Styria in the Mist at Weingut Werlitsch

Aged Austrians - But Not What You'd Expect

Share

We're glad to see many wine writers and lovers more often coming around to the idea that the inimitable white wines of Austria generally benefit from some age. Those of us that love a mature Riesling or Grüner Veltliner feel like we're facing a constant uphill battle for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the drinking habits of many Austrians themselves. Vienna and the surrounding wine regions are peppered with taverns where the local wines are knocked back as soon as possible upon release. Here in the States, the aftermath of the "Grüner-craze" of the early '00s still lingers: 9 out of 10 customers picking a GV from our shelf is looking for an easy-going, citrusy chugger (perhaps with a pop-top!) or maybe something just a step or two up; demand for wines with the structure to develop gracefully over time just isn't where it should be.

While we grab as many cellars of well-aged Austrians as we can, stocks seem to be dwindling and we’re forced to figure out creative ways to fulfill our wants. The collection you'll find below is what we've come up with instead: an exploration of four different methods of élevage in Austrian wine.


— An intentionally lightweight Wachau Grüner Veltliner aged on the lees for 6 months then in bottle for 7 years.
— A Federspiel Riesling aged in large cask for over a decade without sulfur, just recently bottled and released.
— A Grüner Veltliner from a top Wagram terroir fermented on the skins and stems in Georgian Amphorae then left to clarify naturally for 8 months before bottling.
— A blend of 7 grapes including the barely-known Sämling, fermented and raised in old, neutral barrels for 2 years before being held back in bottle for another 2 before release.

Needless to say, these wines have nothing to do with the liter of Grüner Veltliner that you may have drained a little too quickly at the barbeque last summer. These are heady, complex wines with savory, earthy flavors at the fore and fruit and mineral tones singing backup. Supply, sadly, is short across the board, so let us know as soon as you can if you’re interested. -jfr

Ott, Bernhard 2011 Wagram Grüner Veltliner Qvevre

A complete about-face from the rest of Ott's traditional, stainless steel based production. The wine is a revelation, taking Grüner Veltliner to stunning places it's never been before both aromatically and on the palate. Fans of Gravner, Radikon, et al, must give this wine a try. -jfr From the importer, the good folks at Terry Theise Selections:  "The wine is almost entirely sourced from the Rosenberg, de-stemmed without crushing and placed whole-berry into amphora ranging in size from 500 to 2,000 liters.  The amphoras are buried in the soils of Rosenberg and Bernhard ages the wine, untouched, for 6 months before the wine is racked clear.  The grapes are never crushed, helping retain the purity of the wine and not allowing it to become clouded with over extracted tannin.  The wine is then bottled without filtration."

  • white
  • 2 in stock
  • $89.99

  • Biodynamic
Sorry, the Following have Already Sold

Nikolaihof 2004 Wachau Grüner Veltliner Hefeabzug

A late release, direct from the cellar, of Nikolaihof's everyday Grüner Veltliner. Yes, it's sealed under screwcap, and it has aged beautifully. My jaw dropped when I tasted it recently, as I wasn't prepared for the rush of long, deep, earth and mineral flavors. Ever so slightly oxidative aromatics, but also pure stone, flint and cool-toned snap pea notes. Wildly savory, and a delicious shock for those of us that thought this wine was too light to age. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $39.99

Nikolaihof 1998 Wachau Riesling Steinriesler

Last year the Saahs' released their 1999 'Steinriesler' which was essentially a 'Riesling vom Stein Federspiel' that had been raised in cask for over ten years prior to bottling. The story may sound familiar to those who've experienced Nikolaihof's legendary Vinhotek bottlings, but all those were Smaragd-level wines; this was their first experiment with a Federspiel that had been raised in this way, or so we thought. As it would turn out, they had started the experiment earlier with the 1998 but decided it just wasn't ready to release first. Whether or not you had a chance to try the stunning 1999, you won't want to miss this. "Steinriesler" is a charming colloquial name for the grape variety**, and while the wine certainly has charm, it's also loaded with depth and dimension. Not quite as expensive as the Vinothek bottlings, but every bit as fascinating and delicious. -jfr

**It's been brought to our attention that 'Steinriesler' is, in fact, a portmenteau coined by friend of both CSW and the Saahs family, critic extraordinaire, David Schilknecht. David combined 'Stein' (a reference to both the area's stony soil and the Wachau designation 'Steinfeder') with "riesler," the actual charming colloquial name for the grape variety, and the wine's moniker was born.

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $69.99

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $76.99

Werlitsch 2008 Steireland Ex Vero 'Legoth'

Fascinating wine from Styria. First, let's get the list of varieties out of the way, since it's both surprising and impressive: Sämling, Welschriesling, Muskateller, Pinot Blanc, Müller Thurgau, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The wine, made by Ewald Tscheppe, is made from Biodynamic grapes grown on sandy soils on steep slopes in Styria in Southern Austria. Styria, or Steiermark, is mostly known for making boring and expensive wines from international varieties such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Everyone has them planted here, which explains their presence in the blend. The wine ferments spontaneously in old wood barrels and is there to mature for two years, then held back in bottle. The 2008 is the current release here in the US! The wine was strikingly Jura-esque. The more exotic aromatics you'd expect from grapes like Welschriesling and Muskateller are really dialed back here, and in their place you find salty, savory, bright but broad citrus aromas. Mildly nutty, long and contemplative, this is one of the most interesting Austrians we've come across in some time. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $25.99