Wine producer Markus Kirnbauer’s wardrobe is as varied as his job. We talked about what matters to him at the moment, the values he maintains at his winery K+K Kirnbauer and who he has to turn away.
Interview: Nina Prehofer
Markus Kirnbauer, what’s the current situation for wine producers?
Markus Kirnbauer: Markus Kirnbauer: A great many wine producers have unfortunately seen a drop in sales due to the downturn in the hospitality and tourism industries. The hotels have been buying considerably less, so the market is flooded with promotions where wine is almost being thrown out the door.
And how is it for you?
MK: We haven’t been affected. There are many reasons for that. We don’t want to be forced into having to go down that path – the value of our brand and our commitment to winemaking is much too important. We’ve also entered into distribution partnerships, meaning even in times like these, we don’t deal with the food retail industry. For us, the partnership with the hospitality industry also means that we help to share the burden of the downturn to the benefit of the value of our product.
What constitutes value in a good partnership?
MK: Where long and complex contracts are required in order to get a partnership up and running, there’s got to be something wrong.
We’re focused on handshake quality, trust, mutual respect and benefit, and standing together in bad times as well as good.
This year is extremely challenging, but we’re sticking with our partners and not looking for alternative distribution channels. And all that despite the fact that buyers from the food retail industry are knocking at our door every week!
How is the value of wine doing?
MK: When we see our wines appearing in an online shop on the grey market, we buy it back ourselves – purely to preserve the value of the wine. After all, the value of the wine constitutes the primary lifeblood of the wine producer.
A good wine is like a work of art, a special piece of music – it starts to take shape in your head before it becomes a reality.
Before we even harvest the grapes, we already have the wine sorted in our heads. It’s the body of thought and the philosophy, the optimum location of the vineyard, the right grape variety and the vines that make up the value of the wine. Then of course we think about the right price-enjoyment ratio, as we call it.
How important is appreciation in the production of wine?
MK: We invest a huge amount in each individual grape, because our yield is lower than most. You could say we spoil the grapes at the winery.
You’re fully devoted to sustainable cultivation. What impact does that have in terms of the earth, the work in the cellars and ultimately the wine?
MK: Sustainability starts with the choice of grape and the set-up of the vineyard. It’s also about the ecosystem of the vineyard, in the sense that we interfere as little as possible. That’s why we try to complete as many processing stages as possible at the same time, we don’t have any air conditioning and we’re conscious of our social responsibility towards our employees. For us, sustainability is a holistic approach to grape processing that everyone should benefit from – the environment, the earth, the wine, people. For the last two years, we’ve also been cultivating organically.
How adventurous are you in your wine production?
MK: You always have to sail close to the wind in order to produce the best wine. For us in the Blaufränkischland wine producing area, every vintage is different. As a consequence, every day we’re experimenting and guessing what’s best for the year and the current wine. The 2018, 2019 and 2020 vintages are absolutely brilliant – climate change has really contributed to the maturity of our grapes.
The job of a wine producer is varied. What are your favourite tasks?
MK: The variety offers enormous advantages because you can’t get bored of any single task. Added to that, anything from wellies to the finest threads passes as possible work attire.
What makes your wines distinctive?
MK: The varied nose of the fruit, the spice and the clarity, which continues on the palate, then follows into a long finish.
It’s the overall harmony that it creates.
Markus Kirnbauer is a winemaker and manager of the Weingut K+K Kirnbauer winery in Blaufränkischland, in the Burgenland region of eastern Austria. The grapes for his wine come from all of the best vineyards in the town of Deutschkreutz, and are then sorted three times before they make it to fermentation. The wines are aged in selected Barrique barrels and are certified sustainable. The Das Phantom cuvée is considered an iconic wine in Austria.