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Steiermark / Styria, Austria

Alpine winemakers have always sat at the frontier, literally and figuratively. Though winemaking in much of the Alps pre-dates the Romans, it has always been done at the intersection of challenging climate, harsh terrain, and shifting political borders, leading to a terroir that seems to breed resilience.

Schloss Kapfenstein, near Austria’s border with Slovenia, is one such place. Reminiscent of the numerous castles and fortifications one sees throughout Alpine wine regions – whether in Italy’s Südtirol, Switzerland’s Wallis, or in this borderland of Austria – this place stands as a metaphor of Alpine winemaking. The castle was built atop a volcanic rock of basalt tuff, and has stood since the 11th century, serving as a defense against invading Hungarians, Ottomans, and other regional powers. Having changed hands numerous times in its nearly thousand years, the castle and its grounds have been in the Winkler-Hermaden family since 1916.

Following World War II, the family slowly rebuilt and restored the plundered castle, first adding a Buschenschank (wine tavern) in the late 1940s, then a fine restaurant and lodge in the 1960s. Meanwhile the 4 hectares of vineyard have expanded to 37 today, both high on the volcanic crown as well as in the mixed soils of the flanks below. The family makes 30 wines of the 21 varieties in their vineyards, and continues to innovate with plantings of fungus-resistant PiWi varieties as they prepare yet again for a changing climate future.

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