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*Offsite events are contracted to and coordinated by a 3rd party, and are in no way affiliated with Chambers Street Wines.
I met Johannes Zillinger during a dinner held at Michael Gindl's home in Hohenruppersdorf; amongst a jovial group of friends and winemakers lots of bottles were opened and enjoyed. His wines made an impression then, and a few days later at Vie Vinum in Vienna I was able to taste through the line-up. As we struggled to talk above the din of the wine fair, with me mashing info into my phone rife with autocorrect atrocities, I realized I'd have a lot of questions to ask later. There were so many wines to learn about, each with their own stories, divided into different classifications, boasting a wide range of fermentation styles and aging in an assortment of vessels: from acacia barrel, to stainless steel tank, used oak, to clay amphora and qvevri. And although I wasn't able to visit his estate on this past trip, I feel the wines speak volumes for themselves.
The Zillinger family founded the winery in the late seventeenth century as part of their mixed-agriculture farm, with the main focus given to raising pigs. Johannes's father converted to organic farming in the early eighties after realizing that conventional methodology was detrimental to the health of everything: from the family, to the pigs, to the vineyards. They changed to solely wine production in 1994 and after working over a decade on his family's estate, Johannes officially took over in 2012. He has since converted to biodynamics and is now Demeter certified. To assist with this, they have a garden devoted to growing herbs for biodynamic treatments and beyond. Anything else they may need for use in the vineyard is sourced from as close as possible. Their home is in the town of Velm-Götzendorf, in the east of the Weinviertel, or 'wine quarter' region of northeast Austria; with Slovakia directly to the east, and Vienna just less than an hour's drive to the southwest. Soils here are a mix of loess, loam, sandstone, limestone, and gravel. Forests on the hills to the west help block wind and hail, but sadly not frost, which is increasingly a problem with earlier bud break common to the region. The continental climate found here means summers are hot and winters are very cold, and rainfall is fairly low. The advantage of working with decades-old organic and now biodynamic vines is that they can adapt well to certain adversities in the vineyard. This means healthy grapes, which is paramount to the quality of the final wine. The respect for the grapes continues in the cellar, with gentle pressing, no fining or filtration, and minimal sulfur additions only when necessary to preserve style.
The majority of these wines were tasted in Vienna last June and Brooklyn in November of the same year. I can't tell you how often wines just taste better in their home country, but I was very pleased with the showing at RAW in Bushwick. The Zillinger wines stayed consistent, and remained compelling, and we are incredibly happy to finally have them available in the shop. We hope you enjoy them too! Cari Bernard
If the 'Velue' wines are straightforward and true to variety, the 'Revolution' wines are more on the experimental side. I loved this when it was tasted, but was never able to write all the cellar info down. To paraphrase the importer: 'this release is 50% Chardonnay partially fermented (carbonic) in amphora followed by co-fermentation with Scheurebe, and blended with Riesling from a solera of vintages 2013-2015 aged in used wood, unfined, unfiltered with no sulfur added'. A touch of structure and texture from the skin contact is finely integrated with bright notes of nectarine, Fuji apple, quince, and zesty kumquat. Cari Bernard
Zweigelt grown on a mix of loam, loess, and sandstone, hand-harvested (as is true with all the vineyards), spontaneous fermentation in stainless followed by maturation in a mix of used oak and acacia barrels of varying sizes. Dark and brooding and not overtly fruity, subtle black plum, a stemmy texture and black pepper make for an enrapturing Zweigelt to pair with game, goulash, roasted wild mushrooms over polenta. Cari Bernard
The 'Reflexion' series of wines are single-vineyard bottlings. These vineyards are historically significant to both the region and the Zillinger family. Their parcel of Sankt Laurent is from the Steinthal vineyard, first seen on record in 1520 as a vineyard established in a sandstone quarry. It is now considered a sub-site of the Kellerberg, and is home to vines planted around 100 years ago. Fermentation is in open vat, and maturation is for 18 months in large, used oak and acacia barrels from nearby Hohenruppersdorf forests. Elegant tannic structure comes through as strawberry seeds, plums and a deep spicy minerality make this a delightful choice to pair with a range of fare: think roasted pork, rich vegetarian gratins. Cari Bernard
'Velue' is the old name of the town where the Zillinger farm is based. Vines for this bottling come from an eastern-facing slope, the average age is 30 years-old. Spontaneous fermentation occurs in stainless steel tank, and the wine stays in contact with the lees for five months, with occasional batonnage, bottled unfined and unfiltered. This Riesling is incredibly vibrant; the nose is racy and redolent with stonefruit, mirrored on the palate as juicy nectarine, underripe peach, with tangy tangerine and mango. Bright and lively and a great introduction to the estate. Cari Bernard
30+ year-old Sauvignon Blanc grown on limestone and sandstone, with semi-carbonic fermentation in qvevri and aged for 16 months in a mix of oak and acacia barrels, unfined, unfiltered, no sulfur added. The pyrazines add a level of complexity that plays beautifully off the texture, bright acidity, and fruit. Green notes on the nose mingle with aromas of ripe stonefruit; the palate is rife with piquant flavors of quince, peach fuzz, freshly-cut herbs, pineapple rind and gooseberry on the elegant, persistent finish. Cari Bernard