Christian Strohmeier isn’t directly related to the rather more well known Franz Strohmeier but just to add to the confusion, the two winemakers live not only in the same Austrian wine region (Western Styria) but actually within the boundaries of the same village (St. Stefan ob Stainz). Furthermore Christian has just acquired some of Franz’s vineyards in nearby Bad Gams. Christian is the winemaker at his family’s Biohof Herrgott, a small estate which has been practising organic viticulture for years, and since 2016 is Demeter certified into the bargain.
Maybe that doesn’t sound so unusual these days, but it is far from common in Western Styria. This sub-region specialises in Schilcher and its sparkling cousin Schilchersekt – a refreshing rosé wine made from the high acid Blauer Wildbacher variety. Schilcher hasn’t yet taken the world by storm, and most wineries in the area are straightforward affairs, making serviceable if conventional wines that get scant attention outside Austria. Organics and biodynamics have made little impact in a region where wines generally don’t fetch high prices, and most growers perhaps find it hard to see the value in making their production more labour-intensive than it already is.
It’s therefore extremely heartening to see Herrgott strengthening the ranks of biodynamic, environmentally-aware growers. That said, tasting at this year’s VieVinum, I was less excited about Christian’s Schilchersekt than I was about a strange looking 500ml bottle on his tasting table.
Sofrei Gelb 2015 is Christian’s eponymous orange wine, and it is a beast. Made from Chardonnay with three months of skin contact, it reminded me of Ribolla Gialla from the Collio or Slovenian Brda. Spices, dried herbs and twigs are the flavour focus rather than fruit, but the tight, bright acidity and seriously crunchy structure make it quite thrilling. No sulphites were added, yet Sofrei is brilliantly pure and clean. This is a really exciting, full-on orange experience, no namby-pambying around, and yet no lack of balance or elegance.
I hope he takes a leaf out of Radikon’s book and also starts bottling it in litre bottles, as 500ml will seem tantalisingly little for such a delicious effort.
As far as I’m aware Herrgott’s wines are not yet available outside Austria. I will update this post as and when I know more.