Riesling from Germany, Austria and Alsace

In a comprehensive tasting with Munich Wine Club last Saturday we tasted many of the best wines made from the Riesling grape back to 1976.

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Dönnhoff´s 2015 Oberhäuser Brücke Spätlese, from heavy, loamy soils and primary rock right on the banks of the Nahe river on the opposite side of the winery, showed very fruit-driven, ripe and open with tons of yellow fruits (stone fruit, citrus, mango and pineapple) and little herbal fresh- and spiciness. I´m curious to see these wines in 10+ years time.
The weathered slate soils with rocky parts, embedded iron and clay created a distinct Scharzhofberger Riesling in 2001. Even though this wasn´t a perfect bottle, Egon Müller´s 2001 Scharzhofberger Spätlese showed the typical fresh and intensive herbal characters and citrus notes with present, vibrant and salty minerality.
A clean, concentrated and structured wine.

Knoll´s Schütt is always among my personal favorites from the Wachau, because it´s more focused and pure and not as ripe and bold as many other vineyards. Good to see the 2012 shining strong with citrus (zest), concentrated yellow fruit, herbal freshness, notes of ginger and minerality. Bold and ripe on the palate with present alcohol and sufficient substance and fruit. Powerful and long with focus.
The fourth wine of the evening was already a serious highlight of the night!
Wittmann´s ‘La Borne’ comes from heavy limestone soils with chalk, which always create wines of elegance, coolness and fresh fruit. 2011 La Borne perfectly fits this profile. Elegant and almost reluctant aromas of little yellow fruit, fresh herbs, perfume and white florals, but powerful, dense and full of drive on the palate with substance, great depth, focus and length. Fantastic vibrant and salty minerality. Keep this wine 10+ years.

Wittmann 2007 Brunnenhäuschen is powerful and ripe with aromas of stone fruit, yellow apples, caramel, exotic spices and smoky minerality. Deep, dark and vibrant on the palate. Immense potential!
F.X. Pichler 2006 Unendlich. I remember tasting exceptional examples of this wine – like the magnificient 2002 or the deep, exciting and vibrant 2005, but the 2006 was a bit over the top for me. As in 2005 from 100% Loibenberg fruit, the 2006 is incredibly bold and driven by present alcohol. Still, great structure, depth and complex aromatics. Keep.

Schäfer-Fröhlich´s 2005 Felsenberg directly showed the distinct Schäfer-Fröhlich fingerprint of smoky minerality and notes of spontaneous fermentation (!). The volcanic soils created a wild, still young and vibrant wine of drive and focus.
Especially compared to the Schäfer-Fröhlich, Ökonomierat Rebholz 2005 Kastanienbusch is quiet, feminine and well-behaved with fine, yellow fruits, a lot of perfume and florals. Drinking nicely, but lacking character and depth.

Heymann-Löwenstein 2004 Uhlen Blaufüßer Lay comes with stone fruit, lemon, dried grass and herbal spiciness. Very clean, yet powerful and long. A fresh, fruit-driven and harmonious wine of density and drinking pleasure.
But Keller´s 2003 Morstein appeared to be on a level above with ripe stone fruit, orange zest, oriental spices, fresh herbs, pepper and dark minerality. Deep and dark on the palate with decent length. Maybe lacking some acidity and drive to be exceptional, but fascinating and still young.

In Bürklin-Wolf´s 2002 Hohenmorgen high ripeness and fine acidity combine.
A strong wine of ripe stone fruit, dried herbs, some orange zest, little honey and lactic notes. All in all more bold than elegant, but in perfect harmony.
Prager 1998 Ried Klaus Smaragd was among the stars of the night with precision, purity and perfection. Fresh aromas of citrus, mix of green herbs, traces of petrol, little moss and delicate minerality.
Fine and alive on the palate with great length and laser-like focus.
A masterpiece!

While Trimbach´s 1993 Frederic Emile was oxidized, its big brother was singing: Trimbach 1991 Clos Ste Hune showed citrus, petrol, fresh herbs, traces of honey and wild minerality. Present, vibrant and complex on the palate with a solid structure of acidity and extract, yet an elegant Clos Ste Hune of sophistication.

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J.J. Prüm 2003 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese wasn´t able to hide its origin. Which meant showing, on the one hand, the distinct dark and earthy nuances of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard, but, on the other hand, also the characteristics of an exceptionally hot 2003 vintage. Thereby, the wine was very ripe, expressive and lacked finesse and vitality. Still super-youthful, I´m curious to see the development over the next decades.

Von Schubert 1998 Abtsberg Auslese Nr.215 on the contrary was amazingly good!
Fresh, precise and complex with aromas of citrus and exotic fruits, fresh herbs, fir trees, traces of petrol and delicate, salty minerality. In perfect harmony, this wine drinks deliciously and is pure sophistication at the same time. So pure and clean.

Gillot 1976 Oppenheimer Sackträger TBA finished our tasting with ripe, stone fruit, coffee, caramel, honey and dark spiciness. A young power package of ripeness, sweetness and substance. Still endless potential.

Tasting Note: Knoll 1998 Loibenberg Gruener Veltliner

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1. Introduction:
A colorful label with the votive painting of Saint Urban, the patron of winemakers, created by Siegfried Stoitzner in the 1960´s, indicates one of Austria´s most famous wineries: Knoll.
Knoll´s Gruener Veltliner vines in the exceptional Loibenberg vineyard grow in terrace cultivation on weathered gneissic rock (“gneiss”).
Since the 1986 release the term “Smaragd” marks the highest quality level of Wachau wines with at least 12,5% alcohol, which are traditionally made and fully fermented.
Only grapes which have reached full physiological ripeness are allowed – actually some winemakers welcome even a little portion of botrytis 😉
Our 1998 Loibner Grüner Veltliner has aged gracefully.
Bottle and cork are flawless. 13,5% alc.

2. Appearance:
Bright Golden- Yellow.

3. Nose:
Decent aromas of (dried) Stonefruit and some Grapefruit.
Smoky Minerality and Crushed Rocks.
Multi-layered and diverse aromatics of Fresh Herbs (Lemon Balm!), Shaved Parmesan and Honey (-liqueur).
Harmonious, soft and of great complexity!

4. Taste:
Fine flavors of Stone- and Tropical Fruits; mostly Grapefruit and Peach (-nectar).
Soft Herbal Spiciness and Parmesan Cheese. Traces of Salt.
Vital, but Filigree Acidity and Fine Minerality.
Long and harmonious finish with little Pepper and Anise Spicyness.
Alive, while comforting with soft texture and very finely spun layers.
Amazing finesse!

5. Opinion:
Refinement, Elegance, Balance and impressive Complexity come together in an exciting wine, which is definitely setting the benchmark for Grüner Veltliner not only in Austria!
While already nicely integrated, the 1998 Loibner Veltliner is still in perfect shape for many years of development.
Impressive!

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Terraced vineyards right on the banks of the Danube in the Wachau.

Tasting Note: Claus Preisinger 2012 Grüner Veltliner

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1. Introduction:
The 2012 GV is already the third wine out of Claus Preisinger´s exciting current portfolio we taste at this point. It´s an unorthodox wine in many ways.
Fermented spontaneously and for 14 days on its stems and skins, before it went into an old, large barrel. Bottled unfiltered and unsulphurated.
The fruit originates from the Western Banks of the Neusiedler Lake – while most of his other vineyards and the winery are on the opposite side – from about 45 year old vines in the “Edelgraben” site with its mineral, slate and lime soils.
Bottle, wax capsule and cork are flawless. ~13,5% alc.

2. Appearance:
Bright, deep golden-yellow. Intense colors, with a little blurriness.

3. Nose:
Powerful aromas of Smoke and Flintstone.
Exciting Mineral and Salty characters come with little Yellow Fruits, Orange Zest and Citrus.
Herbal Spiciness, Fresh Eucalypt in a Soft and Sweet cloud of Lavander and Honey.
Powerful and rich, but complex and sophisticated!

4. Taste:
Again dominant Smoke and Flintstone with fantastic Minerality and Vital Acidity.
Ripe Stonefruit, even Must, and Citrus. Saltiness of Old Cheese (?).
Medical, Arnica-like flavors.
Intense, very long finish with Fruit, Spiciness and Acidity.
Densely structured, rich, round and multi-layered. Excellent!

5. Opinion:
A highly distinct and extraordinary wine with power and exciting complexity, which reminds me of “Old School” Riesling from the Rheingau appellation, similar to the style of P.J. Kühn today, where fruit only plays the underpart as herbal and rocky characters lead.
Extremely diverse, but harmonious with a creamy mouthfeel.
Finally, I´m not sure about the potential. It drinks great now, but – since the wine is unfiltered, raw and bottled without any sulfur – I have little doubt regarding a positive development over (many) years.
Furthermore, the ripe fruit flavors and especially the traces of must on the palate create doubt about the wine´s aging ability, but I´ll give it a try anyway 🙂

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(photo by rotweissrot.de)

Tasting Note: Claus Preisinger 2011 Paradigma

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1. Introduction:
Paradigma is Claus Preisinger´s premium red blend and usually made of Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Merlot in varying proportions depending on the vintage.
With fruit from his best, organically farmed old vine vineyards in the Wagram region, the 2011 Paradigma is a blend of Blaufränkisch (60%) and Merlot (40%) only.
Bottle and cork are faultless. 14,5% alc.

2. Appearance:
Deep dark ruby to garnet.
Very vibrant and dense!

3. Nose:
Rich aromas of Ripe Berries and hints of Fruit in Rum.
Complex play of Black Tea, Tobacco, Marzipan (Almond Paste) and Leather.
Floral and Herbal characteristics. Present Oak and little Vanilla.
Fruit characters are reserved and equally present as the other aroma layers.
Beautiful, rich and complex!

4. Taste:
Red and Dark Fruits, mostly Black Currant and Cedar.
Multi-layered with Licorice, Leather and Dark Chocolate.
Hints of Filigree Minerality and Saltiness.
Finishes long with Red Fruit, Tight Acidity, Soft but Present Tannins and traces of Herbal Spiciness.
Great concentration, perfect balance and a lot of finesse-
in spite of the considerable use of oak.

5. Opinion:
A wine that shines! Powerful, amazingly structured and complex.
Substance for a long life and potential for a great evolution.
Amazing fruit from a great vintage created one of the best reds from Austria I ever had.
Very approachable now- thanks to the fleshy Merlot-, but built for the future!

Tasting Note: Claus Preisinger 2011 Pinot Noir

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1. Introduction:
Claus Preisinger called the 2011 vintage a “Vintage of the Century” and raised expectations while people were waiting for the release of his premium wines.
But when tasting pre-release samples at the ProWein in Duesseldorf earlier this year, I was convinced about the quality and energy of the vintage, and especially of the reds.
So, here we are now, able to taste the recently acquirable 2011 Pinot Noir.
Bottle and cork are flawless. 13% alc.

2. Appearance:
Deep dark red, garnet.
Very energetic and dense, with a little lighter rim.

3. Nose:
Powerful Fruit of Black and Sour Cherries. Dark Berries.
Black Tea, traces of Cinnamon, Licorice and Eucalypt.
Spiciness of Cloves and Herbs. Little Leather.
Almost excessive, but complex with inviting aromas!

4. Taste:
Ripe Red Fruit, again, Cherries, Berries (Raspberry) and some Plums.
Herbal Spiciness pairs with Green Characters of Unripe Tomatoes.
Vital Acidity and Gravelly Tannins. Fascinating Coolness!
Finishes long with Fruit, traces of Oak and little Saltiness.
Out of the ordinary, but special and interesting.

5. Opinion:
Is this the typical phenomenon connected with high expectations that most likely
you´ll be disappointed? If so, I have to scale down my expectations in the future, because this is an interesting, but no great Pinot Noir whose power almost reminds me of a New World- wine (and not of Pinot Noir!).
A lot of color, structure and body, but unfortunately lacking elegance, refinement, balance and typicity. Sometimes less is more…
Needs time to develop and settle. A Pinot Noir built for the future.

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Tasting Austria´s Best Whites

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CellarTV attended a tasting of some of Austria´s best white wines last Friday.
Three to four samples of each of the four major white varietals, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, were sampled.

Here are my brief tasting notes and impressions about the Grüner Veltliner and Riesling wines:

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1. Grüner Veltliner:
FX Pichler, Wachau – 2012 Kellerberg, Smaragd:
Bright green-yellow. Intense aromas of ripe yellow fruits (citrus, apple), melon.
Floral characters. Hints of Cheese and Nuts. Powerful, but elegant and soft.
Decent sweetness and present acidity. Great potential!

Jamek, Wachau – 2012 Achleiten, Federspiel:
Pale green-yellow. Firestony and smoky forward. Little apple and apricot.
Surprisingly creamy palate with more fruit (apples, pears).
Nice minerality and spiciness.

Gritsch, Wachau – 2012 Singerriedel, Smaragd:
Bright green-golden yellow. Powerful aromas of exotic fruits and apples.
Delicate floral notes and spices. Finishes long with fruit, minerality and little pepper.
Harmonious, complex and able to make a stand against Pichler´s Kellerberg.
This was the surpise of the evening. Fantastic wine!

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Prager, Wachau – 2007 Achleiten, Smaragd:
Golden yellow with green tint. Beautiful integrated round and complex!
Exotic fruits and Minerality. Great play of fruit, soft acidity and spiciness.
Long finish. Wine of the evening!

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2. Heiligenstein Riesling:
Schloss Gobelsburg – 2011 Heiligenstein:
Green-yellow. Floral aromas come with tropical fruits. Flintstone.
Good texture and stone fruit-driven palate. Solid acidity backbone and long, juicy finish. Nice!

Jurtschitsch – 2011 Heiligenstein Alte Reben (Old Vines)
Bright greenish-yellow. Beautiful nose with grapefruit, pineapples and honey.
Herbal characters. Complex flavors of yellow fruit, acidity and herbal spiciness.
Finishes very long with fruit and softness. This wine has potential!

Bründlmayer – 2011 Heiligenstein Alte Reben (Old Vines)
Vibrant green-yellow. Stone fruit and pineapple aromas. Hints of Flintstone.
Dense and powerful flavors of exotic fruit, beautiful minerality and solid, filigree acidity. Complex and long. The winning Riesling with great future potential!

P.S. With all three Rieslings coming from the same sandstone soils of the Heiligenstein vineyard (respectively sub-appelation), it was exciting to see how different the wines showed in the glass.
While soil still is one of the most important factors in the complex interplay of “Terroir” in my opinion, it really became obvious that microclimate and winemaking are able to create a significant difference!

Tasting Note: Claus Preisinger 2007 Pinot Noir

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1. Introduction:
Claus Preisinger is a (relatively) young producer from Austria´s Burgenland appellation on the banks of the Neusiedlersee (Neusiedler Lake), but his recognition grew steadily after his first vintage in 2000- especially in Austria and Germany.
Following a philosophy of strict biodynamic production and minimum interference, he creates mostly red wines (~90%) and some Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.
The upcoming 2011 Pinot Noir, to be released later this year, made quite an impression when presented at the ProWein in March.
But let´s have a look at the 2007 Pinot Noir today, which is one of his earlier releases of this wine.
Bottle and cork are flawless. 13,5% alc.

2. Appearance:
Dark red, garnet with typical transparency. Little brighter edges with brown tones.
Brilliant and lucent!

3. Nose:
Cherry- driven, but packed in a complex aroma mix of Herbs (mostly Lovage & Mint), traces of Rum, Tobacco, Chocolate and decent Vanilla Sweetness.
Present oak, but well integrated.
Complex with nice finesse!

4. Taste:
More Cherries. Woodland Strawberries.
Herbal characteristics with Fresh Mint and Peppery Spiciness.
Green facets. Feeling slightly thin in the mouth.
Finishes medium-long with Red Fruits and little Pepper.
Delicious, but missing some layers and density!

5. Opinion:
A decent Pinot Noir with an interesting play of Fruit, Spiciness and Freshness.
Nicely integrated over time while missing little density and detail on the (mid-)palate. Inviting nose, good concentration of fruit in the beginning, but not perfectly balanced.