This Article Contains
Armin Tement, his wife Monika and brother Stefan
One grape - Sauvignon Blanc. One vineyard - Ciringa (Zieregg in German). Three expressions - purity.
Three competing weather patterns converge in Styria.
- Wet, warm air from the mediterranean in the south. Very high precipitation annually and all the disease pressure to go with it.
- Hot, dry air from across the Pannonian plane to the east. Helps with ripening, concentration and disease pressure.
- Cold breezes from the west and north flow down the alps, ensuring bright acidity and freshness in all the wines.
- Ciringa/Zieregg: Arguably the best Grand Cru site in Styria/Štajerska, no matter which side of the border you are on. In fact, the border runs directly down the middle of Zieregg cutting it in half. It has a huge variance in elevation from feet to 1,470 feet. The temperature drops every 300 feet or so, making ripening times different along its face. This is a south-facing slope and covered in coral limestone, similar to that of Sancerre, Chablis and Champagne, but about 200 million years younger. On top of that are layers of marl (like in Tuscany) and clay, giving different dimensions to the Sauvignon Blanc. Wines are about as perfect as they come, combining elegance, finesse, intensity, concentration, and length.
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Far from its home in the Loire Valley, Sauvignon Blanc has found a foothold in the rolling limestone hills of Styria with a few vineyards in Burgenland and the Niederösterreich (Lower Austria).
- Globally, consumers have divided this aromatic variety into two distinct styles: Sancerre and New Zealand.
- But what if I told you, there is more this grape can do? The loud varietal characters are present but are balanced with a clear sense of place, not piercingly green, or passion fruit laden, but delicate and mineral driven.
- Certified by both Demeter and Respekt in 2022
- Farmed Organically since 2005
- Parcels are harvested separately in the early morning
- Everything vinified on its own
- 12-36 hour skin contact
- No sulfur during vinification
- Fermented with wild yeasts in barrel
- Can take as little as 7 days, up to 3 months
- Sometimes they stop with the winter and restart in the spring
- No temperature control, but the cellar is cold
- Malolactic fermentation happens in the the spring or summer
- First racking before the next harvest
- Barrels are made by a local cooper with local wood
- Seasoned 7-10 years before cooperage
- 700-4,000L sizes
- Entry level wine spends 1 full year on full lees in oak, then 1 year fine lees in stainless steel
- Breg Reserve are the three best casks allowed to age a 2nd year on the full lees, then another year in stainless steel.
- Pruh is a single parcel of pure limestone soil, single cask in the best years. The 2015 spent 66 months on lees.
- Deserto is 20% botrytis grapes, fermented in barrel, 60 g/l RS and 10TA - BA meets a Sauternes
- No fining, no filtering
Welcome to Tement’s other half.
Manfred Tement was the first of his kind, favoring Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon over Welschriesling. Before he started in 1986 this was an innocuous, bulk wine region, with most wine being consumed by the locals at the charming Heurigen and Budenshank (wine taverns) spread across the beautiful countryside. His commitment to quality took 5 years for anyone to notice, at which point a German wine magazine declared Tement to make the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc.
That’s a lot of praise to live up to, but the family has not tired from always raising the bar and keeping their much deserved attention. Manfred’s sons Armin and Stefan have taken on the task with gusto. Farming has been a huge priority, not only hand harvesting, but conversion to organics and now biodynamics. Ask any farmer in the Finger Lakes, Bordeaux or Galicia, all very wet regions, about the difficulties or organic farming and most will tell you it's just impossible. Especially on 80 hectares in a remote region rife with super steep slopes. They persevere.
In the winery they’ve pulled everything back from their father’s day. Ripeness levels, skin maceration, new oak, temperature control, filtering and sulfur. Today these are as pure an expression of place over winemaking as one can get.
Why aren’t they more famous here? My theory is two fold. Austrian wines in general do not get the attention they deserve. This may be a hold over from the 1984 wine scandal (happened in a totally different region), or assumptions of over ripe-styles based on now outdated Parker years, or just a general aversion to German words and bottles.
The second half is Styrian wine is expensive and they need champions. These are difficult, remote terrains to work and the thirsty locals could consume everything, if we let them, meaning it's often more economical to sell domestically.
When Armin came on board they purchased the other half of Zieregg, also called Ciringa in Slovenian and decided to keep the Slovenian wines under their own name. Nearly everything is the same, except Armin makes these wines to his own vision and is not beholden to the legacy of his father. These are some of the very best Sauvignon Blanc’s for the money, from anywhere in the world.
Sauvignon Blancs unlike any we have tasted; they are deep, resonant wines that somehow defy gravity.