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Riesling vines for the Smaragd bottling grow in meager soils in a high altitude, amphitheater-shaped vineyard where most of the sun-exposure ends at around 3 in the afternoon, making for a cooler microclimate in contrast to some of the other south-facing sites on the Loibenberg, where a more Pannonian (warmer) climate prevails. The cooling influence is reflected in the high minerality of the wine. Tasted first as a tank sample, the Loibenberg was floral and fresh, with green strawberries and electric acidity. Tasted a few months after bottling, the green has evolved into orange--orange oil, tangerine, underripe apricot with juicy Fuji apple on the finish. Cari Bernard
Based in the town of Zöbing, Barbara Öhlzelt farms six hectares of vines. Her Grüner Leader is always a go-to bottle for gatherings. The 2019 is very fresh and fun; juicy ripe peach and apples, balanced by green pineapple acidity. Enjoy with salty snacks, salads, light pastas, fresh cheeses! Cari Bernard
A lovely soft and stone-fruited Roter Veltliner with skin contact. Nice viscosity and a clean finish. A great introduction to skin contact wines, and to the lesser known Roter Veltliner grape from Austria. The 2019 is probably our favorite vintage yet of this wine. Hazy in the glass, with almost a peach-hue, its suitable on its own or with light fare, salads, lunch, grilled veggies and the like. -EL
Maria and Andreas Harm have around ten hectares spread between Kremstal and Wachau, with their 500-year-old cellar located on the Kremstal side. 'FIO' stands for four-in-one: Grüner Veltliner from vines aging 10-30 years, from four different vineyards. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel, with lees contact until bottling. White blossoms mixed with green herbal scents, the wine boasts a rich texture balanced by saline notes, green pear, white strawberries, and tart green apple. A sprightly Grüner to pair with crisp snap pea salads, steamed artichokes, fresh soft cheeses, striped bass with lemon and herbs in cartoccio. Cari Bernard
The name of this wine was intended to be Blaufränkisch Forever, but it could easily become anyone’s best friend, for that it will please a very large variety of gatherings. Whether you bring it for dinner at your parent’s house or BBQ with friends in the summer, it will spark joy anywhere it lands. Made of 100% Blaufränkisch, with 50% whole bunches that were covered with de-stemmed mash. It was barely touched during fermentation, only enough to keep the cap wet, and let the extraction happen slowly and steadily. When it was lightly punched down once in a while, it was done gently, by hand. The result is pretty astonishing. While it delivers the undeniable character of the Blaufränkisch grape — dark juicy fruits, cooking herbs like rosemary and thyme, black olive and five-spice, earthiness tied up with a sharp backbone of acidity — it remains playful in its structure. The tannins are silky and integrated, the ripeness is comforting and shows no signs of heaviness. I don’t know how many more words I can use to describe the only one that seems necessary here : balance. This wine is just simply harmonious. And if you don’t already know this amazing well-kept secret : Blaufränkisch is a wonderful candidate for aging in general, and BFF will refine even more if you have the courage to lay it down. It paired amazingly with an al fresco dinner made of a vegetable tart and green beans with pesto. GREAT pizza wine option here, too. It will complement dishes with tomato sauce with its vivacious acidity, lasagna comes to mind, or eggplant parmigiana. -Emily Campeau
Lackner-Tinnacher is one of (if not the) only certified organic producers in the Styria region of Austria. Styrian wines are not known widely in the US, mostly because there is a healthy local tradition of drinking wine and 90% of wine made in Styria is consumed there! Kati Tinnacher is a bit of an exception to the rule in the area. Where lower quality wines are often produced in good quantity and quickly, she has been trying to slow down releases and is working only with estate fruit instead of also buying grapes. This Morillon (Chardonnay) is from the local equivalent of a premier cru parcel called Eckberg. Morillon was likely brought to the area in the 17th or 18th century and is a mort tart and acidic clone of Chardonnay. The wine here is aged in large Acacia barrels and then in bottle for 6 months before release. Our friend Daniel Hubbard knows the winery and the region well and explains that the area has more in common with Friuli than Austria, as there is three times the amount of rainfall here than in the Danube Valley, and soils are similar to those in Friuli as well. The wine has nice structure and a bit of weight. If you don't like Chardonnay, pretend it's not, and if you do, this may not be your favorite but will be unique to any Chardonnay you've tried and is, subjectively, very enjoyable. - Eben
Christoph Heiss has not only taken over the family winery, he's also releasing a few wines as a side project under the 'Malinga' name, using only choice parcels of the family's 12 hectares of vines. Located in eastern Kamptal, the vines grow on mostly loess soils, and the family started conversion to organic farming in 2013. Grapes are hand-harvested and ferment spontaneously, the wine ages on the lees about a year in 500L neutral oak barrels before being bottled unfined/unfiltered and with low sulfur addition. Herbs and pollen on the nose give way to a medium-bodied palate with an oily richness deftly balanced by vibrant acidity. The 2019 is particularly delicious, with a textured, almost waxy mid-palate, and long mineral finish.
This is a really friendly, medium bodied offering from Christoph Heiss, who runs his family's winery in the Kamptal, and also releases a small amount of wine from choice parcels under the "Malinga" name. Rotburger is a cross between Sankt Laurent and Blaufrankisch, and this one shows the fresh St. Laurent snap, and the brambly wild berry and black fruit profile of Blaufrankisch. Great on its own with a chill, perfect for summer sipping, but definitely has some material, so better chilled, not ice cold. Grapes go through whole cluster carbonic maceration for 10 days, and wine is aged for about 9 months in 500L Austrian barrels. -EL
Several years ago, Martin had the misfortune of a really bad harvest, and only had enough grapes to make one Gruner Veltliner bottling. He had to blend older and younger fruit from the Bruck and Schön vineyards, and out of necessity came a revelation that he really liked the balance and complexity of the wine. Vergelt's Gott (directly translated as God's reward, but generally used as a form of 'thank you') is the name Muthenthaler gave the wine, and he has continued to produce a bottling under this name ever since. The 2017 is a blend from 20 and 40 year old vines, fermented in a combination of 1 new and 2 old, large Austrian barrels, and aged in old Austrian barrels. The wine goes through malo-lactic fermentation. This is the kind of Gruner that is clearly on another level, and does more than most young Gruners I've tasted to make a convincing argument that Gruner Veltliner is truly capable of producing exquisite and high quality white wine, as many die-hard fans of Austrian wines already know well. The palate is constantly evolving, and there is a delightfully LONG finish. A compelling wine! -EL
Vom Stein is a parcel behind the town of Mautern, which is on the banks of the Danube in the famous Wachau region. It is one of the principal vineyards that Nikolaus and Christine Saahs farm at the Nikolaihof estate. Soils here are a mix of loess, loam, and Danube gravel. Grapes spontaneously ferment and the wine ages for six months in large, oak casks.
Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch, Rotburger, and Merlot sourced from higher parcels in the Rosenberg, Altenberg, and Ungerberg vineyards, hand-harvested, the grapes ferment spontaneously and age separately for 18 months in neutral 500L barrels, blended and bottled unfiltered with low sulfur added. Black plums, soy sauce, black pepper, deep savory spice wafts up from the glass, belying the fresh and juicy palate of tart raspberries, plums, violets with well-integrated structure. Cari BernardFun fact: The name Pittnauski is an homage to Gerhard's favorite movie, the Big Lebowski.
A blend of Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, and a touch of Merlot; the Biodynamically-grown grapes are harvested by hand and see only stainless steel, so although the wine is medium in body, it boasts an incredible freshness. The nose is rich with notes of cherries and plums, while the palate is bright with juicy blackberries, cassis, dark plums, smoke, red apple skin, and dark chocolate. Works well with or without a slight chill.
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. The 2020 just arrived (April '21) and is ready to drink. Though not the most complex wine in our Austrian section, there is great material in the mid-palate, with some dark berry fruit, and plenty of punch on the attack, with an easy but defined finish. It seems like its somehow more delicious than ever before. Try one if you're curious. Buy at least two if you're already a fan, as the first bottle will likely disappear in a flash! -EL
For fans of the Puzsta Libre, or fans of Claus Preisinger, or anyone who likes delicious rosés... the Rozsa Libre is here! Mostly Zweigelt, with a bit of Sankt Laurent, fermented and aged in stainless steel, with no malolactic fermentation. Light and summery, the new vintage is super fresh, with a hint of strawberry on the palette, and overall addictively thirst quenching. -EL
Maria and Andreas Harm make wines in the Wachau and Kremstal in Austria. Their estate was only started in 2010, so they are definitely a new name in this iconic area, but are already producing beautiful, balanced wines from some famed sites. Vineyards were always farmed organically, with Biodynamic certification coming in 2019, and the wines are fermented with native yeast. Kellerberg is a 15 hectare site of sandy loess over gneiss and quartz, and arguably the most prized site around the town of Dürnstein. The 2015 has the boldness associated with the Kellerberg site, balanced by moderate alcohol (13.5%), low RS and good acidity. It's definitely Riesling, but doesn't scream petrol, has some ripeness, but the mineral finish keeps the wine fresh with lifted notes of crisp orchard fruit as well. It seems from recent tasting that the wine should still have a nice life ahead of it, though it is certainly enjoyable now. -EL