A Massive Collection Of Old Austrian Wine - Part 2

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Today's offer, the second and final installment of this extensive collection of old Austrian wines, features our favorite Wachau producers, Nikolaihof, Prager, and Knoll (older Alzinger, sadly, remains scarce). None of these estates need an introduction to anyone who’s been reading our emails or is even somewhat interested in Austrian wine. Heading east from the Wachau, we encounter the wines of Sepp Mantler at Mantlerhof in the Kremstal, which absolutely deserve to be better known. A few months ago when the Austrian Wine Marketing Board put on a fancy tasting featuring four decades of Grüner Veltliner, one of the stars of the show was a 1985 Mantlerhof Spiegel that was so fresh and bright that we would have guessed it was twenty years younger. When Nikolaihof's Nikki Saahs was in town for a tasting last week we mentioned that these old wines were coming in, and he professed a love for Mantlerhof's old Roter Veltliners – he says no one else has ever done better work with this interesting, oft-ignored grape. Finally, heading further east to the Kamptal, we have an extensive selection of wines from Willi Bründlmayer, the Godfather of fine-winemaking in this tiny region. Look for rarities from the early 80s and a near-complete ten-year vertical of one of the area’s most remarkable wines, the Heiligenstein Riesling Alte Reben.

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Nikolaihof 1977 Wachau Nikolauswein 375ml

We recently acquired an old copy of Helmut Romé's excellent German-language tome from 1978, Die großen Weine Österreichs, a valuable resource on Austrian wine that's far superior to anything that has yet been published on the subject in English. Included is a contemporary review of the 1977 Nikolauswein, which we've translated and reprinted below.

"Riesling, Schloß Mautern, Süßenberg (Junge Point), 1977. Nikolauswein, Silberbichl, Eiswein-Auslese 24 KMW (121.5 Oechsle). This noble dessert wine was harvested on December 6, 1977 at a temperature of 17.5 degrees farenheit.
The Riesling bouquet with a delicate peach tone already allows the wine’s true nature to be recognized: the delicate, distinctive Eiswein spice, which continues in taste. A sleek, racy, treasure of a dessert wine, with finely polished aciditythat develops a fascinating, finessed “taste-experience” in interaction with the fine, fruity sweetness. Still young but with a great future. Excellent Risling-Eiswein."

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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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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 1997 Wachau Chardonnay Selection Weissenkirchen Trck

A fascinating and intriguing treat. Sultry and warm, with mushrooms, stock, and a ton of depth. JK

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Prager 1999 Wachau Weissenkirchen Chardonnay Smaragd

Prager's Chardonnay vines are now long-gone. As far as we know the estate hasn't produced this variety since 2001, so these two are somewhat rare artifacts of a very different time in the Wachau. We can't really say we want to return to a time when winegrowers the world over felt they had to produce Chardonnay to remain commercially viable, but we also have to admit that we really like these wines. Neither saw any oak, and they're focused, interesting expressions of the grape that really do reflect their terroir; one would never confuse this with a White Burgundy or a Californian Chardonnay as its essential Wachau-ness (stony cut, mid-level weight and herbal savorines) permeates through the wine. The 1997 is broader, creamier and shows a bit more influence of botrytis. The 1999 is leaner and a bit higher in acidity. We've had excellent botles of both, though, and can confidently recommend these somewhat bizarre wines! -jfr

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Knoll 2005 Kremstal Pfaffenberg Riesling Kabinett Trocken

Aged Federspiel is a lovely thing, and that's precisely what we have before us with the Pfaffenberg Kabinett Trocken. Not quite precisely, since Pfaffenberg lies just beyond the border of the Wachau and thus cannot use terms such as Smaragd and Federspiel. Knoll opts for Kabinett and Selection, respectively. This is a lovely example of a relatively delicate Austrian Riesling that is really benefiting from age. There are some classic exotic spice notes along with rich, succulent melon, peach and citrus notes, as you'd expect. There's really great balancing cut too, which is surprising from the powerful 2005 vintage. Knoll's wines are known for being broad, ornate and powerful, but this is the estate at its most lithe and transparent. It will drink well for many, many years too, and will develop all sorts of great secondary notes.- jfr

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Knoll 1997 Loibner Auslese Lieblich Grüner Veltliner 500ml

Yes, this is slightly sweet Grüner Veltliner from Knoll in a 500ml bottle. Do not fear the sweetness! First off, 1997 was one of the top two vintages of the last 30 years in the Wachau. Terrific ripeness was achieved, but great acidity was also retained, with plenty to balance the residual sugar. Dryness has been in fashion in Austria ever since the scandal of the mid '80s when the entire country turned their backs on sweet wines as a way of saving face, but these were actually quite common and traditional prior to then. Knoll has kept the tradition alive, despite low demand and skeptical consumers, but the wines are really, really good. Grab your favorite ripe cheese and go to town. -jfr

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Knoll 2005 Wachau Smaragd Grüner Veltliner Loibenberg

An elegant, forceful, mouthwatering example of Grüner Veltliner from Knoll, and one of their most successful wines in 2005. Evidencing that classic quirky combination of rich citrus and stone fruit with herbal, piercing notes of green and white pepper, this is just the Grüner you want around for richer vegetable dishes that you'd think would be otherwise impossible to pair with wine. -jfr

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Mantlerhof 1992 Kremstal Riesling Wieland Spätlese

Wieland is one of the best sites in the village of Gedersdorf because in addition to the area's ubiquitious loess soils, there's an outcropping of conglomerate that juts out from the loess and brings great complexity to the Rieslings grown here. It's conventional wisdom in Austria that loess soil is best reserved for the Veltliners and rocky soils are well suited to Riesling. 1992 was a hot, dry year and this is a round, powerful wine as a result. -jfr

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Mantlerhof 1993 Kremstal Riesling Tiefenthal

Tiefenthal is another site on Gedersdorf's loess (in some places up to 30 feet deep!) that faces southeast and is shielded from the western wind. Tiefenthal tends to be the more floral and delicate of the estate's Rieslings, and the great acidity from the 1993 vintage cuts through well. According to Sepp Mantler, "I tasted it one time in 2007; round and full-bodied, 1993 was the best year of three very dry years 1992-1994" -jfr

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Mantlerhof 1983 Kremstal Roter Veltliner Ausbruch 500 ml

The label doesn't say so, but Mantlerhof's Roter Veltliner is planted in Reisenthal, a southeast facing loess-based slope in Gedersdorf. Ausbruch is a type of dessert wine, rarely labeled as such outside of the tiny, stork-filled town of Rust on the Neusiedlersee. It is a botrytised wine that falls between BA and TBA in minimum must weight and this is the only one we've ever seen from the Kremstal. Stock up on some blue cheese or marinated peaches and finish off a great meal with a 30-year old Ausbruch from the undisputed master of Roter Veltliner. -jfr

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Mantlerhof 1985 Kremstal Roter Veltliner Spätlese Reisenthal

Despite the term Spätlese on the label, this is a dry Roter Veltliner from Austria's great master of the grape, Sepp Mantler. Reisenthal is rich in loess soil that is up to 30 feet deep in some spots. When we offered this large tranche of old Austrians recently, Sepp wrote in with his thoughts on some of his wines that we had in stock. Regarding the '85 Reisenthal he described it as "gold, even fruit with slight green moments, straight acidity, comparatively light 12.5%, great for a light dry white with 28 years on it." -jfr

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Mantlerhof 1988 Kremstal Roter Veltliner Reisenthal Grey Label

Shortly after getting receiving our massive tranche of older Austrian wines back in January, we held a tasting at the store to sample ome of the various goods that had come our way. There were quite a few standouts, but the two that were the absolute pinnacles were Prager's 2001 Riesling Klaus and this, Mantlerhof's 1988 Roter Veltliner Grey Label. The acidity, the freshness, the depth, the precision and the length are all delicious. It's peachy, citrusy, broad but focused, and just superb wine. This is Roter Veltliner at its best, showing that it can be as world-class as both Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. No one does better work with this grape than Sepp Mantler, and we hope you give it a try. -jfr

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Bründlmayer 1981 Kamptal Langenloiser Chardonnay

Willi Bründlmayer has always made his Chardonnay, culled from three sites in Langelois, with an eye toward Burgundy, but also by utilizing native Austrian oak. At 30+ years old, this is a curiosity, but an interesting one. The color is great. -jfr

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Bründlmayer 1981 Kamptal Langenloiser Spiegel Pinot Gris

Spiegel is a loess and gravel-based, southeast facing site that looks out on Schloss Gobelsburg, south of Langenlois. Today it's known primarily for top Grüner Veltliners by Bründlmayer and Loimer, but Bründlmayer still produces Pinot Gris here, although it's rarely imported into the U.S. We have the privilege of offering multiple vintages of Pinot Gris from the 1980s. 1981 was a difficult vintage for the growers due to early frosts that shrunk the size of the crop, but the grapes that were eventually harvested provided round and approachable wines. The 1981 is showing the most mature elements right now and reminds of old white Burgundy from warmer years. -jfr

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Bründlmayer 1985 Kamptal Langenloiser Spiegel Pinot Gris

Spiegel is a loess and gravel-based, southeast facing site that looks out on Schloss Gobelsburg, south of Langenlois. Today it's known primarily for top Grüner Veltliners by Bründlmayer and Loimer, but Bründlmayer still produces Pinot Gris here, although it's rarely imported into the U.S. We have the privilege of offering multiple vintages of Pinot Gris from the 1980s. 1985 was also a tough year with regard to the size of the crop, but the resulting wines had good focus and cut. The '85 Pinot Gris is shwoing quite nicely now. -jfr

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Bründlmayer 1988 Kamptal Langenloiser Spiegel Pinot Gris

Spiegel is a loess and gravel-based, southeast facing site that looks out on Schloss Gobelsburg, south of Langenlois. Today it's known primarily for top Grüner Veltliners by Bründlmayer and Loimer, but Bründlmayer still produces Pinot Gris here, although it's rarely imported into the U.S. We have the privilege of offering multiple vintages of Pinot Gris from the 1980s. 1988 was the best year of the 3 we have on offer and the resulting wine has the most power and depth all these years later. It will be the standout of any vertical, undoubtedly. -jfr

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