscure varietal (also known as Sämling 88), presenting subtle notes of lemon citrus, pineapple, strawberries and ginger with a crisp fresh finish. From the Gamlitz village range, where vines grow mostly on gravely sandy soils, it is the Gelber Muskateller 2011 (€13) that knocked my socks off, bursting with musky spice, rose petals, lychees and lavender with a mouth-filling structure that is unstoppable.

Hannes Harkamp

The Harkamp estate combines two very impressive constructions, the Weingut Hannes Harkamp, and the recently renovated Weingarten Hotel Harkamp, located in the northern parts of Südsteiermark around Flamberg. Here, steep slopes and vistas that take your eye over crescent horizons to Slovenia are simply breathtaking. The hotel is nestled atop a deeply carved wedge of hillside with views down over the sharply dropping vineyards, and through to an inviting, almost magical valley, reminiscent of a Disney winter wonderland. The Harkamp family has painstakingly undertaken a challenging renovation process, with each suite, styled in its own unique expression, from Swedish minimalist, to Austin Powers, to French Nuevo.

A sea of vineyards surrounds Weingarten Hotel Harkamp in the north of the region |

A sea of vineyards surrounds Weingarten Hotel Harkamp in the north of the region | Photo: Harkamp

Tasting wine with Hannes Harkamp and wife Petra will never be a quiet, subdued affair. A sense of unyielding determination and passion spills out of Hannes as he runs around the winery keeping abreast of the production of every drop, then appearing out of nowhere to launch a glaring appraisal of each wine. Vinifying classic Styrian varietals and styles with an emphasis on precision craftsmanship, his adventurous spirit has led to a new passion, being the production a quality Sekt.

Starting with the Morillon (Chardonnay) Steil 2011 (€9.80), the balanced juicy fruit salad flavours and lemony acidity is very drinkable. Of the two single vineyard 2011 Sauvignon Blancs on offer, one from Oberburgstall (€15.80), the other from Kogelberg (€20), it is the latter I preferred with a more pronounced mineral structure, and generous grapefruit, kiwi and lime characters, they are definitely both in line for further ageing. Finally, a terrific 2011 Grauburgunder Oberburgstall (€17.90), brimming with biscuity hay notes, tangerine, mango sorbet and a hint of vanilla makes for a power-packed display.

I keep trying to find excuses to travel to the Steiermark, for the landscape, the winding hillside roads dotted with delectable Buschenschanks serving what has to be the best farmhouse-styled food, the passionate yet personable people, or the stirring vignerons and their world-class Sauvignon Blancs. But at the moment, there simply are none!

 

www.sabathi-weine.at

www.harkamp.at

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