Christoph Neumeister farms 30 hectares of vines spread over numerous steep hillsides around his hometown of Straden, planted at altitudes of 340 to 380 meters above sea level. Soils here are diverse, with volcanic basalt, sandy loam, chalky limestone, and sandstone all influencing the characteristics of the grapes grown on these slopes, most of which exceed 65% in gradient. Vulkanland Steiermark’s climate is mercurial and difficult: cool winds from the Alps clash with warm breezes from the Adriatic Sea to the south and Hungary’s Pannonian plains to the east, bringing lots of rainfall and frequent hailstorms; and the zone’s extremely cold nights—diurnal shifts regularly exceed 20 degrees Celsius during summer—make for a lengthy growing season.
Between the area’s steep slopes, extreme weather conditions, and relatively small share of Austria’s winegrowing spotlight, producing wine here is neither easy nor glorious. Neumeister is one of a dozen wineries in the STK (for “Steiermark”) organization, a tight-knit grower collective that engages in landscape preservation, prioritizes biodiversity, and promotes a sustainable, integrated approach to farming, energy usage, resource management, and social issues.