For Meinklang, A Harvesting Machine Is Just A Tool
A chat with Meinklang's Werner Michlits on the famed biodynamic Burgenland estate's decision to conduct machine harvesting.
Werner Michlits is the executive face of Meinklang, the 2500ha biodynamic mixed-agricultural estate on the Austrian-Hungarian border that he runs with his wife Angela (who handles winemaking from the estate’s 80ha of vineyards) and his brothers Hannes and Lucas. (Also prominent in the Meinklang enterprise is the family’s managing director, Niklas Peltzer.)
The Michlits’ parents began practicing organic agriculture on what was then just 60ha of farmland in the late 1980s, and embraced biodynamics in 2001, achieving certification in 2003. This followed a period of rapid expansion at the estate, as the end of Communism in nearby Hungary in 1989 gave rise to a period of privatization in which vast stretches of forest and farmland became available for purchase. Today Meinklang’s farm operation extends on both sides of the Austrian-Hungarian border, although their winemaking is concentrated almost entirely on the Austrian side.
Celebrated as much for its ambitiously-scaled biodynamic agriculture as for the Michlits’ influential embrace of natural wine styles and aesthetics, Meinklang has seen a rise to near-ubiquity in many young natural wine markets over the last decade, thanks to the wines’ killer combination of juicy lightness, low sulfite addition, and gentle pricing. In the context of a breakfast event held in May at the Meinklang estate, I spoke to Werner Michlits about his family’s controversial decision to begin machine harvesting, a practice that remains reviled within the natural wine world at large.
WERNER MICHLITS OF MEINKLANG: AN INTERVIEW
The following interview was conducted at the Meinklang estate on May 19th, 2023. It has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Today Meinklang is known for its impressive scale of biodynamic agriculture. How big was the farm when it started?