Lumpi XVII - The 17th dog of this name and breed to live at Nikolaihof

Wachau! Alzinger '12s, Nikolaihof '95-'12

Share

The Wachau is loaded with great producers and at the high end they're all over the stylistic map. The Pragers, Hirtzbergers, Pichlers and Knolls of the region are at the top of anyone's list of the stars of the region, but we've also long loved the ethereal, biodynamic beauties of Nikolaihof in Mautern and the lean, perfectly sculpted gems at Alzinger in Loiben. The apex of old-fashioned, large barrel, pseudo-oxidative winemaking is reached at Nikolaihof, whereas at Alzinger you'll find some of the finest Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners to ever come out of a stainless steel tank.  Traveling in Austria this past June, we were scheduled to visit both estates as our last stops in the country. Due to extreme circumstances — the brutal floods that soaked the Wachau along with many other parts of Austria and Southern Germany — our visits were combined into one and we were fortunate enough to sit by the warm hearth at Nikolaihof and taste both collections back to back. Tasting these lineups one after another is quite the exhilarating and educational experience, so please forgive us as we go on a bit about the contrast between the two and some of that which sets them apart from the larger elite group of famed Wachau producers.

Alzinger's take on what the Wachau has to offer is clear and direct — here one finds focused, pointed, tightly coiled wines that showcase the best qualities of reductive fermentation. Each site shows its own character in a wide array of multi-faceted nuance. These wines demand that you pay attention, and reward amply when you do. Nikolaihof's wines breathe right away and the fireworks are apparent right away, especially the new off-dry bottling. Alzinger's wines need time to unfold and decanting is highly recommended. The wines are built to age as well, as a recent tasting going back to wines from the '80s demonstrated.

Having only begun bottling their own wines in 1983, Alzinger still can seem like the new kid on the Wachau block, especially compared to Nikolaihof, one of the oldest wine estates in the world. The winemaking isn't groundbreaking, nor is it ultra-traditional. They pay no mind to trends, neither from within Austria or from the greater wine world, and they work almost exclusively with Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. Without much fanfare, without being publicly audacious or producing super-extracted luxury cuvèes, Alzinger quietly manages to create some of the best, most pristine and searingly mineral wines of all the Wachau. And while prices are not cheap, compared to what the other major estates in the area ask these days, no one is making better wine for less. PLEASE NOTE - Alzinger allocations are always painfully small — what's listed below is all we are going to get so act fast.

Nikolaihof, which we've written about before at length, can seem almost like a circus in comparison (in only the best sort of way). Here there's not just Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, there's also Neuberger, there's Gelber Muskateller, there's even the beloved Vinhotek line! Every year there's an unexpected new release, whether it's a wine made using their centuries-old gigantic wooden press, a Federspiel that was held in cask for over a decade, a surprise grape we had no idea they were working with, or a new spin on a familiar vineyard. This year is no exception, as the standard stable we know so well is augmented by a strikingly delicious Halbtrocken Vom Stein "Jungfernlese"  as well as the first vintage we've seen from Klausberg, a site on the same slope as Steiner Hund, just a bit higher up. Also available in small, last-chance quantities, are the 1995 Vinhotek Riesling and the 1998 Steinriesler — stunning, downright youthful wines that have only recently been released. (The standard line, Vom Stein, Steiner Hund, Im Weingebrige, etc. has not yet arrived but will soon — please inquire about pricing if you're interested). -jfr

 

No Longer Available

Alzinger 2012 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Höhereck

Höhereck has always been tough to get ahold of -- perhaps the importer passed on it (can't take everything, right?) or perhaps there just wasn't enough to grant the U.S. any kind of allocation. Either way, it's here now and it's terrific. The aromatics are really vivid and open and the wine is dense and richly textured, completely saturated with minerals. It's super-compact right now, so it's clearly one for the ages, yet if you're into striking florality intertwined with stony complexity (and who isn't?) drink up now. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $58.99

Alzinger 2012 Wachau Smaragd Hollerin Riesling

Whereas Höhereck is all flowers and steely, white stone minerality, Hollerin is earthier and slightly more wild with notes of sage, tarragon, lemon and lime. This is a linear, Saar-like focus to this wine with loads of acid. There's more body here, a little creaminess but still that filigreed, delicate sense. It's also saturated with minerals, almost in an aggressive way. Even stony wine fanatics might be taken aback by it, this monument to minerality. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $57.99

Alzinger 2012 Wachau Loibenberg Riesling Smaragd

Everyone's always saying "Steinertal, Steinertal, Steinertal," but Loibenberg is the sleeper hit in this lineup. Aromatically it's so savory that it could almost pass for a Grüner Veltliner, with a sense of spicy florality, green fruit, spring peas and lentils. On the palate, though, it's just epic. It's equally stony and opulent, but the power is really tightly coiled right now. It's densely tannic with tons of mineral extraction, but it's still lithe and lively; while there's more power here than Steinertal, it still just dances on the palate. Decant, decant! -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $59.99

Alzinger 2012 Wachau Steinertal Riesling Smaragd

The less said about Steinertal Riesling the better. Conventional wisdom says it's Alzinger's best wine and one of the greatest in Austria. Our allocation is miniscule so please let us know right away if you want some. Please don't forget Hollerin, Höhereck and Loibenberg -- they're all tremendous wines. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $67.99

Alzinger 2012 Wachau Steinertal Grüner Veltliner Smaragd

Like its Riesling counterpart, Steinertal is Alzinger's top Grüner Veltliner. Like all the estate's wines, the first words that come to mind upon tasting are linear, compact and focused. It's very clean and steely on the palate with every element in perfect balance. The fruit, however, is really playing second fiddle here. In the fore one finds just texture, structure and dense minerality. Green-toned fruit, in line with the character of the vintage, hides out in the background, things like honeydew melon, green apple and just a hint of white pepper. When this wine stops being so backward and opens up after a few years, it's going to be really, really something. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $67.99

Alzinger 2012 Wachau Mühlpoint Grüner Veltliner Federspiel

The Alzinger Federspiels are lighter, brighter and fresher than the Smaragds, as one would expect. They're top examples of fresh-tasting Austrian wines to drink now rather than to age. This is our go-to when finding something to drink with difficult-to-pair-with vegetable dishes. The vines are planted closer to the river where the soil is less stony and more alluvial. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $29.99

Alzinger 2012 Wachau Federspiel Riesling Dürnsteiner

The Alzinger Federspiels are lighter, brighter and fresher than the Smaragds, as one would expect. They're top examples of fresh-tasting Austrian wines to drink now rather than to age. The Riesling is particularly racy, with salted honey notes, raging mineral clarity and zippy acid. The vines are planted closer to the river where the soil is less stony and more alluvial. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $30.99

Nikolaihof 2012 Wachau Gelber Muskateller

Gelber Muskateller! I'll be honest, I have a little trouble getting on the Muskateller train. They're just not always my cup of tea, but this (along with that from Sepp Muster) are really terrific examples. Not cloying, not aggresively aromatic, just subtle, balanced, fresh and delightful. Gently spiced, mildly exotic, and one of Nikolaihof's prettiest 2012s. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $37.99

  • Biodynamic

Nikolaihof 2008 Wachau Riesling Klausberg Privatreserve

This is as wild a wine from Nikolaihof as you're ever likely to encounter. We'd like to echo Terry Theise's sentiment wherein he apologizes for the price but, having tasted the wine, still can't resist offering it. It's off-dry, but perfectly in balance as it comes from a high acid vintage and a site high up on the slope above the Danube. Aromatically it's just killer, with notes of steel, white flowers, spring herbs, grapefruit and melon. The palate is riveting, with ridiculously high (for the Wachau) mouth-watering acidity. If it weren't for the weight, I'd swear this came from the Saar. Should all Austrian Riesling seek this kind of sweetness/acid balance? We're tempted to say yes but then remember that this is a right place at the right time kind of wine — vintage, harvest conditions and decisions, yeast behavior etc. would all be impossible to replicate and this isn't the kind of wine one can hope to reliably produce year in and year out. We'll have to savor this just this once and grudgingly but happily return to the dry benchmarks we continue to love so much. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $108.99

  • Biodynamic

Nikolaihof 2006 Wachau Riesling Vom Stein Jungfernlese

So, here we're in Vom Stein, one of Nikolaihof's two tremendous sites for Riesling, and this slope is actually in the hills south of the Danube. Young vines have been planted and they're finally ready to bear fruit of a high-enough quality to be made into wine and it happens to be one of the oddest, botrytis-laden vintages in recent memory. The unexpected and remarkable decision at Chez Saahs? To produce a wine that tastes akin to a terrific Spätlese from the Nahe or the Roter Hang in the Rheinhessen. Describing it in words can't do it justice; if someone laid it out for me like I just did above, I'd have no interest in tasting the wine. But, of course, I did, and it was just wonderful. One of those moments where it's hard to write down specific impressions of the wine because everything that's coming to mind is some variation on "yum."  In short, there's sweetness, but there's unexpected and terrific acidity. It's like sunshine in a glass, and Nikolaihof has hit another home run. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $61.99

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

Nikolaihof 1995 Wachau Riesling Vinothek

Nikolaihof continues to stun with their Vinhotek program. This is a 1995 Riesling Vom Stein Smaragd that spent 17 years in cask prior to bottling in April, 2012. Incredibly contemplative, ethereal, stately and reserved all at once. Decant, watch it unfold, and be fascinated. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $179.99