Gerhard Pittnauer took on the running of his family estate at the tender age of 18 and has learned on the job. Being self-taught has clearly done him no harm and he is increasingly recognised for the high quality of his wines.
The estate can be found at Gols in Burgenland, at the eastern extremity of Austria where it borders Hungary. Close by is the vast Neusiedlersee, a huge shallow lake that dominates the landscape and provides unique conditions for some of Austria's finest wines, moderating the heat of long summer days and the cold of a Central European winter.
Gerhard runs the estate with his wife Brigitte, and they farm along biodynamic principles, eschewing chemicals and utilising herbal sprays for the health of the soil, and they now use ambient yeasts rather than cultured ones in the fermentation. The Pittnauers specialise in St. Laurent, a dark-skinned aromatic red variety with similarities to pinot noir, and pinot noir itself but also make increasingly impressive zweigelt, blaufränkisch and chardonnay.
In 2001 they moved into a newly built winery in the middle of their vines, enabling them to get the fruit harvested and vinified in as fresh a condition as possible. In hot vintages the Pittnauers will even hire refrigerated trucks in order to cool the grapes before vinification.
The aim of the change to biodynamics, the use of natural yeasts and the care and attention given to the vines and the fruit is the expression of the terroir. As far as Gerhard is concerned that is his job and it is clear to anyone who tastes his wines that he has taught himself to do it extremely well.