Nearly nobody knows this: the Kehlberg – and along with it the city of Graz – has a longstanding affiliation with viticulture. Wine production in Graz was officially documented as early as 1140, when Margrave Gunther von Sanntel deeded vineyards on the Grazer Kehlberg to Admont Abbey. In 1820, a cadastral survey was adopted that documented tracts of vines growing in all twenty-three suburban districts of the city. The largest number of vineyards was found on the hillsides at the western border of the Grazer Fields. More than 190 hectares within the city limits were planted to the vine – thirty-seven of these alone on the Kehlberg.
Then came wars, cheap competition and urban sprawl – plus the steady onward march of industrialisation offering employment opportunities more attractive than toil on steep vineyard sites. Next, add sloppy cultivation of the parcels and the untenable character of winemaking as a part-time enterprise… all these factors combined and contributed to the disappearance of Graz’s vineyards from face of the city map. Only the best site in the city could hold our a bit longer, and that was the Kehlberg.
At the start of the 20th century, the Kehlberg was well known as ‘Little Grinzing’ (named after the famous wine village on the northern reaches of Vienna’s city limits), and a favourite weekend retreat for residents of Graz, who enjoyed the local wine in the many rustic taverns as well as the lovely panoramic views. Then, all viticulture here came to a standstill. The last wine tavern shut its doors in 1967, and there remained only a few patches of vines cultivated by home-winemakers. The fact of the matter that fabulous wine was once produced on the Kehlberg vanished from public consciousness and was forgotten.
‘In Graz there is a tradition of viticulture that reaches back hundreds of years. But it has unfortunately vanished in recent decades. Hannes Sabathi is connecting to an ancient tradition with his Grazer City Wines, and I am simply delighted.’
The mayor of Graz, Siegfried Nagl, commenting on current viticultural developments in his city.
The metamorphosis of the Kehlberg during the past five years did not go unnoticed by nature. On the newly cleared hillsides, the extremely rare plant Osterluzei (English, ‘birthwort’, Latin Aristolochia clematitis) reclaimed its ancestral habitat and flourished once more. And with the clematitis came the even more rare butterfly, the Osterluzei-Falter. The caterpillar that grows into this particular butterfly nourishes itself solely from the clemetatis. The presence of these specialists on the Grazer Kehlberg provides a clear indication of the delicate and harmonious ecological balance that flourishes on these hillsides. This interconnectedness between the butterfly and the vineyard made it a natural choice for naming the Grazer City Wine from Hans Sabathi, the (F)alter ego of the South Styrian winegrower.
The meagre dolomite rock of the Kehlberg leaves a deep impression upon the character of the wine, and imparts an unmistakeable cool spiciness to it, while thermal conditions in the microclimate supply the wine with its charming and velvety notes. The Grazer city wines show strong backbone, with an elegant and precise sense of expression and lovely mineral length. They virtually dance on the palate, exhibiting a vigorous, vibrant, fresh and lively nature.
The Gelber Muskateller 2017 is quite striking for its marvellous aromas of orange rind; the wine shows a lively and refreshing acidity, but has plenty of body and texture as well, ending in a powerful finish.
The Sauvignon Blanc 2017 exudes buoyant bell pepper aromas. On the palate the wine is spicy and juicy, travelling down the gullet with a long and mineral-driven finish.
The Grazer City Wines are available for € 14.50 (Gelber Muskateller) and
€ 17.40 (Sauvignon Blanc) at www.falterego.at.