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In 1983, the now retired Franz Prager, cofounded the Vinea Wachau association, an organization dedicated to preserving the quality and culture of Wachau wines, while promoting Wachau’s image beyond Austrian borders. The marriage of Vienna-born Toni Bodenstein, to Franz’s daughter, Ilse, ushered in a sweeping renaissance at the Prager winery. These changes not only affected the way Prager thought, but also how Wachauers thought about their vineyards and their work as winemakers.
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In the 1980s, Prager’s holdings included production of some of the top crus of the region including Steinriegl and Achleiten, as well as of some of the best examples of traditionally crafted Wachau wine. However, there was little understanding at that time regarding the respective potential these special vineyards had and what distinguished one from another. Bodenstein, a biologist, geologist, historian and, at the time, aspiring winemaker determined there was more to learn about the vineyards in relation to the effects different soil conditions and climates had on the vines. He used this approach to analyze terraces across the zone and became enamored with the varied terroirs. Based on Bodenstein’s findings, Prager purchased parcels within certain vineyards providing an assortment of terroirs, which was a very complicated task at the time. Winemaking Philosophy As a result of this work, Bodenstein now vinifies Riesling from eight different vineyards, and Grüner Veltliner from seven different vineyards all contained within a total production of less than 10,000 cases. Each bottling carries the hallmark terroir of its vineyard and each is as distinctive in the bottle as Bodenstein predicted. The already stellar reputation of the winery has been further enhanced by Bodenstein’s analysis, and the press has given him the moniker of “Mr. Terroir.”