The Austrian Collection

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It’s a rare privilege to present a collection of Austrian wines with such depth and range. It affords the curious, the adventurous, and the scholarly the chance to sample and make minutely fine observations and distinctions among some of Austria’s most heralded sites from some of Austria’s top growers, through multiple vintages.

We recently opened eight bottles from this collection for a special store tasting. Among those bottles, all the corks were in good condition, easily removable with a standard wine key and most importantly all the wines were showing beautifully.  We’re proud to present a historical and varied collection of Austria’s finest wines.

- David Salinas

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Alzinger 2003 Wachau Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Reserve

The worm has turned on the initial judgment of the 2003 vintage. Good farming and selective harvesting have held so many wines, from this underrated vintage, in good stead over the years. This was one of the most exuberantly playful noses in our tasting. Aromas of tuberose, chestnuts, and bananas foster leave give way to more herbal tones of spearmint and sage. The palate shows tropical fruits that never become cloying thanks to layer upon layer of minerality. Complex and delicious!

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Alzinger 2003 Wachau Smaragd Gruner Veltliner Steinertal

This is certainly the most robust and opulent wine I've ever come across from Alzinger, yet all the hallmarks of the estate and its signature vineyard, Steinertal, remain in place, including balance, minerality and bold herbal tones. If our recent dinners of Knoll and Alzinger wines taught us anything, it's that blanket dismissals of the 2003 vintage are not helpful or accurate, as the wines certainly have bountiful attributes even without the acid one would normally expect. Austrian 2003s such as this are for people who can enjoy whites from southern France and similar climes: bold, characterful wines whose compelling flavors and density overcome the wines lack of acidic cut. John Ritchie

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Alzinger 2008 Wachau Liebenberg Gruner Veltliner Smaragd

The Liebenberg site holds soils of gneiss, schist, and glimmerschiefer, which yield supremely delicate, yet concentrated, Gruners. The 2008 vintage is no disappointment; offering notes of spruce, juniper, and fir. Allied with a palate framed by a fine minerality and lengthy finish, the Liebenberg is a wine of precision and clarity.

 

- David Salinas

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Alzinger 2008 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Reserve

Sourced from a combination of all of Alzinger's terraces, the 2008 Riesling Reserve combines tropical fruit notes, floral and minty tones, and a powerfully mineral palate to make a poised and polished Riesling.

- David Salinas

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Brundlmayer 1994 Riesling Zobing Heiligenstein Auslese

Slightly faded golden yellow in color, the nose is expressive and detailed with aromas of white tea, chocolate mints, and lemon zest. The palate is juicy and rounded with residual sugar that is well balanced by a surprisingly vibrant acidity that powers through to a chamomile and lemon bitters finish. This Riesling really comes together with 30 minutes in the decanter. Definitely a special occasion wine!

 

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Hirtzberger 1998 Wachau Steinporz Weissburgunder Smaragd

This light golden wine was one of the highlights of our tasting. It makes you rethink the aging potential of Weißburgunder. Aromas of white flowers, fruitcakes, thyme, hazelnuts and musky tones are remarkably bright and expressive for a wine of this age. The palate is juicy and weighty with notes of fenugreek and green plums carried by a mouth-watering minerality. A head-turner of a Weißburgunder!

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Högl 2000 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Loibner Visionen

Aromas of tropical and temperate climes mingle in this expressive Riesling. Tones of starfruit, honeysuckle, and lemon verbena that remarkably vibrant and have kept this an energetic and finely-aged Riesling. The palate is equally alive with hi-toned minerality and notes of green and yellow plums before a deliciously herbal finish.

- David Salinas

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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 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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Pichler, FX 2002 Wachau Smaragd Loibnerberg Gruner Veltliiner

A rich, peppery Gruner Veltliner, which wears its higher ripeness and larger frame lightly. Notes of coriander, red pepper, tumeric, and greengage rise from the glass, while the palate is concentrated, full-bodied, but not lacking in finesse, balance or minerality. This is a opulently filigreed Gruner.

- David Salinas

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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 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 2005 Wachau Riesling Klaus

A Smaragd in everything but name, this is Prager at its most ornate and heady -- going into the stylistic realm of some of his neighbors, especially FX Pichler or Hirtzberger. Fear not though, as rather than translate all that ripeness into an unwieldy amount of alcohol, Toni Bodenstein opted to stop fermentation before it was totally complete, leading to a perfectly balanced wine they would call "Feinherb" across the border in Germany. Bodenstein likens it to the 1990 Klaus, which is no faint praise, to be sure. Built to last in the cellar for many, many years. -jfr

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Prager 2012 Wachau Achleiten Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Stockkultur

Stockkultur is Tonti Bodenstein's most interesting project, featuring very, very old vines in rocky Achleiten, with much genetic diversity and many vines trained on single stakes like in the Mosel (although trained much lowers to the ground). One of the most deft yet concentrated Grüners of the vintage. We love Prager! -jfr

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Prager 2012 Wachau Smaragd Riesling Wachstum Bodenstein

We make it a point to carry some of this wine every year — its story is fascinating and it never disappoints. The Wachstum Bodenstein is one of the highest-elevation sites in the Wachau and it was planted with massale selection with the aim of having a vineyard with among the most genetic diversity in all of Austria. The resulting wines are always multi-facted, layered, deep and rich. We love Prager! -jfr

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