Vintage Austrian Wine

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On our first wine visit to Austria, and to the Wachau, Terry Theise was kind enough to introduce us to Landhaus Bacher, an amazing restaurant (and hotel) just down the street from Nikolaihof in Mautern. Go, if you can. That night we drank the Hirtzberger 1986 Riesling Honifogl - our first bottle of old Austrian wine, and a magical partner for a great dinner. Since then we've diligently sought-out properly cellared Austrian wines from the great producers, but it turns out that those bottles are extremely hard to find; even the best restaurants in Austria seldom have any in their cellars. The tradition in Austria is to drink-up, and more than one producer has bemoaned the pressure they feel to release wine very soon after it's made - often in the winter following harvest, in order to satisfy thirsty apres-skiers. The wines are delicious, but it's a bit of a shame because the best wines gain complexity and finesse over the years, and make for fantastic drinking. It's much easier to find DRC or Petrus or you-name-it, but every couple of years we come across a stash like the following list, which comes direct from a great Austrian cellar. We are huge fans of Prager, and we love older Hirtzberger as well.The bottles look beautiful!

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Prager 2000 Wachau Smaragd Riesling Klaus

Cleaner and less savage than the wild, mineral-driven 2000 Achleiten, Klaus shows great purity of fruit, high-toned floral elements and a sharp mineral cut on the well-balanced, exceedingly long finish. -jfr

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Prager 2001 Wachau Grüner Veltlinger Smaragd Zwerithaler

Aged Riesling is far more easy to come by than aged Grüner Veltliner, so far fewer people have had the chance to be introduced to the charms of Austria's signature white grape with over 10 years of time in the bottle. Zwerithaler isn't one of Prager's better-known sites; it's actually been years since we've seen a current release. The rich, pithy, peachiness of Prager's 2001 Rieslings is really dialed back here (albeit still somewhat present). In its place is a laser-like sense of acidity and pervasive stoniness. With time this will continue to develop more and more earthy, mushroomy secondary character in place of the fruit, but right now it's zingy and bracingly mineral. Very cool wine and really quite tasty. -jfr

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Prager 2001 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Achleiten

Achleiten is Klaus' elegant but jagged cousin. Built on a slightly lighter frame, Achleiten wears its minerality on its sleeve. The acidity really pops here, and its one of those great Rieslings in which every sip practically commands you to quickly return for more. Mouthwatering and tasty, an example of aged Wachau at its most refreshing and enjoyable. -jfr

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Prager 2001 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Klaus

Few pleasures compare to that of aged Prager. The 2001 Klaus is pure magic, and drinking quite, quite well at the moment. Is it at its peak? It very possibly has a few more years to go and a bit more fat to shed, so we happily encourage you to both drink and hold. This beauty isn't going downhill anytime soon, and we plan to still be checking in on this well into the 2020s. Klaus is holy ground for Riesling and is perhaps the greatest site in the Wachau. 2001 is a terrific vintage, the best Austria has seen since 1997, and this wine is absolutely seamless. Broad-shouldered and muscular, yet well-defined and brimming with energy and freshness. -jfr

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