The vineyard as a biotope. In the vineyards, among protected natural ponds, precious cover crops and wild herbs grow around our vines: sweet-clover, vetches, red clover and wild grasses provide a habitat for soil organisms and beneficial organisms. The deep roots loosen the ground, forming the basis for healthy vines. At the same time, cover crops act as a natural competitor for the vines – gentle and deliberate competition is good for the development of aromas and phenols in the grapes.
We fertilise our vineyards with the compost we produce ourselves on the farm, using sheep, cow and horse manure, pomace, green waste and occasionally also rock dust.
Robust and healthy vines can only grow in soil which is alive, producing completely individual wines full of character.
Our aim is to focus on the original meaning of the term “Wein-Garten” (the German word for vineyard which contains the words “wine” and “garden”) by creating a true garden with fruit, vegetables, vines and herbs. Even stinging nettles and thistles are now welcome to grow rampant among the vines – they are important sources of food for many insects. Some species of caterpillar and butterfly cannot survive without them. Numerous beetles, flies and gnats use thistles to lay their larvae. These plants are often demonised as “weeds” by many farmers, but they create precious habitats where butterflies and songbirds find their home in the summer. They make humus formation possible and restore harmony in the vines’ habitat. However, not only the vines benefit from this new Garden of Eden. We are also delighted to be able to bring home fruit and vegetables from our vineyards after a long day’s work. Working among blossoming trees and flowers makes us happy.
Our Garden of Eden
Vine after vine, all lined up on the bare ground like soldiers at roll-call: one-dimensional pictures like these have characterised vineyard landscapes for centuries, and have become the norm. We, however, want to go in a new direction. On the largest continuous vineyard area of 10 ha, we created 27 eco-islands with around 800m2. These islands form giant water droplet shapes and are spread out over several rows of vines, breaking up the monotony of the vineyard’s architecture.
The centre of each island is formed by one fruit tree including almond, plum and quince trees. Tall apple trees also made the list as they provide habitats for birds, small mammals and insects. Field mice, shrews, hedgehogs, stone martens and rare garden dormice live around the fruit trees.
At Meinklang, we also plant black elderberry bushes as their fruit feeds more than 62 bird species. With a total of more than 300 species, the bushy thicket, shrubs, herbs, vegetables and flowers complete these plant oases.
Insect hotels are closing
In organic wine farming, the common practice of sowing cover crops, building nesting boxes and so-called insect hotels are steps in the right direction, but we would like to take things a bit further. Our aim is to create natural and stable habitats for our vines’ co-habitants. This is how wine plantations become vineyards.
Freedom in the vineyards. The Grauburgunder (or Pinot Gris) vines present an exceptional challenge for us. We choose not to prune the vines, giving them the total freedom to grow and climb according to the vines’ basic instincts.
The vines are able to develop completely freely according to their metabolism. We no longer disturb them by pruning them back, and they regulate their yield themselves. This leads to an above-average amount of grapes to ripen as very small berries, yielding a harvest which is smaller than usual as a result.
The significant advantage of this is that the small berries have a higher skin-to-pulp ratio, therefore also providing more aroma, extract and complexity in the wine. And because the vineyard looks completely unkempt, we named it “Graupert”– a word from the Burgenland dialect which older people use to describe someone slightly scruffy-looking.