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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 of the wine. Tasted first as a tank sample, the Loibenberg was floral and fresh, with green strawberries and electric acidity. Tasted a few months after bottling, the green has evolved into orange--orange oil, tangerine, underripe apricot with juicy Fuji apple on the finish. Cari Bernard
Based in the town of Zöbing, Barbara Öhlzelt farms six hectares of vines. Her Grüner Leader is always a go-to bottle for gatherings. The 2019 is very fresh and fun; juicy ripe peach and apples, balanced by green pineapple acidity. Enjoy with salty snacks, salads, light pastas, fresh cheeses! Cari Bernard
A lovely soft and stone-fruited Roter Veltliner with skin contact. Nice viscosity and a clean finish. A great introduction to skin contact wines, and to the lesser known Roter Veltliner grape from Austria. The 2019 is probably our favorite vintage yet of this wine. Hazy in the glass, with almost a peach-hue, its suitable on its own or with light fare, salads, lunch, grilled veggies and the like. -EL
Bauer may be the all time leader in unfiltered wine from Austria. Yes it's trendy, but it's still interesting to explore their lineup, as the inclusion of lees and sediment does seem to give their wines more texture. This is a very tasty Gruner, vinified without filtration, showing notes of lime zest and asparagus (or maybe I just want to have an asparagus dish with it). Tart and fresh, a prime candidate for warmer weather, and a reliable Gruner for everyday sipping. Liter bottle! -EL
The name of this wine was intended to be Blaufränkisch Forever, but it could easily become anyone’s best friend, for that it will please a very large variety of gatherings. Whether you bring it for dinner at your parent’s house or BBQ with friends in the summer, it will spark joy anywhere it lands. Made of 100% Blaufränkisch, with 50% whole bunches that were covered with de-stemmed mash. It was barely touched during fermentation, only enough to keep the cap wet, and let the extraction happen slowly and steadily. When it was lightly punched down once in a while, it was done gently, by hand. The result is pretty astonishing. While it delivers the undeniable character of the Blaufränkisch grape — dark juicy fruits, cooking herbs like rosemary and thyme, black olive and five-spice, earthiness tied up with a sharp backbone of acidity — it remains playful in its structure. The tannins are silky and integrated, the ripeness is comforting and shows no signs of heaviness. I don’t know how many more words I can use to describe the only one that seems necessary here : balance. This wine is just simply harmonious. And if you don’t already know this amazing well-kept secret : Blaufränkisch is a wonderful candidate for aging in general, and BFF will refine even more if you have the courage to lay it down. It paired amazingly with an al fresco dinner made of a vegetable tart and green beans with pesto. GREAT pizza wine option here, too. It will complement dishes with tomato sauce with its vivacious acidity, lasagna comes to mind, or eggplant parmigiana. -Emily Campeau
Joiseph's Mischkultur is a Gemischter Satz, a blend of grapes that fermented and aged together, like a grape band where each member plays its parts to the service of others and the song. Each variety contributes a little bit of its personality, some more aromatic, some more acidic, some riper, some greener, and it all harmonizes in the end. This is exactly what Mischkultur is. A blend of a few different varieties, of old vines and young vines, from a few different sites in the village. Foot crushed before pressing, then aged where there is space in the cellar, in wood and stainless. This wine is pure fun, like a good flirt, it brings joy and giggles, is simple and complex at the same time and will disappear in less time than you need to learn how to pronounce Gemischter Satz. Pairs best with itself, and the bright sunshine of a late afternoon. A bag of chips would also be strongly recommended. Sour cream & onions, what else? -Emily Campeau // The blend is a mix of Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Neuburger, Muskateller, and Traminer from two separate parcels, with vines ranging from 10 to nearly 100 years in age, on limestone and slate soils.
Lackner-Tinnacher is one of (if not the) only certified organic producers in the Styria region of Austria. Styrian wines are not known widely in the US, mostly because there is a healthy local tradition of drinking wine and 90% of wine made in Styria is consumed there! Kati Tinnacher is a bit of an exception to the rule in the area. Where lower quality wines are often produced in good quantity and quickly, she has been trying to slow down releases and is working only with estate fruit instead of also buying grapes. This Morillon (Chardonnay) is from the local equivalent of a premier cru parcel called Eckberg. Morillon was likely brought to the area in the 17th or 18th century and is a mort tart and acidic clone of Chardonnay. The wine here is aged in large Acacia barrels and then in bottle for 6 months before release. Our friend Daniel Hubbard knows the winery and the region well and explains that the area has more in common with Friuli than Austria, as there is three times the amount of rainfall here than in the Danube Valley, and soils are similar to those in Friuli as well. The wine has nice structure and a bit of weight. If you don't like Chardonnay, pretend it's not, and if you do, this may not be your favorite but will be unique to any Chardonnay you've tried and is, subjectively, very enjoyable. - Eben
This is the "gateway wine" from Roland Velich's Moric project. Sourced from young vines (10-50 years old) in the Neckenmarkt and Lutzmannsburg vineyards, from mixed soils of limestone, primary rock, and loam. Velich's aim is to combine rigorous selection in the vineyard with low yields (usually 25 hectoliters per hectare), in order to guarantee a high quality of fruit, with ideal concentration. Fermentation is with indigenous yeast, in open vats and steel tank. Aging is in a combination of barrels ranging from 600-4500L in size. No fining or filtration and minimal SO2 added at bottling. Though this is by all means a lovely bottle of Blaufrankisch to drink now, there is a great potential to age for 10-15 years, which from my experience helps the wine develop a truly impressive aromatic complexity, and a refinement of fruit and tannins. An exceptional Blaufrankisch and a great introduction to the Moric project.
Several years ago, Martin had the misfortune of a really bad harvest, and only had enough grapes to make one Gruner Veltliner bottling. He had to blend older and younger fruit from the Bruck and Schön vineyards, and out of necessity came a revelation that he really liked the balance and complexity of the wine. Vergelt's Gott (directly translated as God's reward, but generally used as a form of 'thank you') is the name Muthenthaler gave the wine, and he has continued to produce a bottling under this name ever since. The 2017 is a blend from 20 and 40 year old vines, fermented in a combination of 1 new and 2 old, large Austrian barrels, and aged in old Austrian barrels. The wine goes through malo-lactic fermentation. This is the kind of Gruner that is clearly on another level, and does more than most young Gruners I've tasted to make a convincing argument that Gruner Veltliner is truly capable of producing exquisite and high quality white wine, as many die-hard fans of Austrian wines already know well. The palate is constantly evolving, and there is a delightfully LONG finish. A compelling wine! -EL
Vom Stein is a parcel behind the town of Mautern, which is on the banks of the Danube in the famous Wachau region. It is one of the principal vineyards that Nikolaus and Christine Saahs farm at the Nikolaihof estate. Soils here are a mix of loess, loam, and Danube gravel. Grapes spontaneously ferment and the wine ages for six months in large, oak casks.
Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch, Rotburger, and Merlot sourced from higher parcels in the Rosenberg, Altenberg, and Ungerberg vineyards, hand-harvested, the grapes ferment spontaneously and age separately for 18 months in neutral 500L barrels, blended and bottled unfiltered with low sulfur added. Black plums, soy sauce, black pepper, deep savory spice wafts up from the glass, belying the fresh and juicy palate of tart raspberries, plums, violets with well-integrated structure. Cari BernardFun fact: The name Pittnauski is an homage to Gerhard's favorite movie, the Big Lebowski.
A blend of Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, and a touch of Merlot; the Biodynamically-grown grapes are harvested by hand and see only stainless steel, so although the wine is medium in body, it boasts an incredible freshness. The nose is rich with notes of cherries and plums, while the palate is bright with juicy blackberries, cassis, dark plums, smoke, red apple skin, and dark chocolate. Works well with or without a slight chill.
Unusually slender for a red wine bottle, the Puszta Libre! bottle shape takes its inspiration from vintage soda bottles, a cheeky nod to how chuggable this wine is; and if that's not enough we are also instructed by the label to "drink cold"! Mostly Zweigelt with Sankt Laurent, fermented in stainless steel and aged in large (600L to 1000L) used oak barrels. The 2020 just arrived (April '21) and is ready to drink. Though not the most complex wine in our Austrian section, there is great material in the mid-palate, with some dark berry fruit, and plenty of punch on the attack, with an easy but defined finish. It seems like its somehow more delicious than ever before. Try one if you're curious. Buy at least two if you're already a fan, as the first bottle will likely disappear in a flash! -EL
Maria and Andreas Harm make wines in the Wachau and Kremstal in Austria. Their estate was only started in 2010, so they are definitely a new name in this iconic area, but are already producing beautiful, balanced wines from some famed sites. Vineyards were always farmed organically, with Biodynamic certification coming in 2019, and the wines are fermented with native yeast. Kellerberg is a 15 hectare site of sandy loess over gneiss and quartz, and arguably the most prized site around the town of Dürnstein. The 2015 has the boldness associated with the Kellerberg site, balanced by moderate alcohol (13.5%), low RS and good acidity. It's definitely Riesling, but doesn't scream petrol, has some ripeness, but the mineral finish keeps the wine fresh with lifted notes of crisp orchard fruit as well. It seems from recent tasting that the wine should still have a nice life ahead of it, though it is certainly enjoyable now. -EL
Franz Weninger has vines in both Sopron, Hungary and Burgenland, Austria. He started converting to biodynamics in 2006 and is now Demeter certified. Franz grows a variety of grapes on a mix of limestone, clay, loam, and loess soils (on the Austrian side), but his main focus is Blaufränkisch and its ability to showcase terroir. You can see this dedication in the sheer number of different, single-vineyard expressions he bottles from both sides of the border. The 2017 is from multiple Burgenland parcels. Cari Bernard
Wimmer-Czerny is an old estate in the Wagram, east of Vienna. In the wine world of Austria, Hans Czerny is a foremost specialist and one of the oldest practitioners of biodynamic farming, along with Nikolaus and Christine Saahs (from Nikolaihof). 2019 was a heralded vintage for Gruners, so many of the recent bottles I've opened have been from 2019, but tasting this 2017 from Wimmer-Czerny was memorable, as there is impressive length and density (perhaps from the little bit of age) for a Gruner at this price. Translation of the refreshingly unhip Wimmer-Czerny website says that Weelfel is a "top location with a special terroir." The soils are stony gravel mixed with sand and fossils. Vines grow on the upper part of terraces at about 300-370m, and because of poorer water supply, produce leaner wines that take a bit more time to develop. This wine is very nice now and should continue to age for short term. -Eben