5 Questions for Nikolaus Saahs, Winemaker at Weingut Nikolaihof

The top Austrian winemaker on Riesling, food pairings, and his vineyards

The famous Austrian winemaker, Weingut Nikolaihof.

If you're familiar with Austrian wine, you are more than likely familiar with Weingut Nikolaihof. For decades, Nikolaihof has, perhaps unwittingly, been at the forefront of quality wine production in Austria and the world.

Consider the fact that Nikolaihof has been practicing organic viticulture for about 50 years. This was not necessarily due to convictions, but rather was distinctly driven by financial necessity. Nikolaus's father took over the reins of the winery from his grandfather upon his passing in 1960. What had originally been purchased as a family retreat was turned into a business by Herr Saahs, and is now continued by Nikolaus.

In reality, besides the changing of the guard which took place in 1985 when Nikolaus's father retired from the day-to-day operation of the winery, not much has really changed. What was organic farming out of necessity has turned into full-fledged biodynamics with the application of a few tweaks and some treatments. In fact, Nikolaihof has been practicing biodynamics since 1971, making the winery the world's oldest winery practitioner of this form of agriculture.

Other old fashioned practices set Nikolaihof apart from its competition, such as aging wine in ancient oak ovals, often for more than a decade before bottling. These "Vinothek" wines are a look back into an unrealistically perfect past. The hygiene and attention to detail at Nikolaihof are thoroughly modern after all, but they do represent a style of wine production that once was less unusual than it is today.

Whatever the practices, one thing is for sure, the wines of Nikolaihof are excellent. Riesling and Grüner Veltliner make up some 80 percent of their annual production. These are wines that tend to marry the richness of Austria's whites with a transparency and focus that can be riveting. They are delicious on their own but at their core they are food wines, so we are thrilled to have three recipes from the Nikolaihof guest house to pair with the wines.

Before you jump right into the recipes, check out the brief interview with Nikolaus Saahs for some insight into what's going on at chez Nikolaihof these days. Then, check out the delicious recipes paired with some classic Austrian wines.

Click here for the interview.

— Gregory Del Piaz, Snooth