Spotlight on: Pfaffl
A family affair in Austria
Just thirty minutes north of Vienna, in the town of Stetten, is one of the most well-recognised names in the Austrian wine business, Weingut Pfaffl. The story of Pfaffl began in 1978, when Roman Pfaffl, affectionately known as Mr. Veltliner due to his pioneering role in popularisng Grüner Veltliner, set about transforming a simple two-acre farm with pigs, cows and cereals into a winery.
Today, the winery stretches out over 270 acres, with parcels of vines embedded like tiny islands between fields, forests and villages, each with their own soil type and microclimate. From the light and playful to the concentrated and powerful, each wine produced has its own character and expresses a unique terroir.
Second generation siblings – Heidi and her brother Roman – are now at the helm of the family winery, and are still deeply rooted in their homeland, southern Weinviertel. The Pfaffls know their greatest strength – family unity – and together they carry the best of Weinviertel out into the world. The cooperation between generations is utterly authentic; everyone has their rightful role to play. Roman Josef Pfaffl is responsible for the wines and has the final word in the cellar. His father Roman Pfaffl applies his experience and intuition in the vineyard. Sister Heide Fischer takes charge of marketing and sales, while her mother Adelheid Pfaffl makes the winery a cheerful home and looks after the next generation.
Pfaffl wines have brought people pleasure for generations – and not just Pfaffl aficionados, but the vintners themselves – they’re the first to confess they really do love their jobs.
In the field and in the cellar
If there’s one thing the family is sure of, it’s that quality grows in the vineyard – their pride and joy. Much of the family’s work is about handcraft, which is something that sits at the core of their philosophy. They drive the tractor as little as possible in the vineyard to avoid compacting the soils, and keep exhaust emissions to a minimum. This meticulous care and attention in the vineyard is transferred through to the cellar, where they don’t shy away from other cost or effort. Perfect hygiene, painstaking temperature control, optimal humidity, minimal pumping and protective handling all ensure that superb quality in the vineyards is conveyed directly to the bottle.
The Pfaffls specialise in dry white wines, which account for some 70% of their production; however, their reds are on the rise. Grüner Veltliner is the most beloved grape variety of the Pfaffl family. They use it to produce elegant wines in a range of styles, from fresh and fruity to opulent and complex, but never once losing the peppery spice quality typically associated with the variety.
Heide Pfaffl: “Grüner Veltliner is a great grape variety. When you harvest it earlier, you have these fruity, lively wines. The later you pick it, the wines become more full-bodied and rich, reminiscent of great Burgundies. It is our goal to show this spectrum.”
Leading the way
In an effort to develop a clearer, more premium identity for Austrian wines abroad, several years ago the country's producers joined forces to introduce a new appellation system, Districtus Austria Controllatus. Pfaffl was an important figure in the creation of the Weinviertel DAC, Austria’s first official wine region for Grüner Veltliner, also Austria’s largest at more than 13,000 hectares.
This pioneering spirit and commitment to innovation and versatility was recognised in 2016, by Wine Enthusiast, when they bestowed Pfaffl with the prestigious title of European Winery of the Year.
Heide has a particular penchant for flowers, but it’s not only in the winery that she expresses this affection. They flutter, buzz and bloom in the vineyard too, but it’s not all just for aesthetics. The more biodiversity there is in the vineyard, the healthier the entire ecosystem. Pfaffl plants specific flowering plants to compete with vigorous grasses and to provide a habitat for helpful insects among the vines.
On the grapevine
Kathrine Larsen MS: “I love the clean and streamlined character of all of Pfaffl’s white wines. Grüner Veltliner Zeisen combines this with varietal features of white pepper and vegetal notes, alongside hints of clean green apples.”
Wine Enthusiast, Anne Krebiehl MW: “The family continues to shape what Weinviertel means and are ambassadors for both for their region and Austria. For these impressive achievements, Wine Enthusiast is pleased to name R & A Pfaffl our 2016 European Winery of the Year.”
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: "Indeed, the Pfaffls continue to polish their reputation as the Weinviertel’s most prestigious estate, and one that can boast a sheer diversity of offerings as well as an ambition with red wine that knows no equal in this vast region.”