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After starting to oversee the winemaking in 2006, Markus Altenburger took over the family winery fully in 2012, and has expanded to 30 parcels totaling around 14-odd hectares (currently in the third year of organic conversion). His parents had mostly made white wines with some attention given to international red varieties. Markus shifted the main focus to Blaufränkisch, a grape far more suited to the climate and soils found around the town of Jois and the Leithaberg DAC. Work in the cellar is with native yeasts, élevage is mostly in old wood or cement, with no additions save a judicious amount of sulfur at bottling. Gritschenberg is a southeast-facing parcel on the Leithaberg, planted to Blaufränkisch by Markus' grandfather in the late '60s. The vineyard is rife with the famous 'Leithakalk' or shell limestone, on which the old-vine Blaufränkisch manifests smaller berries, looser bunches, and lends a mineral elegance to the wines. Grapes are hand-harvested, ferment in cask, and the wine ages for two years in 500L used oak barrels. The concentration of plum and raspberry fruit that could have gone too lush and soft in a ripe vintage like 2015 is deftly cut with savory black licorice and salty herbs and earthy structure. Bravo, Markus! Cari Bernard
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!
Hollerin has fairly large terraces, with loam and Gföhler gneiss soil. Sometimes thought to be the softer counterpart to nearby Höhereck this is definitely the case in 2018. Delicate florals mingle with yellow apple, nectarine and apricots showing a more gentle acidity than previous vintages. Cari Bernard
Mühlpoint is located on the gentle slope below Steinertal, with higher levels of loess and loam, more suited to growing Grüner Veltliner. CB
Based in the town of Zöbing, Barbara Öhlzelt farms six hectares of vines. Her parcels on Heiligenstein are home to 25-year-old vines on sandstone over primary rock. Even though Heiligenstein is generally a warmer site, in the cooler, rainier '16 vintage Öhlzelt was able to preserve a racy acidity and brightness along with a touch more structure and citrusy notes than the Kögelberg. While we are still fairly new to Barbara's wines, we applaud her dedication to producing a fresher, more mineral and focused style of Kamptal wines. We're here for it! Cari Bernard
Barbara Öhlzelt's parcel in is in the Zöbinger Kogelberg, home to almost 70-year-old vines growing in granite and shale over primary rock. No machines are used here, harvest is by hand and the grapes ferment spontaneously before aging in used acacia barrel on the lees. Zöbing-side is often my favored side of these Kamptal vineyards. I've found that wines from the vineyards around this town are often racier, and maintain a brightness that balances the potential fruity character of the wines. We were lucky to grab some of Barbara's 2016 Kogelberg and it's showing really well! Great balance between vivid green herbs and sweet-tart Fuji apple and ripe apricot; this would be a lovely dry Riesling to join your holiday spread. Cari Bernard
The Austrian town of Rust has had a long, storied history in the wine world, at one time producing wines so renowned that they were able to buy their way into the special standing of "royal free city" in 1681 during the reign of Emperor Leopold I. The wine most synonymous with Rust would be the noble sweet wine, Ausbruch, traditionally made from botrytis-affected Furmint (although other grapes have been and may be used). The Ruster Ausbruch is a legendary wine, and draws parallels with the Tokajis from Hungary, which have maintained a sense of grandeur, elegance, and mystery for centuries. By the 18th and 19th century, Furmint was the most important white grape planted in the vineyards around Rust. This all changed after the decline of the Dual Monarchy and the first World War, due to economic and political influences, not to mention WWII and the residual effects of the Iron Curtain. What used to be the star grape of the region was, for the most part, uprooted, or relegated to occasional vines inter-planted with other varieties. Only in the most recent generations has there been a return to a focus on growing Furmint for dry wines as well, which is a fantastic interpretation for this grape, drawing parallels to Chenin Blanc. Michael Wenzel makes some of our favorite dry expressions of the grape, and a two-minute walk away, Heidi Schröck is making some dry Furmint to not miss. In fascinating contrast to Wenzel, Heidi's Furmint is dense with savory herbs and salt, white nectarines and apricots, white-fleshed pears. We hope you can make some room for dry Furmint on your holiday table, be it with the cheese plate, turkey or ham, or roasted root vegetables. Cari Bernard
Heiligenstein is legendary: born of the Bohemian Massif it is home to a myriad of soil types, and Johannes Hirsch is a venerable scholar of Kamptal terroir. His dedication and love for the region is felt in his commitment to uncompromisingly farming biodynamically, utilizing soft-pruning techniques in the vineyards, and the care taken in the cellar to let the wines ferment spontaneously and at their own speed in a mix of stainless steel, acacia, and oak barrels (all used). The Hirsch Heiligenstein vineyard is on the Zöbing side, curving from south- to southwest-facing in aspect, with a mix of silt, conglomerate, and colored sandstone along with gravel, volcanic soils, and in some portions, loess. SO concentrated with fruity notes of mango and Fuji apple. nectarine and florals, balanced with zippy acidity and mineral lift on the finish. This is a bottle you can definitely hold onto, but we are impatient, so we're tasting it in store, tonight, (Wednesday, 11/20) from 5-7PM! Cari Bernard
Delightfully fruity but balanced with refreshing acidity, this year's Hirschvergnügen comes from all estate fruit, hand-harvested, ambient fermentation and aging occurs in stainless steel. Bursting with tropical citrus fruits, green apples, and the slightest touch of herbal spice. This is a great Grüner to pair with lighter fare. Cari Bernard
This certified organic liter of Grüner Veltliner is always a good choice for parties of all sizes (including a party of one). I was pleasantly surprised to find the Hofer was showing delightful freshness in such a warm vintage. Tasty and fresh, piquant notes of preserved lemon and lime rind, green peppercorn and green mango with a saline touch that begs another sip! Cari Bernard
Weingut Jurtschitsch is the oldest winery (est. 16th century) in the Kamptal region of Austria and has been in the family since 1868. Vineyards were converted to organic farming in 2006 and all 60 hectares have been certified organic since 2009. The Brut Sekt Rosé is mostly Zweigelt with the balance made up of Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent, from cooler vineyard sites with calcareous soils. The wine spends 2 1/2 years on the lees and receives 7 g/L dosage. Light, electric pink in the glass, the nose is fragrant with roses, tart cherries, and raspberries. On the palate juicy red berries mingle with stony and salty minerality: refreshing and bone dry. Cari Bernard
Paraphrased from information on the Vinea Wachau website: Schütt is a mostly southfacing vineyard near the town of Dürnstein of about 5.5 hectares, some of which is terraced. Deep gneiss, with sand and rocks helping with drainage. In general, in the Wachau, 2000 made for ripe wines with ageing potential.
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
Paraphrased from info available on the Vinea Wachau website: Schütt is a mostly southfacing vineyard near the town of Dürnstein of about 5.5 hectares, some of which is terraced. Deep gneiss, with sand and rocks helping with drainage.Beautiful fall weather in 2001 made for "very fine, elegant Rieslings with good acid structures..."
Paraphrased from info available on the Vinea Wachau website: Schütt is a mostly southfacing vineyard near the town of Dürnstein of about 5.5 hectares, some of which is terraced. Deep gneiss, with sand and rocks helping with drainage. 2002 was very problematic for stone terrace upkeep due to the flooding in March, and then August. "Subsequent dry and warm weather caused the grapes to ripen well. These are classic wines with distinctive varietal typicity."
A new release in the same vein of the 'Nacht' from last year, the series now includes four different wines, all aged in concrete egg. 'Morgen' is 100% Sankt Laurent (~35 y/o vines) biodynamically grown on sandy loam soils. According to the ZRS website, the grapes go through a brief whole cluster maceration followed by spontaneous fermentation, 9 months of aging in aforementioned concrete egg, bottled unfined and unfiltered with low amount of sulfur added. Lees, caramel and citrus on the nose, the palate is singing with bright notes of wild strawberries, red peaches, blood orange juice and peel, balanced with subtle florals. Cari Bernard
Biodynamic Pinot Noir rosé frizzante for fall! Notes of tart red grapefruit, tangy orange zest, wild strawberries and loquats are buoyed by a creamy mousse. This would be lovely to start an evening, or could most definitely be enjoyed at the end with a cheese plate. Maybe also pop a bottle while cooking your holiday feast! Cari Bernard
Martin Muthenthaler is part of the small cadre of winemakers in the Wachau that are eschewing the Vinea Wachau system to focus on organic farming and wines that shy away from the lush (and at sometimes Baroque) style that made the valley internationally famous. Winemakers like Peter Veyder-Malberg, Andreas & Maria Harm, and Martin Muthenthaler have been painstakingly tending to these legendary (often terraced) vineyards with a new vision: to preserve historical terroir and care for the land through bio farming, producing vibrant wines of place, unencumbered by having to adhere to a style profile dictated by the Vinea. Martin once worked as a mechanic and truck driver for what is now called Domäne Wachau. In 2006 he took control of his family's ~3 hectares of vines in the Spitzer Graben, the coolest part of the Wachau valley. Here he's been able to rehab the terraces and through meticulous handwork, has converted to organic farming. The Bruck vineyard is S/SW in orientation, with steep, stone terraces rising to up to 480 m in elevation with orthogneiss/schist/granite soils, vines in Martin's parcels are about 50 years old. Fermentation is spontaneous with wild yeasts, and all aging is in stainless tank with long lees contact (8 months). Electric green strawberries and peach blossoms flood the nose, the palate has a balance between crystalline acidity and a concentrated density with tangy lemon and just ripe stone fruits; a beautiful representation of Bruck! Cari Bernard
Unmistakable on the nose--that floral perfume mixed with SweetTarts candy scent--this can only be Gelber Muskateller (Yellow Muscat). A fresh and delightfully fruity wine, still floral on the palate, balanced with flavors of guava, mango, and peach candy. A great bottle for apéro! Cari Bernard
Leave it to Biodynamic farming pioneers Nikolaihof to make a Neuburger that's actually complex and compelling; to turn our attention back to this often overlooked variety, commonly lost to blends or diluted by over-producing vines. Floral tea and tropical white fruit glides softly along the palate lifted by some Fuji apple acidity on the lengthy finish. So good! Cari Bernard
Claus Preisinger's winery is right outside the tiny town of Gols, on the northeast corner of the Neusiedlersee. He currently farms 19 hectares split between about 64 different plots. Biodynamic since 2008, Claus has embraced the methodology to consistently produce delicious, layered, composed wines, showcasing the unadulterated terroir of Burgenland and often showcasing autochthonous varieties. The name 'Kalkstein' is in reference to the shell limestone soils found in the vineyards where the Blaufränkisch grows. Average vine age is 30-years-old, grapes are hand-harvested, and spontaneously ferment in stainless tank followed by aging sur lie in used large wooden barrel for six months before being bottled with low amounts of sulfur. True to form, his Blaufränkisch shows bright minerality and great texture through the layers of juicy plum, black raspberry, and savory herbs. Cari Bernard
It's back! Unusually slender for a red wine bottle, the Puszta Libre! bottle shape takes its inspiration from vintage soda bottles, a cheeky nod to how chuggable this wine is; and if that's not enough we are also instructed by the label to "drink cold"! Mostly Zweigelt with Sankt Laurent, fermented in stainless steel and aged in large (600L to 1000L) used oak barrels. A purple-ruby in the glass, the 2018 vintage is fun and energetic with notes of black raspberries, raspberry seed, tart red plum, and leesiness on the finish. Cari Bernard
The Stadlmann family has been making wine since the 1780s in the Thermenregion; sheltered from the northern winds by the Vienna Woods, it is one of Austria's warmest wine growing areas. The 'Classic' line of wines are aged in large, used barrels to showcase the true character of the grape and terroir. 2016 is beautifully balanced and fresh, the palate is smooth and juicy with bright flavors of ripe strawberries, tangy raspberries, tart yet candied red cherries wrapped in a cloak of savory spice. A wonderful wine to have with a wide range of food! Cari Bernard
The Stagård family's parcel on the Steiner Gaisberg (western Kremstal) is comprised of 12 southeast-facing terraces, surrounded by forest and shrubs. Grapes here are anywhere from 4-60 years old and grow on a mix of Gföhler gneiss and mica schist that is warmed by the sun and holds the heat well into the evening hours. The seventh generation of winemakers in the family, Urban and Dominique have been focusing on organic farming for their 17 hectares (certified since 2009). They mostly grow Riesling on some epic Wachau/Kremstal sites and cellar work is with wild yeasts, often in stainless tank, although some recent projects have been in steinzeug, or stone tank/crock. Long lees aging and minimal skin contact depending on the vintage/site helps stabilize and "harmonize" the wines. First tasted as a tank sample in summer of 2017, we've since tried it (in 2019) and think it would be a fantastic wine to pair with whatever graces your holiday table. Showing that warmth of the summer months on the Gaisberg, soft apricots, yellow apple, chamomile and brown sugar waft dreamily out of the glass and are echoed on the richly balanced palate along with ripe pineapple and pear on the very long finish. Cari Bernard
Rotburger is the original name for Zweigelt; this bottling is sourced from one of Karl and Eva Schnabel’s three vineyards, the Kreuzegg vineyard on the Sausal mountain, home to slate soils with silex. As is true with all of the Schnabel red wines, natural fermentation occurs in open tank, with hand-pigéage; the wine is then scooped via bucket into used Burgundy barrels where it ages on the lees until being bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with no sulfur. Deep, dark magenta in color, darker than expected. Scents of ripe purple plums, stewed strawberries, carrot peelings, and just a hint of savory soy sauce, the wine is medium-bodied, juicy and mouthcoating with flavors of blueberries, blackberries, black raspberries, plums, and only the faintest whisper of tannins on the finish. May need another month or so to really knit together, but we look forward to where this wine is heading. (2/2019) Cari Bernard
Michael Wenzel is one of the few winemakers left in Austria making dry Furmint (a grape usually found in noble sweet wines of both Austria and Hungary). His father, Robert, brought Furmint clippings from Hungary back into his family's hectarage in the mid-eighties. Michael continues to plant vines and has been looking for ways to adapt the grape to the current terroir of Rust. So far the results have been (for us) a benchmark example of the variety. Scents of quince, white blossoms, apples, nectarine and herbs waft from the glass readily; the palate is powerfully concentrated with stone fruit and quince balanced with crystalline acidity. Fantastic! Cari Bernard
The Wenzel wine that first caught my attention, Michael's 2015 Pinot Gris 'Wild & Free', did so because it was a complex, natural wine that was both fun and sophisticated; food-friendly but stood well on its own. For the 'Wild & Free' line of wines, grapes are hand-harvested, and spend between 10-15 days in contact with the skins before pressing. Wines age in neutral barrels. The 2018 conjures the same delight as the 2015: beautiful floral scents, deep, umami notes of umeboshi plum mixed with sour cherry, blood orange, raspberry, wild strawberry, and red grapefruit zest, medium-bodied with the lightest tannic tack and bright acidity—elegance and drinkability! This would be a great bottle to take you from hors d'oeuvres all the way through the main event this holiday season. Cari Bernard
If the 'Velue' wines are straightforward and true to variety, the 'Revolution' wines are more on the experimental side. I loved this when it was tasted, but was never able to write all the cellar info down. To paraphrase the importer: 'this release is 50% Chardonnay partially fermented (carbonic) in amphora followed by co-fermentation with Scheurebe, and blended with Riesling from a solera of vintages 2013-2015 aged in used wood, unfined, unfiltered with no sulfur added'. A touch of structure and texture from the skin contact is finely integrated with bright notes of nectarine, Fuji apple, quince, and zesty kumquat. Cari Bernard