This is a truly exciting producer. Individuality, world-class quality and outstanding potential for patient cellarage and all from a less well-known region…
After my interest was piqued by a glowing set of reviews from the Wine Advocate’s Stephen Reinhardt, I read up on this Austrian estate and ordered an extensive set of samples, so that I could see if the wines of Weingut Tement lived up to their billing. Frankly, I was stunned; the range from top to bottom has a ring of quality about it that I seldom encounter – there was not a single underperforming wine, irrespective of vintage or level. Dedicated viticulture and skilled winemaking result in wines of fine purity and persistence; I could quite easily endorse the entry wines from this range as they revealed qualities above their price point. The real magic, however, starts further upstream.
Any wine critic who makes a statement as bold as the following from Stephen Reinhardt must be sure of their facts: ‘I don’t see anybody else producing wine on this level in Austria’. In the same article he states that Weingut Tement is ‘Austria’s number one wine producer’, adding that it had been ‘one of the country’s finest wine addresses already during the 1990s and 2000s’ yet ‘the son has pushed the limits even farther.’
I haven’t tasted widely in Austria, something which, after my tasting of the Tement range, I am keen to rectify.
Weingut Tement is situated in southern Austria towards the Slovenian border in a region known as Südsteiermark (South Styria). Styria is one of the three main regions for wine production in Austria and half of its production comes from South Styria – the region towards the Slovenian border – though it extends to less than 2,500 hectares. You will not find Grüner Veltliner or Riesling dominating wine production here, but rather Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (the local name for Chardonnay).
The Tement winery itself lies on a small plateau above the Zieregg vineyard, affording dramatic views into neighbouring Slovenia. Interestingly, the Tement family also own Domaine Ciringa over the Slovenian border, where they produce wines from the continuation of the Zieregg vineyard, ‘Ciringa’ in Slovenian. Today, it is brothers Armin and Stefan who run the estate, together with their father Manfred. All their holdings are cultivated organically and both estates were certified organic in 2018 after a lengthy conversion process – they have been part of the Demeter Association since 2022. Wines in South Styria are classified into three tiers: regional or entry level wines, then village wines and at the top, single vineyard wines from Erste Lage (essentially Premier Cru) and Grosse Lage (Grand Cru). The leading Grand Cru is undoubtedly Zieregg, home to outstanding Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay (Morillon). The greatest sites within their vineyard holdings are located high up, facing south-east or south-west.
The wines of Tement are remarkably pure and very detailed; such results do not come about without great care and attention. Yields are kept low, only indigenous yeasts are used for fermentation and the leading wines are fermented and then aged in large old oak foudre for up to 20 months. Minimal sulphur is employed, and only at bottling, and all the wines are bottled with a glass stopper so there is no impact from any defective corks. Everything is about revealing the terroir as clearly as possible, and it is that clarity that renders this range so compelling. These are truly outstanding wines.
For this offer, I am focusing on two wines, one Morillon and one Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon comes from the ‘Grand Cru’ of Zieregg, mentioned above, a remarkably steep vineyard ranging from 330-490 metres with a south/south-west exposure. The soils here are very specific, as the area was covered by an ocean 15 million years ago and benefits from a coralline limestone-based soil – there is no denying the distinctive mineral quality in the resultant wine. The Morillon comes from the ‘Premier Cru’ of Ried Sulz, which is a well-protected, warmer site with loamy, chalk and marl soils, known locally as Opok. At its highest point, Sulz stretches to 490 metres in altitude.