Austrian Treasures Part 1: Emmerich Knoll

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Adorning each bottle of Knoll is St. Urban’s holy visage: his fiery stare is a fitting way to alert those about to imbibe of the serious nature of the wines contained within. Frankly, we’re as much terrified as inspired by his powerful mystical presence, but we love it (and the wines) dearly.

Our first offer of a large collection of meticulously stored Austrian wines covers a range of Knoll vintages from 1992 to 2010, weighted heavily toward the Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners that have brought this estate great renown -- you'll also encounter a smattering of Traminer (actually Gelber Traminer aka Gewurztraminer in this case) and Feinburgunder (Chardonnay).

All of Knoll’s famous vineyards are well represented: Kreutles for Grüner Veltliner, Kellerberg and Pfaffenberg for Riesling, and Loibenberg and Schütt for both, not to mention the exceedingly rare Vinothek bottlings, made up of the finest grapes from a blend of Knoll's vines which are specifically intended for extensive aging.

The regimen at Knoll is decidedly classic for the Wachau, with a pointed reliance on large oak casks for maturation and release dates that are significantly later than some of their neighbors who prefer stainless steel and a quicker turnaround. As a result, the wines develop glacially and can confound even the most die-hard Austrian wine geeks. As anyone who has had the privilege of tasting many older bottles will tell you, though, these are sturdy wines that require and reward patience. We’re pleased to see that here, much of the work of waiting has already been done for us.

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Knoll 1997 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Schütt

This wine is full of energy and power, a result of not only a strong growing season but the Schütt vineyard's typical, straightforward display of it's strength. Even though it's nearing it's second decade of life, the fruit is still quite rich and layered with notes of honey and peach nectar. Some residual sugar and viscosity make this quite a beast of a wine but a very delicious one that will only continue to improve. Jonathan Kemp

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Knoll 1998 Wachau Smaragd Kellerberg Riesling

From the granite soil of Kellerberg, this shows some development after its time in bottle, but in a good way: earth, tobacco, salt, and broth are lifted up by tingly, dancing acids and a lush, creaminess on the palate. A delicious, sensual wine that is a perfect demonstration of the rewards that come with aging Knoll's great Rieslings. Jonathan Kemp

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Knoll 1999 Wachau Loibenberg Grüner Veltliner Smaragd

We recently tasted a curious bottle that was perhaps a bit off, but compelling enough that I feel the need to offer a description here anyway. While darker in color than many contemporaneous wines opened at the same dinner, and marked by mildly lower level of acidity (usually enough to make me move on to the next wine in such settings), the 1999 Loibenberg GV also displayed one of the most potent, screaming expressions of minerality I've encountered in a wine in quite some time. This is Grüner Veltliner for fans of beautiful, aged white Rhones – those ones where old vines and intense sun combine to bring forth a wine that is texturally impressive, fabulously mineral, and surprisingly delicious. John Ritchie

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Knoll 2001 Wachau Ried Loibenberg Gruner Veltlin

White pepper and black fruit – what a combo! And distinctly nutty/grainy aromas as well. A rich, peachy, totally dry white wine, with creamy texture and great length. Fascinating and delicious wine that goes well with a great many foods – a great match for Asian spices, for instance. JW

Nearly 15 years on from the vintage, Knoll's 2001 Loibenberg GV is a quite impressive wine, with the peachy flavors Jamie first wrote about years ago having mostly receded, leaving in their place a citric, herbaceous Grüner with telltale aromas and flavors of nuts, grains and lentils. Knoll's wines age wonderfully, retaining freshness and loads of character, even after their obvious, forward fruit has faded. Still youthful but showing quite well and promises to unfold more over the next 5-10 years. John Ritchie

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Knoll 2001 Wachau Smaragd Gruner Veltliner Vinothekfüllu

We recently opened a number of Vinothekfüllung bottles from Knoll with a lovely Chinese dinner to check in and see how they are doing. While heady opulence is the name of the game with these bottlings, the 2001 seemed to show the most grace, and a certain self-assuredness without the need to hit you over the head. Still so young, it's a lovely example of the vintage and estate, with more sappy fruit than many of the other non-Vinothek GVs that have seen some age, and plenty of nuance to spare. Typical Grüner flavors with lovely balance and freshness. John Ritchie

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Knoll 2002 Wachau Smaragd Gruner Veltliner Vinothekfüllu

2002 went down in the books as Austria's difficult flood vintage, but the wines have been vastly overlooked and under-priced as a result. This Vinhotekfullung Grüner Veltliner, has all the hallmarks of classic Knoll – that signature intensity but with a delicate airiness. Depth, power, and an achingly persistent finish characterize this deceptively youthful wine made from a blend of Knoll's best grapes sourced from various sites. This one has at least another twenty years to go. John Ritchie

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Knoll 2002 Wachau Smaragd Kellerberg Riesling

Knoll's Riesling aromatics start to border on the magical after the wines have been in bottle for over a decade, and the 2002 Kellerberg is absolutely singing right now. Mature petrol tones mingle with lemon, tangerine and a strikingly floral blend of aromas. The palate is deeply coated with robust flavors of citrus and stone, all with potent acidity and freshness. A beautiful Kellerberg from an overlooked vintage. John Ritchie

This has fantastic focus and detail. Delicate and fine-boned, with extremely lively, cleansing acids that are simply lip-smacking. This all surrounds beautiful, taut, subtly creamy fruit that is all the more complex from its time in bottle. Jonathan Kemp

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Knoll 2003 Wachau Smaragd Kellerberg Riesling

Solidly golden yellow in color, this wine offers aromas of cinnamon, mace, lavender, and thyme. The palate is full-bodied, but underwritten by a lovely minerality, which carries slight petrol tones and yellow plums through to a ripe honeydew finish.

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Knoll 2003 Wachau Smaragd Loibenberg Riesling

Another example of producer transcending vintage – the hot, dry 2003s have often been maligned, but the wizards at Knoll continue to squeeze consistently mineral wines that speak thunderously of their terroir, even in vintages where other struggle to do so. This is one to enjoy now, with richer cuisine – it would make a beyond perfect pairing for white asparagus with hollandaise. John Ritchie

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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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Knoll 2005 Wachau Smaragd Riesling Vinothekfüllung

The light strikes a boldly golden yellow wine in the glass, where the power and the quality selection of the Vinothek filling are shining through. The nose shows aromas of lemon shortbread, cut grass, cayenne pepper, toffee, and a hint of petrol. The palate is rich, broad and filigreed with notes of Meyer lemons before an herbally finish. Classic Knoll!

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Knoll 2006 Wachau Smaragd Loibenberg Gruner Veltliner

Restraint and aromatic detail were on full display in this fan favorite wine. Delicate notes of sage, sea salt, peach blossom, and oleander rise from the glass. While the minerally lifted palate is perfectly taut and elegant with touches of Mirabelle plums and quince that lead up to delicious lime blossom finish. This is a wine with the minerality and detail to go the distance in the cellar.

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Knoll 2008 Wachau Smaragd Riesling Smaragd Schutt

Confident, but a subtle display of the sizzling energy within. Great acidity and purity that is a sure sign of the long life ahead of this wine. A leaner, more bracing display of the Knoll style, but with all the poise, balance and structure we've come to expect and love. Jonathan Kemp

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Knoll 2009 Wachau Smaragd Gruner Veltliner Vinothekfüllu

Knoll's best barrel selection offers a powerfully beautiful Gruner. Tropical fruit aromas carambola, passion fruit, and bergamot are paired with star anise, coriander, and hyssop. This is easily one of the most powerful Gruners on our shelves, yet retains a certain grace thanks a lifting minerality. Classic Knoll.

- David Salinas

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