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Before jetting off to Vienna in a couple of days for the first VieVinum wine fair since the "before times", I scored an opportunity to bring in two Heavyweights from the Wachau. Admittedly considered to be among the top producers in the Wachau, let alone Austria, I couldn't resist the urge to showcase their different styles (stainless steel vs old casks) and terroirs (west vs east) in this email offer. Toni Bodenstein from Prager is known as the "terroirist of the Wachau", is the mayor of his town Weisenkirchen and is Austria's fiercest grapevine preservationaist. FX Pichler was nominated for a lifetime achievement award from German magazine Der Feinschmecker and in 2014 received The Lebensdauer Vineus Vine award. I highly recommend getting both and tasting them side by side!
Wiines available 5/18
Franz Prager, co-founder of the Vinea Wachau, had already earned a reputation for his wines when Toni Bodenstein married into the family. The marriage of Franz’s daughter, Ilse, to Dr. Toni Bodenstein in the 1990s was the catalyst for a sweeping renaissance at the winery. Bodenstein, a biologist, geologist, and historian, spent years studying the geology of the region and focused much of his attention on preserving genetic diversity. His “Arche Noah” project, a planting of old Grüner Veltliner and Riesling clones, resulted from his research. Bodenstein’s scholarly approach, passion for biodiversity, and brilliant winemaking has elevated Prager to the highest echelon of Austrian wine producers. His minimalist approach reveals wines of precision and elegance, moderate levels of alcohol, and clear expression of origin. “Vom Stein zum Wein” (from rocks to wine) is Toni Bodenstein’s motto and his ideology is reflected by his non-interventionist methods in the cellar.
The Prager estate is located on steep terraces in the cooler, western Wachau. The vineyards are partly in Weißenkirchen (Hinter der Burg, Hinter Seiber, Steinriegl, Zwerithaler, Klaus, and Achleiten), partly in Dürnstein (Kaiserberg, Hollerin, and Liebenberg), and are planted at extremely high densities of up to 15,000 plants per hectare.
Steinriegl is planted to Riesling and is Prager’s only vineyard west of Weißenkirchen. The exceptionally steep, southwest-facing site has a cool mesoclimate due to its proximity to the forest, and its soil is a unique “kalksilikatmarmor,” a limestone silicate marble rarely found elsewhere in the Wachau. Steinriegl’s uniquely cool microclimate results in wines of high aroma and focused acidity and its limestone soil provide compact structure and a flavor that is distinctive among Wachau Rieslings.
FX Pichler is considered to be one of Austria's top winemakers, if not number 1 as some in the media would have it. After multiple 100 point scores for various wines and 38 years in the Vinea Wachau, FX Pichler winery finally resigned it's membership in the latter to convert to organic viticulture and will be certified as of this year. This after son Lucas Pichler was handed over full control; yes, even a renkowned institution can revolt and change. With that in mind, I thought it high time to revisit this venerable winery and see how the wines are showing under this new philospohical direction. I was incredibly surprised to see how lithe, elegant and electric they had become, shaking off their blockbuster persona from the past.
The Burgstall vineyard refers to a crag bedrock plateau towering some 30 meters, bordering on Unterloiben to the east. The name goes back to a small fortification that was built in the Middle Ages to defend livestock against pillages and the site was first mentioned in a document in 1248. It is also assumed that the first settlement “Liupna” was located here, from which the village name Loiben may derive. This sun-drenched and breezy vineyard is situated at the westernmost end of this rock terrace and the soils consist of pure gneiss and granite, with a shallow topsoil of sand.This distinctive terroir is ideal for vibrant, mineral-like Rieslings with fruit purity and precision.
From a windy plateau above the Danube used to herd livestock as a fortification in the first settlement Liupna during the Middle Ages.The nose opens with assertive aromas of white peach, faint petrol, orange zest, lime blossom, and a hint of pink grapefruit on a smoky, mineral background. Pichler keeps things very traditional in the cellar and utilizes large, neutral oak casks to mature their wines. This one is salty and fresh on a medium-bodied, slightly glossy palate that’s boasting white nectarine, lime peel, flint, tart pear, white pepper and grapefruit peel that gives verve and nerve to the entire wine, corsetting its ripeness with delicious citric acidity. Perfectly crunchy acidity delivers a precisely layered and dry Riesling with classic Wachau grip and tension. Ripe and fresh but not green or vegetal, just grippy and refreshingly racy. A thrilling springtime riesling. Giselle Hamburg
From an extremely steep, high altitude vineyard in the western Wachau with unique limestone marble soils. Incredibly bright and vibrant with aromas of honeysuckle, under ripe peach, lime, petrol and a slatey minerality. The palate is extremely mineral with notes of cool herbaceousness, mint, lime zest, lemon, green apples and chalk . The length goes on for miles with an almost saline like finish, enormously refreshing. Breathtaking like the view from the top of the vineyard looking down across the Danube. Giselle Hamburg