Straka, which means Magpie, is a small family estate located in the Eisenberg district of Burgenland, Austria. It has been run by Tom Straka since 2008. Tom farms organically and practices minimal intervention in the cellar. Located on the last foothill of the Alps, in Rechnitz, his primary focus is Welschriesling, the main indigenous grape of the area. His best vineyard site is Pratner (he farms all but 4 rows of it) which is very densely planted old vines dating from 1932.
Since taking over the family winery, Tom has slowly expanded their vineyard holdings from 3-7 hectares and converted to organic farming. The estate was established by his family in the 18th century when they moved to the area from Bohemia. In the 1950s they were the first family in the area to start a Heuriger or Buschenschank (wine tavern) so that people could come and eat while sampling their wines. It proved a very successful model for them and today, their Buschenschank remains a staple of the area while most others have closed. It remains a great way for many people to try their wines.
Tom is huge advocate of Welschriesling which he says can pair with anything if grown properly. Welschriesling is an old indigenous grape perfectly suited to the geography of this rare geological area. Rechnitz sits 360 m above sea level on the slopes of the Geschriebenstein, the highest mountain in the Burgenland. The vineyards climb as high as 500m and are known for their unique geological soils -- a combination of crystalline schist and magmatic deposits that can only be found in 3 other places in the world. It is a very windy and dry area which cools off considerably at night. This results in very few pests, no need for herbicide or any other treatments and crisp clear mineral-driven wines. The parentage of Welschriesling is not known (it is not related to Rhine Riesling) and is thought to be a most closely related to Elbling, originating in Northern Italy and Croatia along the Danube and typically shows good acidity and fruit with notes of lemon, salt and green apple.
For one and a half decades Thomas Straka has been working with organic waste and cattle manure, but very little compost. "I apply some phosphor from time to time as fertilizer, and also a little chalk, because without it the vines would suffer malnutrition. But all in all I don't have to interfere much in the vineyards." Green cover like vetch between the rows contribute nitrogen to the soil. He lets them grow rather high. "Because we do little work with tractors and most by hand, our soils are nearly uncompressed and rich in humus. And as our soils are meagre and constantly wind-blown, we have almost no problems with fungal diseases." The biggest threat in Rechnitz is and always has been drought. "Today the only things I do in the cellar are a clarification with bentonite and addition of neutral yeasts if necessary."
Over time Tom has been expanding their holdings and adding more wines to their lineup. This is a slow and arduous process due to the nature of the small agricultural parcels in the area which have been divvied up over generations because of historic inheritance laws. Currently, in addition to Welschriesling he produces Weissburgunder, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Blaufrankish and a red and white blend under the name Stratos (a combination of Straka and Tom).