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The following email is written by our dear friend Emily Campeau, who came to New York many years ago as part of the opening team at Racines NY. She is now the Wine Director of Restaurant Candide in Montreal and currently lives on the Austro-Hungarian border. Emilly will be releasing the first wines she produced with her husband under the name Wein Goutte later this year, and we're excited to try them! The subject of today's email is the wines of a tiny estate in Burgenland, Austria, called Joiseph. As Emily was a big part of introducing the Joiseph wines to the team at Vom Boden (the US importers), and we miss her whimsical writing and commentary on life, we asked her if she would be open to writing a piece about the estate. // IG: @emycampo_ @weingoutte
There are always two sides to every story — as Dolly and Porter would sing — and I can say that it’s true, when my husband and I tell the story of how we met. While details greatly differ, one of the few things we both recollect similarly is an unbelievably good bottle of rosé from Joiseph, peppering the first of many evenings which solidified a harvest fling into the foundations of love. I can recall the plenitude of that night in a heartbeat; that familiar sensation tickling one’s senses when travelling to a country that isn’t home but could as well be, if just for a while. It was my second night of harvest in Austria and I was attuned to the newness, ready to be wowed.
We dined on a huge pot of spaghetti and a simple tomato sauce that I made on a whim, discreetly trying to impress my colleagues with my pasta skills. It’s a useful habit of mine, wanting to nourish everybody around, and comes in handy at times such as harvest, where the work exponentially multiplies the hunger. I chopped some onions and garlic, dropped some chilis into the hot oil, added fresh and canned tomatoes — a wonderful trick someone taught me long ago for achieving balance in sugar/acid content — and made sure the texture of the sauce would be coating enough but slightly liquid to follow us until the bottom of the pot. The spaghettis went in and we sat down. A piping hot pot of pasta can always be a trusted wingman.
I was trying to play nonchalant the fact that we were drinking out of Zaltos on a Wednesday, not totally aware that this was common practice at Austrian wineries. I was being careful not to over express myself, as I am sometimes prone to do, glass in hand. I have managed to break delicate stemware in the past when making a point about subjects no one cared about, like the greatness of Creedence Clearwater Revival or how Müller-Thurgau should be more respected.
Anyway, earlier that night the winemaker I had chosen to intern with had given me a leftover bottle of the aformentioned Joiseph rosé — still two-thirds filled — that had been sitting out for a few days, opened. I still didn’t know anything about this project/label, except that Luka Zeichmann was fun to be around. I knew this much because he was one of the two guys in charge of a cellar (on top of working for Joiseph) I was hanging out at, and we had become acquainted the day before.
After the rosé was properly chilled, it hit the Wednesday-night-Zalto. It didn’t take me long to sniff the promise of elegance ; it was rather jumping out of the glass. As I later described it in an Instagram post: "This Blau rosé is everything. It’s a garden of roses, a piece of bloody meat, it’s firewood, it’s a great sticky spice cake, it’s savory like drinking a very well made spritz spiked with olive brine. It’s quite literally the bomb." And moreover, it drank especially well with weekday spaghetti. Right there and then, I became a die-hard Joiseph fan.
While I have a notable count of their bottles in our cellar at home, we choose special moments to open them. They never fail to make me extremely happy, and to reassure my faith that wine is made to be enjoyed, not calculated or overanalyzed. They carry the spot-on description of drinkability, but never fall short of complexity, layers upon layers of it. This, when making wine, is probably one of the hardest thing to achieve: restraint from flashiness, or pursuing trends, and keeping a lightness to the purpose. The wines from Joiseph, as Stephen Bitterolf (who brings them in) accurately described them, are wines that winemakers want to drink when they are off work, which is one of the sweetest compliments a wine can get in our industry.
You might be wondering whether there is a Mister Joiseph that is alive and kicking who passed his name down to the winery, but alas, it is only a great word play that smashed Joseph and Jois together in one word. Mr. Joiseph might exist in a fictional form, personifying the project in the partners’ minds, an odd fella that stands apart and never does things like anyone else. This man doesn’t exist, but his way of celebrating the unconventional was an imaginary trait that the team embraced as their modus operandi when they started the project 5 years ago.
Alex Kagl, Richard Artner and Luka Zeichmann formed their trio in January of 2015, when an unexpected opportunity flew their way. Some vineyards in the town of Jois — in the good part on top of it, on the hills, not the valley — had been offered to them through someone who knew someone. After a little debriefing, they decided to take the plunge. Richard and Alex had met during a winemaking course, and Luka was finishing up his studies in agriculture, and was working for an other winemaker at the time. Richard is Luka’s godfather, and had expressed willingness to support him in the winemaking projects he would set out to do in the future. A few handshakes later, they had a brand new plan lined up, and Alex joined as the third member of the Joiseph band. They walked into their vineyards armed with cutters just in time for pruning season that same winter.
Soon enough the roles were distributed to each member: Richard and Alex would be in charge for the vineyard work, and Luka would be managing the winemaking operations. There is a non-negligible geographic component to this division: the town of Jois in on the upper part of Burgenland, and Luka wanted to stay where his life is, which is an hour further south, in Mittelburgenland. He said: "If I was going to be responsible for making the wines, I wanted them to be close to me." An understandable request that organized the duties early on. Of course, many of the multiple tasks involved are also shared amongst the three of them, like bottling and labelling and all of the others unglamourous things making wine is really about.
The Joiseph’s cellar is located in Unterpullendorf, an hour drive from Jois. It is uncommon to have a winery fractured in two different locations in Austria, because a vast number of them are inherited from family member to family member, with vineyards scattered in the nearby villages. People like Luka, Alex and Richard, who start their venture from scratch — with the plus-value of locking down vineyards of a certain age on pristine sites — are very few, unlike many other parts of Europe where starting a winery as a second-life project is a much more common story. Alex and Richard still have jobs on the side as of now, with the ultimate goal in mind to be able to leave them for good in the near future.
"Jois! where the hell is Jois?" is a fair question, and reminds of those incredulous kids in Footloose, asking Kevin Bacon where the hell this Beaumont place was, where they could dance, fun and fancy free. Dancing is certainly allowed in Jois too, just like Beaumont, but the fun really lies in grape-growing rather then showing your moves. Here’s the rundown:
The three gents from Joiseph grow vines in this small village named Jois, which is located in the region of Burgenland, on the northernmost tip of Lake Neusiedl (a wonderfully shallow puddle of mud where it is possible to walk from one shore to the other — because the deepest point is usually around 1m80 or about 5 feet.), which could arguably be described as either in Western or Central Europe. It all depends on whom you are discussing this with.
Austrian vineyards are smooshed to the Eastern side of the country, because there is a little mountain chain known as the Alps, gracing the rest of the country with its presence. Burgenland is bordered by Hungary to the east, who’s hot, dry pannonian winds have a great impact the region’s climate, and thus on viticulture and grape-growing, broadening both shoulders of the season significantly. Lake Neusiedl is also a small glimpse into the past of the Austro-Hungarian Empire days — the bottom part of it belongs to Hungary, where it bears the name "Ferto."
The lake is a climate mitigator. It is 36 km long (~22 miles), and between 6 and 12km wide (~4-7 miles), and acts like a mirror, reflecting the light on the land around. It has an effect on precipitation and other weather movements. I am still surprised when I hear wine professionals classifying Austria as a "cool-climate" country. Certain parts are definitely cooler, but that big chunk called Burgenland is at times like living in a pizza oven.
Jois is part of a Burgenland sub-region called Leithaberg, whose frontiers are drawn at the foothills and in the valleys close to the Leitha Mountains. This small hill range is on the limit between Niederösterreich (a huge province encapsulating seven wine regions, the most famous of them being Wachau) and Burgenland. This 35km stretch of hills is basically a hiccup between the end of the Alps and the beginning of the Carpathians, which arch through seven countries in Central Europe from the Czech Republic to Romania. At a mere 454 meters, the highest point of the Leitha Mountains (Sonnenberg) is not spectacularly high, but these mountains do have repercussions on the macroclimate, mesoclimates and viticultural microclimates, by bringing the coolness back to the area at night time, thus preserving the grapes’ acidity. The soils here are a mix of a few different things: schist and limestone sprinkled with plenty of sea creatures fossilized on the hillier sites. The valley has richer soils of silt, clay, sand and gravel inherited from the Pannonian Basin, which lays in the southeastern part of Europe, a consequence of the Pannonian Sea going dry in the Pliocene Epoch (roughly 5 to 2 millions years ago). The name Pannonia came from a province of the Roman Empire.
While there are a few notable exceptions, BIG and BOLD seem to be a general state of mind in the area amongst conventional-leaning producers, seasoned with a heavy use of new oak, and the presence of international grapes; this is yet an other part of the world where Bordeaux was unsuccessfully reproduced. The focus seems to be changing, and low-intervention oriented winemakers certainly had a role to play in this.
In only five years, the project of Joiseph has greatly expanded. From a solo hectare, fragmented in 5 different parcels, it now clocks in at 6 hectares, plus one hectare of young vines of Furmint and Blaufränkisch that have yet to come into production. This vineyard with young vines is the only one that was purchased, everything else is rented from different owners and a lovely neighbor the partners are very fond of. He concedes a part of his Demeter certified land — that they’d like to buy in the future — and also sells some grapes to Joiseph. All of the farming respects the rhythms and fluctuations of nature, and emphasizes a careful, observation-oriented approach, powered by a lot of hand work. The organic certification process began as soon as 2015, when they got started, and all of the parcels that they farm are now certified.
When diving into the world of "natural" wine — used here to indicate wines made with minimal sulfur addition, farmed at least organically, and crafted with care for the earth and those who drink it— a pit stop in Burgenland will definitely appear early in the journey. A drive around the lake could take you over a week if you’d stop at every place famous for making wine in this manner. Names like Preisinger, Koppitsch, Gut Oggau or Beck might ring a bell, and now Joiseph has been added to this growing list. Their wines sell out fast, and have made a remarkable entrance in markets around the world.
I have been attempting to dissect the magic since the spaghetti dinner, with every barrel tasting, every bottle drunk. Coupled with the meticulous farming, is the natural talent that Luka Zeichmann has for making wines that share a great quality: balance. As simple as it sounds, it is much easier said than done. The cellar, in the village of Unterpullendorf as said before, is simplistic: an old barn that stays cools and humid, a few tanks, a press, a hose, barrels of various age and size. There is no recipe, but quite a hefty dose of intuition.
The whites see a pre-pressing soak that can last up to 48 hours. This is described as a "pragmatic way of processing" by Luka, who says his old press can do its job better after a short maceration, minimizing the loss of juice and adding structural components to the finished wines. When he says "it reduces the mechanic stress that the wine has to go through," for a moment I wonder if this technique could help me with my own tensions. Harvest is around the corner, maybe it’s worth a shot.
The reds contain various percentages of whole-cluster fermentation, depending on the vintage, the mood of the winemaker, and the quality of the stems. Planted in their vineyards you’ll find: Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Grüner Veltliner, Muskat Ottonel, Welschriesling, Neuburger, and a few others that make up Gemischter Satz blends.
Determining harvest dates is a major consideration when working towards achieving balance and retaining natural acidity. Picking happens pretty early in that sunny part of Burgenland. That earliness can seem heretical to certain people. Last year, when Luka decided to make a pet-nat, he asked for Welschriesling grapes to be harvested earlier, with a higher acid content to make the bubbles light and fresh. A few of his family members that were helping for the harvest went on a mini-strike for a couple of hours, saying it was inconceivable to pick these grapes that were too sour. We had that pet-nat as an apéritif three weeks ago, and I was thankful this very funny problem was solved, and that the wine could be made in the end. Because it was, of course, unbelievably delicious.
It’s been nearly two years since I had that first sip of Joiseph, and, reminiscing on that day and how much I’ve grown since, I feel particularly delighted to have been asked to discuss how I became their fangirl, here, on this very honorable site. It gave me a solid reason to dive back into how one sip of rosé — ok, one bottle — surprisingly changed the course of my entire life for the better. A solid friendship with Luka grew out of this first encounter, and I have the utmost respect for what he, Richard and Alex have built in just a few years. When I sometimes lose my wine faith, and need a reminder of why my work in this industry is worth the hassle, I pull this magic trick out of my hat: I make a big pot of sauce with the tomatoes from our garden (no can needed here), I pick a bottle of Joiseph from the cellar, and shut the world around my spaghetti-loving husband and I, who is still seduced by my pasta making skills every time, or so I think.
I recommend buying at least more than one of these bottles, because they go down FAST. While you will be pondering "what can this be?" sip after sip, electrified by the feeling of drinking lemonade made of tropical fruits and multiple citrus varieties, the bottle will magically empty itself. I know, because it happens to me every time, and it happens to numbers of guests we serve this wine to at Candide (in Montreal). THAT, is the power of a well-made Gemischter Satz. A blend of grapes that fermented and aged together, like a grape band where each member plays its parts to the service of others and the song. Each variety contributes a little bit of its personality, some more aromatic, some more acidic, some riper, some greener, and it all harmonizes in the end. This is exactly what Mischkultur is. A blend of a few different varieties, of old vines and young vines, from a few different sites in the village. Foot crushed before pressing, then aged where there is space in the cellar, in wood and stainless. This wine is pure fun, like a good flirt, it brings joy and giggles, is simple and complex at the same time and will disappear in less time than you need to learn how to pronounce Gemischter Satz. Pairs best with itself, and the bright sunshine of a late afternoon. A bag of chips would also be strongly recommended. Sour cream & onions, what else? -Emily Campeau The blend is a mix of Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Neuburger, Muskateller, and Traminer from two separate parcels, with vines ranging from 10 to nearly 100 years in age, on limestone and slate soils.
I recommend buying at least more than one of these bottles, because they go down FAST. While you will be pondering "what can this be?" sip after sip, electrified by the feeling of drinking lemonade made of tropical fruits and multiple citrus varieties, the bottle will magically empty itself. I know, because it happens to me every time, and it happens to numbers of guests we serve this wine to at Candide (in Montreal). THAT, is the power of a well-made Gemischter Satz. A blend of grapes that fermented and aged together, like a grape band where each member plays its parts to the service of others and the song. Each variety contributes a little bit of its personality, some more aromatic, some more acidic, some riper, some greener, and it all harmonizes in the end. This is exactly what Mischkultur is. A blend of a few different varieties, of old vines and young vines, from a few different sites in the village. Foot crushed before pressing, then aged where there is space in the cellar, in wood and stainless. This wine is pure fun, like a good flirt, it brings joy and giggles, is simple and complex at the same time and will disappear in less time than you need to learn how to pronounce Gemischter Satz. Pairs best with itself, and the bright sunshine of a late afternoon. A bag of chips would also be strongly recommended. Sour cream & onions, what else? -Emily Campeau
The blend is a mix of Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Neuburger, Muskateller, and Traminer from two separate parcels, with vines ranging from 10 to nearly 100 years in age, on limestone and slate soils.
Fogosh is the middle sister that was born in-between Mischkultur and Altenberg. While it definitely has the maturity to understand its potential to have a bright future (like Altenberg), it still likes to have nights of careless partying once in a while (definitely like Mischkultur). It hits that tight mark right on the edge between the weight of seriousness and the lightness of the pleasure factor. Sourced form two sites, one by the lake - thus much warmer - and one high up in the mountain sides, it reveals its Grüner persona very early on, by showing restrained fruity notes, grassiness, white pepper notes, something waxy, like good freshly extracted honey. It tastes of so very…Austrian. Both graceful and powerful, with a long lingering finish that lasts until the next sip. Again, made with a short pre-soak before pressing, then aged in old wood. Like all of the Joiseph wines, it is not filtered nor fined, and sees incredibly small doses of added sulfur. In my very own opinion, Grüner in Austria is way too often trapped in a cage of over-the-top winemaking, even if the vines are planted on majestic sites. Here, is an example of what Grüner au naturel can be, and it is a transcending one. Pairs well with weeknights and an array of green vegetables kissed on the grill (kale, zucchinis, cabbage, beans, brocoli, et al). -Emily Campeau
This is a truly great interpretation of Grüner Veltliner, which could challenge anything you thought you knew about this grape. Grüner is the most famous autochthonous grape from Austria, and is certainly the one most associated with the country on the international market. It is planted on more than 14,000ha, which is 31% of the total acreage. Depending on where it is planted and when it is harvested, it shows significant differences in style. Wines range from light and vivacious, to the very, very ripe ones more common in the Wachau-Kremstal-Kamptal trifecta of wine regions, where Grüner is king.
The vines for this Joiseph bottling are coming from a single site, but because it is voluntarily declassified from the Leithaberg DAC (the DAC system in Austria is not a very inclusive club, but that’s a whole other story), you can now understand why the label has a little hangman game printed on the back label. This Grüner comes from poorer soils of limestone up in the Leitha Hills, on one of their coolest sites. This explains the tension on the palate, that keeps reeling us in for more. It was made with a bit of pre-soaking of the grapes for 48 hours, prior to pressing (to extract more juice and have better results when pressing) and then aged in old wood. I recommend a decanting of this wine, as it has so much more to offer with oxygen and time. We drank it over a few days and it kept on giving with the ripe fruit, the nuttiness, the controlled oxidative aromas, all tuned up by the grip of acidity and dare I say it…mineral character. This wine would easily age 5 to 10 years if you have the patience. If you come with a pre-defined image of what Grüner should taste like, it might leave you in a shock. But come in with an open heart, and you’ll leave with a blown mind. Root vegetables, creamy dips or sauces, hard cheeses, roasted nuts: all potential friends with Altenberg. Some roasted birds too, or even aged pork, with great umami flavors. -Emily Campeau
The 2019 Piroska is a blend of Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, and other red and white grapes. The Pinot comes the Lange Ohn vineyard with southern exposure and stony soils. The Zweigelt is taken from the Trift vineyard, also southern facing, but with generally finer, calcareous soils. The rest of the blend comes from a vineyard of mixed vines, though it is known to be planted with a large number of Blaufrankisch vines. This vineyard, named Obersatz, is on relatively flat ground. The wine is unfined and unfiltered. In the glass, it is a deep red in color. The aromas are snappy, like intensely mineral earth and cold, crisp red and black cherry. A trim, clean and articulated nose. On the palate, the wine has red cherry, dark stones, and a touch of herbaceous birch root. In addition, there is a wonderful flavor of blood orange, fruit and peel. When first opened, there is a pleasant mineral tingle on then tongue. Otherwise, the mouthfeel is full, ripe with refreshing fruit. The finish is long and earthy. Dynamic and tasty bottle. David Hatzopoulos
The name of this wine was intended to be Blaufränkisch Forever, but it could easily become anyone’s best friend, for that it will please a very large variety of gatherings. Whether you bring it for dinner at your parent’s house or BBQ with friends as the summer fades out, it will spark joy anywhere it lands. Made of 100% Blaufränkisch, with 50% whole bunches that were covered with de-stemmed mash. It was barely touched during fermentation, only enough to keep the cap wet, and let the extraction happen slowly and steadily. When it was lightly punched down once in a while, it was done gently, by hand. The result is pretty astonishing. While it delivers the undeniable character of the Blaufränkisch grape — dark juicy fruits, cooking herbs like rosemary and thyme, black olive and five-spice, earthiness tied up with a sharp backbone of acidity — it remains playful in its structure. The tannins are silky and integrated, the ripeness is comforting and shows no signs of heaviness. I don’t know how many more words I can use to describe the only one that seems necessary here : balance. This wine is just simply harmonious. And if you don’t already know this amazing well-kept secret : Blaufränkisch is a wonderful candidate for aging in general, and BFF will refine even more if you have the courage to lay it down. It paired amazingly with an al fresco dinner made of a vegetable tart and green beans with pesto. GREAT pizza wine option here, too. It will complement dishes with tomato sauce with its vivacious acidity, lasagna comes to mind, or eggplant parmigiana. -Emily Campeau
It’s inky, dark and purple, smells like warm rocks, dusty countryside road, dried flowers, smoky ribs, just picked blackberries, like a dark forest at night, scary and complex, yet incredibly peaceful. Could this be Zweigelt? Most people will tell you that this is hard to believe. Although it is Austria’s most planted red grape, it is sometimes snubbed and/or described as pedestrian. It was crossed by a breeder, Dr. Zweigelt, who was later found to be a strong nazi representative, and even if he was an important figure of viticultural research, his name is stained since then (There is a fascinating article about it written by Valerie Kathawala, which can be found on her site or on grapecollective.com). Ironically, the popularity of the variety picked up after WWII. The grape is a very important part of the total acreage in Austria with 14% of the holdings nowadays. It is a cross between Blaufränkisch and Sankt Laurent, and has been adopted because of his qualities of reaching maturity fairly early, good crop yielding and its overall hardiness. It has a very chameleon profile that can transform into a vast array of styles, which also plays in its favor. There are two DACs devoted to the grape in Austria, which are Carnuntum and Neusiedl, who have been working really hard to push its reputation forward, with some good results. Despite the shady past of its creator — which the grape isn’t responsible for — it is omnipresent in various part of the country. I am a big fan of this grape in Austria and Central Europe, but also in Quebec where I am from, a surprisingly great place to grow it (early budder and ripener, that’s why). When vinified with care and love, it can give a life to unforgettable wines.
Very versatile, Zweigelt can also wear a suit tailored with seriousness when farmed in dry and warm conditions.. Tannenberg is a powerful vineyard rooted in pure schist, and this intensity translates in the glass. Even with the moderate alcohol, you can still smell quickly that you are in the presence of a beast. Luka made this wine with 100% whole clusters, that were foot treaded. The extraction was gentle as with the BFF, just some gentle cap wetting for three weeks before pressing and aging in old wood. While it retains a lightness of heart, with a nice punchy acidity that hits you in the back of the palate, this is a very ample wine, a rabbit hole of layers, one that feels good to fall into. I recommend decanting, and enjoying after a short wait, which will give it time to open fully. Its power and structure will make it a great asset on any table where smoky meat (RIBS! BRISKET!) could resonate with the smokiness also present in the wine. A dish with mushrooms would also be a great idea, for a vegetarian option, like a pasta or just simply sauteed. A ragout of wild game, like boar or venison, would be a treat with it during hunting season. -Emily Campeau