Josef “Pepi” Umathum is one of Austria's best known producers. In the Burgenland growing district called Neusiedlersee (Lake Neusiedl), he counts as one of the great champions of the traditional Austrian grape varieties: Zweigelt, St Laurent and Blaufränkisch account for 85% of his plantations, while Welschriesling, Roter Traminer, extremely rare Gelber Traminer, and the unusual ancient Lindenblättriger round them out.
Umathum farms sixty hectares, mostly in the Seewinkel community of Frauenkirchen, but also across the lake in Jois. His vineyards exhibit varied soils—limestone, loam, slate and silicates—which are planted to the most appropriate varieties. Umathum’s most renowned parcels are the vineyards Hallebühl, Vom Stein and Haideboden in Frauenkirchen—but in Jois, Josef has planted his pinot noir under the terraces walled with volcanic stone, ancient terraced vineyards that Umathum has painstakingly restored and planted with Blaufränkisch, which also favors this specific minerality in a most expressive manner. These terraced vineyards are quite unique for Burgenland—among those traditionally most highly prized, they were first officially mentioned in the year 1214 as property of the Hungarian royal house.
Umathum has embraced the intricacies and harmonies of biodynamic viticulture, and for most of his wines—all hand-harvested—he prefers to use large barrels of native Austrian oak, which underscores the clear fruit aromatics of the wines. Some of the high-toned single vineyard bottlings are matured in smaller oak barrels and barriques, and are first released three years after the vintage. Years of experience drinking Burgenland reds have taught us that Pepi Umathum’s entry-level Zweigelt is second to none.