Wines with a strong sense of self
Willi Bründlmayer took over his parents' wine business in Langenlois, Lower Austria, in 1981 - just four years before the anti-freeze scandal. But when it hit, his wines were quickly cleared: "All the wines which were OK had a harder time before the scandal because they were more expensive - but after the scandal people realised they were expensive for a reason," he says. "It sounds bad but it was a big boost, business-wise."
Bründlmayer started exporting in the early nineties around the time Austria joined the EU, thinking the market would be flooded with imported wines. But remarkably, Austrians continued drinking 90% Austrian wine, while he built up his business abroad.
"The English market is very interesting," says Bründlmayer. "I like it because there are wines from all over the world, great restaurants, wine shops and agents. There is a very high level of professionali sm in the wine trade."
His wines, centred around flagship spicy Grüner Veltliner but also including some excellent Rieslings, are fresh and zesty with plenty of minerality from the stony terraces most are grown on. Vines are trained close to the ground to pick up reflected heat, giving them ripe primary fruit flavours.
"Wine should be about the place of origin, the vintage, the grape variety and that's it," says Bründlmayer. "If the vintage was cooler, it should taste cooler - we never deacidify or chaptalise, so when we have a very hot year like 2003 the wine can be powerful and hot, heavy and baroque. It should taste the way it is."
UK importer: Richards Walford