A Glass Of Wine With Winemaker Fred Loimer

  • By Somm360
  • 23 Apr 2021
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 101
Made possible by
Winemaker Fred Loimer - Credit : courtesy of Loimer

Today sees Somm360 sit down for a discussion about biodynamics with Kamptal Winemaker, and co-founder of respect-BIODYN, Fred Loimer.

Somm360: Please tell us your name and occupation?

Fred Loimer: I am Fred Loimer, a weinbauer (vintner) in Langenlois, Österrreich / Niederösterreich / Kamptal, and founding member of respekt-BIODYN (an association and certifying body for biodynamic viticulture)

Somm360: Please tell us more about your involvement with respekt_BIODYN? How did the association come about?

FL: It started in 2007 after our second year of biodynamic farming at the winery.

Our 12 founding members were based in Austria and Südtirol (Alto Adige). In 2005 some of them had been working with consultant Andrew Lorand, who had been guiding their conversion to biodynamic; first in 2006 without any certification, then 2007 with an organic certification (EU), and by the end of 2007, we all wanted to certify biodynamic.

At that time, we had a different point of view to Demeter Austria. We had more practical farming issues and less anthroposophic ideals (sometimes these come close to being like religion). This was one of the reasons (along with a few others) why we did our own thing.

I was the first chairman of Respekt. Today we have a friendly relationship with Demeter International and Respekt is a member of the Biodynamic Association / Biodynamic Federation - Demeter International (BFDI)

Somm360: And what is the association’s underlying philosophy?

FL: They would be biodynamic principals as they apply exclusively to viticulture, winemaking, and sustainability.

The area of respekt is the German-speaking part of Middle Europe (South Tyrol, Austria, Germany, and soon hopefully Switzerland) as well as surrounding parts that have a German connection.

Members must also must have a good reputation for their natural winemaking and personal approach.

Somm360: What first drew you to biodynamics? And where were you first introduced to the principles of biodynamic viticulture?

FL: I had been thinking about changing my way of farming back in 2003. At this time there was one powerful question: “Is there a way of making wine to get more of the sense of the place and even more individuality in style?”

One of the possible answers was biodynamic farming. So, I started my own research about that and began looking for a consultant. After a few trials I met Dr. Andrew Lorand, a biodynamic consultant from the US, who had worked for Joseph Phelps, and in 2005 for Bürklin Wolf in Germany.

So, my friend Peter Veyder Malberg and I invited him to Austria and after a fascinating day (October 3rd 2005) I introduced him to some colleagues/friends in Austria. In November 2005 we started with two classes to learn about Biodynamic practices. He was the consultant of many producers in Austria for the next three to four years. He also convinced us to do Respekt - biodynamic inspired quality, which was the first name of the association.

Somm360: What are the greatest barriers and challenges facing winegrowers who wish to farm biodynamically in your region?

FL: The greatest barrier is maybe your own brain / head. Changing to biodynamic farming means changing your thoughts and your ways of thinking and living. The problems you will see in the field are easier to handle!

Somm360: And what changes have you seen in your own wines since you began working biodynamically?

FL: For us it was (and still is) an ongoing process. I would not say that there was a particular date when our style changed, although some of our customers see this as somewhere between 2006 to 2008, and of course yes, there have also been changes in our winemaking, not only in the vineyards.

Today we are not pushing to bottle early (you need technology and some treatments for that), we let natural processes run up to the point where we think the wine is stable by itself. So, no enzymes, almost no cultured yeasts, less temperature control, no finings, late and little sulphuring and in more and more cases even no filtration. This brings a balanced wine full of harmony, with individual character and a great expression of place, and everything with lower alcohol levels.

Somm360: Are you dogmatic in your approach to biodynamics? Or do you look at things with a contemporary eye for practicality regarding technology and the like?

FL: I hate dogmatism! It is for people who need rules and guidelines. But, of course there are some rules with respekt-BIODYN. We need that so we are all talking about the same things.

But we are dealing with nature, and nature is the most pragmatic system on earth. If something is not working, nature makes its own trials with mutations, but then if they don’t work out, they will come to their natural end.

We respect this, and I very much try to work in a very transparent and pragmatic way. As an example, I’m fine with the cosmic circle and the moon phases, but if the soil is not in the perfect condition for tillage, but the moon phase is, sorry, my soil comes first!

And smart new technology is always very welcome if it helps us to be even more sustainable.

Somm360: And where does your association stand with regards to the use of commercial yeasts? Because I always worry about stuck ferments!

FL: The ideal is working with spontaneous fermentations, but it really depends …

If you work with Riesling, if you do not accept any grams of RS, if the vineyard (soils) need another couple of years to get to the best point for feeding the vines, and many other reasons …. then we allow cultured yeasts (also for 2nd fermentation for sparkling).

But the start of the alcoholic fermentation should be always with the natural microorganisms you have in your vineyards and your cellar. I personally prefer dry and clean with structure and a sharp character. That's why we always start the ferments at Loimer spontaneously, but check carefully (on a daily basis). If needed we add fructofile yeasts in the middle of fermentation (1,040 to 1,020 specific density). But it depends…

Somm360: Why do you think Austria has recently become such a hotbed for biodynamic farming? Apart from the obvious history with Rudolf Steiner, of course...

FL: I think there are some reasons. Steiner might be one (I don't think so but, you know “The Prophet in his own country!”, a wise phrase…)

I think that Austria’s generations since 1985 (I finished school in 1983) and the kids of these generations are very curious and responsible people. The success of Austria was (and is) quality, and this combination of being curious, responsible, and quality fanatics brings the vintners and the farmers of Austria to biodynamic (or organic at least).

All of us got confirmation in the last 10 years or so for the need to be sustainable because of climate warming. And Austria’s farming is [for the most part] small-structured and many of the businesses are still family owned, so decisions are made by people who have also to deal with the outcome, and so decisions can be made very quickly. Quality has something to do with saving resources and trying to find the best individual character in your product. The concept of biodynamics includes all of this.

Somm360: Since its inception in 2007, your association has grown to 25 wineries from Austria, Germany, Italy, and Hungary (Balf, where Weninger has his second estate). Do you see it expanding beyond this in future years?

FL: Yes, but with responsibility! The people first, then quality and passion are the important ingredients to become members of the group. Respecting the guidelines is of course duty, but the last obligation on the list.

Somm360: How would a winery “apply” to become a member? What are the stipulations?

FL: Get in touch, get known in the group, we offer seminars and tastings in small groups, stay with some members in a friendly contact for some time, make great wine and get invited – it’s  kind of easy, but takes passion and time.

Somm360: Thanks so much for your time and wisdom, Fred. It is much appreciated!

Winemaker Fred Loimer - Credit : courtesy of Loimer