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In the northwest reaches of Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) one finds the Wachau, a region located about an hour's drive from Vienna. A brisk journey along the Danube river takes you past epic vistas of undulating mountains and hills striated with stone terraces lined with vines on both banks. Side valleys cut swaths through the mountains and massive forests descend in and around the vineyards. Cellars can be found in the side streets of quiet towns, in monasteries, connected to family estates dating back centuries, or at times newly constructed, almost foreign bodies in the landscape. A great deal of towns hold UNESCO heritage site status, and wandering about one can sometimes feel that time has indeed stood still for centuries. A region rich both in history and wine, there are certain names that come to mind when thinking of the beautifully terroir-expressive, age-worthy white wines of the Wachau, and today we are pleased to offer selections from the 2016 vintage from one of our favorites, Weingut Alzinger!
A firm believer in quality coming from the vineyard, Leo Alzinger Jr. has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Wachau and its unique and varied terroir, which is crucial when you take into consideration that he's farming over 50 separate parcels along a 2.5 kilometer stretch of the Danube river valley. For Leo (and his father, who at the age of 71 is still actively involved), physiological ripeness and balance is far more important than sugar levels, and botrytis is avoided. Farming is without chemicals, with focus always on the health of the vines. Grapes are hand-harvested; those destined for Federspiel wines age in stainless steel tanks, whereas Smaragd-bound grapes will spend more time in contact with the skins, and most will age in large old casks with at least one month on the full lees, then kept on the fine lees until a month before bottling. The wines of the 2016 vintage have a quiet elegance and lift; Leo compared the coolness and late harvesting of the vintage to 2013 and 2010. Some wines when tasted were a touch tight, but clearly telegraphing their promising future ahead. That being said, many of the wines were showing really well: cooler, fresher, more charming counterparts to the ripe and powerful 2015s. We hope you enjoy! Cari Bernard
Mühlpoint is located on the gentle slope below Steinertal, with higher levels of loess and loam, more suited to growing Grüner Veltliner. Rich and textured with notes of warm apple, spiced pear tart, and creamy orange melon--elegant yet still maintains a level of mirth and vibrancy. Cari Bernard
The Riesling from Alzinger's Steinertal parcel sells the moment it arrives from Austria; the steep, higher reaches of the vineyard have a sparse layer of soil over the primary rock of Gfoehler gneiss which lends itself well to growing Riesling with intense minerality and power. The vineyard is located at the end of two valleys, where cool air intensifies in the autumn, providing ideal diurnal range to preserve acidity, ripeness, and aromas in the grapes. Interestingly enough, Grüner can also thrive here, although further down the slope, but still above Mühlpoint at the bottom, and as one can imagine, the Grüners from Steinertal have a great amount of acidity and age-worthiness. The melon note from Mühlpoint is here on the nose, but much more angular; on the palate is a truly interesting intensity of rich mouthfeel and stone fruitiness coupled with salinity and savory dark minerality. Needs some time to fall into place, but if you can wait, this wine will reward your patience! Cari Bernard
Riesling from a mix of smaller plots closer to the village of Oberloiben (Dürnstein). This was one of the line up that was a touch tight upon tasting at the estate this past June, but it shows great promise to be an electric, brisk Riesling! Lean and light with notes of peach and apricot, lemon zest, and sour orange. Cari Bernard
Hollerin has larger terraces, with loam and Gfoehler gneiss; Leo Jr. calls the wines from this vineyard "charming" with good fruit and structure, a contrast from the more intense mineral cut on the wines from the Höhereck vineyard just on the other side of the hill. Delicate aromas of white strawberries and flowers on the nose, the palate boasts great texture and lift with notes of peach candy, green strawberry tops, and white grapefruit. Cari Bernard
Riesling vines for the Smaragd bottling grow in meager soils in a high altitude, amphitheater-shaped vineyard where most of the sun-exposure ends at around 3 in the afternoon, making for a cooler microclimate in contrast to some of the other south-facing sites on the Loibenberg, where a more Pannonian (warmer) climate prevails. The cooling influence is reflected in the high minerality in balance with a creaminess and clarity of fruit--peach blossom and stone on the nose gives way to stone fruit and just-ripe mango with a spicy intensity and long, saline stony finish on the palate. Cari Bernard