Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

AUSTRIA REVISITED

February 2017. Herewith a few wines, out of many hundreds on show, sampled by me at a vast tasting of Austrian wine recently held in London. Most of those sampled were white, 100% either Grüner Veltliner (a characterful indigenous variety) or Riesling – a grape that gives outstanding results in many countries, especially Austria, France (Alsace) and Australasia.

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SCHLOSS GOBELSBURG

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A Kamptal estate, noted for its whites, that can trace its origins back to the 12th century.

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2015 RESERVE RIED RENNER GRÜNER VELTLINER (GV) 1OTW

A yellow gold, this has a soft, refined scent of greengage jam and chlorophyll. A bit like a white Rhône in structure (vinous and round) with a touch of crab apple, and all of a piece. A sound food wine.

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2015 RIED LAMM GV 10TW

His has a drier, more complex nose suggesting greengage + stone and russet pear. There’s ample flesh, with good structure, and the mineral aftertaste is persistent. Will develop well over quite a few years.

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2015 RIED HEILIGENSTEIN RIESLING 10TW

Rich scents of orange and fig jump out of the glass. The lovely flavour twists towards honey, orange, and tangerine, showing a tingling freshness on the protracted finish. An excellent wine, rich and dynamic, of great individuality.

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2010 RESERVE RIED HEILIGENSTEIN RIESLING

I’m struck by the great precision of a big aroma of honey and poached pear. The delectable flavour, which fills the mouth with succulence, opens to include greengage and a myriad minerals. A lovely mouthful, sure to improve for a decade or two. A fine series of wines showing copybook Austrian purity and vitality.

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DOMANE WACHAU

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When do coop wines taste like estate-bottled wines? When they’re made with the passion for perfection we find here.

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2015 FEDERSPIEL RIED KOLLMITZ GRÜNER VELTLINER

The nose shows emphatic GV traits – grapiness, vinosity, rich fruit – and leads into a bracing flavour of elderflower and crab apple. Fresh and appetising, with an aftertaste of medium length.

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2015 SMARAGD RIED ACHLEITEN GRÜNER VELTLINER

The highly aromatic nose conjures up greengage, chlorophyll, and rose hip (slightly waxy). There’s a lip-smacking quality to the flavour, which suggests crab apple, apple mousse, and (again, only more so) rose hip. Very good.

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2015 FEDERSPIEL “TERRASSEN” RIESLING

The very colour, with its green-gold sheen, reflects the noble character of the Riesling, while the aroma, too, is on a higher plane, with pronounced Riesling character – lime peel, white peach, yellow plum. Extremely fresh, strikingly pure, it shows promise of true finesse in the years to come. The flavour measures up to this, being poised and complex, with a nectarine lushness at its core.

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2015 SMARADG RIED KELLERBERG

This luminous wine exhales aerial scents of yellow rose, elderflower, and magnesium. Intense on the palate, with masses of still inchoate Riesling fruit, it has the kind of vibrant acidity found in ripe nectarines. A beauty of a wine, it’s very long and merits long keeping.

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An older wine now emerged from “behind the counter”:

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1997 KELLERBERG SMARAGD GRÜNER VELTLINER

A pale, luminous green-gold, this 19-year-old emits a fascinating, flowery bouquet of physalis, lemon balm, and honey, with a touch of pineapple. It’s a smell of great delicacy and refinement but with vitality too. In the mouth, fuller than expected (I have an impression of heavy, porous soil) and expressive, with a flick of something spicy (snuff, bay leaf) on the finish. An excellent wine in no way in decline. And living proof that wines of this quality need time.

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BRUNDLMAYER

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2016 KLASSIK KAMPTAL TERRASSEN GRÜNER VELTLINER

Pale, with a green tinge, this has a fresh, ethereal scent of chlorophyll, apricot, and lemon balm. Light and agreeable, if not very deep, it’s for current drinking.

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2014 RESERVE ALTE REBEN GRÜNER VELTLINER

More intense in colour, this has a full, round aroma of chlorophyll, kiwi, and sweet green apple. Light and very fresh on the palate, it shows the depth and minerality typical of old-vine wines – a quality that will grow more pronounced as the years roll by. A hint of magnesium on the delicate aftertaste. Tightly furled at present, it will open like a rose when mature.

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2015 KLASSIK KAMPTAL TERRASSEN RIESLING

A brilliant green-gold, this has a full, dynamic aroma of white rose and apple mousse. Those scents swirl around in the glass enticingly. Delicate on the palate, yet with an underlying steeliness, this would be lovely with brook trout when mature in 5-8 years’ time.

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2014 KLASSIK RIED ZOBINGER HEILIGENSTEIN 10TW RIESLING

The nose is broad and intense, suggesting honey, greengage, and elderflower, (with a faint whiff of sulphur). The flavour is crisp and incisive (I think of the Saar in Germany). Potable incised crystal! The delicious aftertaste is long, with perfect fruity acidity. This will be a beauty in a few years.

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2015 RESERVE RIED ZOBINGER HEILIGENSTEIN ALTE RIESLING

With a gem-like inner fire, this has Riesling nose of the utmost refinement, conjuring up whitecurrant, white rose petals, acacia honey, and chalk. A wine of true refinement, showing new facets every few seconds (here’s one now: Poire William!). There’s a soft, tremulous quality to the haunting aftertaste, which is protracted. A beautiful wine to enjoy over the years to come.

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NIKOLAIHOF WACHAU

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Nikolaihof is the oldest winery in Austria, dating back some 2000 years. It was one of the very first in the world to adopt biodynamic methods. I visited them in 1990 and was vastly impressed by the wines, not least a 1963 Riesling Steiner Hund which, at 27 years, was wonderfully redolent of green plums, butterscotch, and toasted almonds.

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2014 SMARAGD IM WEINGEBIRGE GRÜNER VELTLINER

With its full, focused aroma of russet apple and caramel, this grapy wine possesses a full, viscous flavour into which barley sugar and apricot insert themselves. The aftertaste rolls on but doesn’t yet reveal all of its manifest qualities – but you feel their presence, which will become increasingly evident in time to come.

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2013 RIED STEINER HUND RIESLING

The colour is richer and so, too, is the aroma (older vines perhaps), with suggestions of marzipan and apricot. In the mouth, rich vinosity, with a twist of bay leaf and exotic fruit. The aftertaste rolls on, promising burgeoning complexity in coming years.

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2013 SMARAGD RIED VOM STEIN RIESLING

The floating aroma conjures up white and yellow roses, rose hip, and yellow plum. Fullish on the palate, it delivers a reprise of rose hip amplified by a touch of apple and cinnamon. There’s plenty of substance to this, and you can detect the pent-up richness that will slowly burgeon over the coming decade. Very good.

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2000 “VINOTEK” RIESLING

This smells drier – though contains 5 g. residual sugar – with a composite scent of elderflower, white rose, and yellow plum, with a touch of something resembling parsnip (!). This is a well-structured, nuanced wine with ample substance and long on the palate. It says much for the staying power of Nikolaihof wines that this is still only in early adolescence at over 16 years. Lots in reserve.

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2015 NEUBERGER

This has a lovely flowery aroma hinting at greengage, chlorophyll, lime peel, and white smoke. The flavour, full of minerality, is full and viscous, flecked with all manner of subtle nuances. Despite its youth it’s very approachable; but really requires many years of cellarage to show its full complexity – around 2030-33.

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PICHLER-KRUTZLER

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Each wine from this Wachau estate comes from a single plot. They say that they abstain from chaptalisation, fining, or use of additives.

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2015 RIED FRAUENGARTEN GRÜNER VELTLINER

A clean-cut, flowery nose, reminiscent of rose hip and apple, leads into a fresh, lushly fruity flavour that’s assertive and of medium weight. A vinous, masculine wine with a flick of agreeable bitterness on the finish, tailor-made as partner for food. Best around 2022-25.

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2015 RIED LOIBNER KLOSTERSATZ GRÜNER VELTLINER

A yellower colour and a more focused, denser aroma of apricot and brazil nut. This fullish wine shows pronounced GV character – waxy, smooth, with weight – and lingers on the palate. Serious stuff.

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2015 RIED DURNSTEINER KELLERBERG GRÜNER VELTLINER

The richest and weightiest GV so far, smelling of fig, apricot, and orange blossom. It’s also rich on the palate, turning thoughts towards orange, spices, Turkish delight.

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2014 RIED DURNSTEINER KELLERBERG GRÜNER VELTLINER

This has an aerial, intense nose, still more expressive than the preceding. It not only smells succulent and very fruity, it tastes that excessively. Scents of orange blossom, apricot, and honey fill the nostrils and the rolling aftertaste goes on for quite s time. Very good indeed.

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2015 RESERVE RIED ROTHENBERG RIESLING

The luminous green-gold colour is so typical of top Riesling, likewise the splendid aroma of white peach, yellow and white rose petals, and sweet almond. It wells up from the glass like a geyser. The lovely Riesling flavour is both luscious and tangy, leading into a rush of tangerine on the very finish. A lovely wine, drinkable now, despite its youth, but destined for long ageing.

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2014 RIED LOIBNER LOIBENBERG RIESLING

This has a complex, aristocratic Riesling scent that’s strikingly pure and weighty – no heaviness – at one and the same time. It soars out of the glass, bearing great tidings of wonderful scents – white peach, barley sugar, acacia honey. That honey persists into the aftertaste, intertwining with pineapple and lime. A noble, very long wine with a great future.

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Austria produces plenty of dark, vigorous reds which, while mostly fashioned from crossings, can show real depth of flavour. However, few of them measure up, in the final analysis with the country’s often great whites fashioned from classic varietals such as Riesling, Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), and Chardonnay.

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At the time of my visit to Nikolaihof (see above) I also dropped in on Umathum, a characterful producer of mainly red wines (red vines account for 85% of his 45 hectare estate). Writing in the long-defunct “European” in 1991, I expressed admiration both both whites and reds but commented on the latter: “One hundred per cent new oak seemed a bit much for some of them”, adding that an ‘87 Zweigelt (a cross of Saint Laurent and Blaufrankisch) was excellent, being all of a piece, distinguished, and capable of improving for at least a decade.

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My only red at this London tasting:

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2012 KIRSCHGARTEN “UMATHUM” BLAUFRÄNKISCH

A clear beetroot blue-purple, this has a quite elegant and expressive aroma, a meld of raspberry, blackcurrant and (aptly) beetroot. Quite light on the palate, but both intense and persistent, it ends on a note of cinnamon and toasty oak. The roasted, woody quality derived from toasted oak was a bit overdone, I felt. Nonetheless, it’s a well-crafted wine that will develop well over the half-decade to come.

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<< SEE ALSO  : A Taste of Vienna – Twenty Five years after

 

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© Frank Ward 2017

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