A chat with Austrian winemaker Michael Opitz, producer of our 'Buddy Talk' Red
Michael uses no unnecessary technology or processing in the production of his wines. Yet at the same time, careful attention to detail is shown in processes such as the 10 months' ageing in oak and acacia barrels. The result is pure and, in his words, 'honest' wines. True to his motto: 'No tricks. Just wine'.
How did you end up becoming a winemaker?
My grandparents had vineyards and used to produce wine on a small scale. They were, like most people in our region, small farmers who had a little of everything (agriculture, animals, vineyards). Over the years my parents moved more towards the vineyards, so I grew up with farming and working in the vineyards.
I became more and more interested in growing grapes and also in producing my own wine. I went on to study at the agricultural University in Vienna, travelled the wine world and then started producing my own wines in my mid twenties. That's when it all really began…
Tell us why a keen wine drinker should visit your region?
Burgenland is a unique region in Europe. We’re situated on the east side of the Neusiedlersee, a large saltwater lake that straddles the Austrian–Hungarian border. This is the beginning of the Mid-European flatlands – the Pannonian Basin. Dozens of small saline lakes shape the landscape and are surrounded by 'Steppe' - or grassland ecosystems. The best spots are a little higher in elevation, and that's where the vineyards are found. This unique terroir gives a typical salty minerality to our wines.
Which part of the winemaking process do you enjoy the most?
The harvest. It’s like the final ascent to the summit. The moment of picking is crucial because that, together with how the grapes are processed determines the characteristic of the wine. So it's the most stressful but also most interesting time of the whole year. When all of the grapes are finally in, we've reached the summit. (The aging process is the descent, which is also an essential part of every journey...)
Which environmental practices are most important to you?
Working organically is essential for me. This is the only way to eliminate synthetic sprays, save water, preserve healthy soils and get terroir-driven wines made with minimal intervention.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
In a family business there isn't a lot of spare time, especially when it comes to farming. I try to spend as much time as I can with my family. And when the time allows, I love to get out to the mountains, doing alpine tours, climbing or skiing.
Which is your favourite season?
Spring. Everything starts to grow and it's already very warm (sometimes hot) in our region. And I love the long days. It's a great time to be outdoors. With a little luck you can ski in the morning and jump into a lake in the afternoon (if you had the time… :) ).
What is your go-to music to unwind to?
To come down after a stressful day classic hard and heavy or grunge rock is the best. Then to relax, chillout lounge music is great!
What are you most looking forward to this year?
After last year, which was probably the most demanding one for all of us, I’m happy just to have a 'normal' year. Actually the growing season has started quite nicely and we had a lot of rain last week, which was really needed here!