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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
Claus Preisinger's winery is right outside the tiny town of Gols, on the northeast corner of the Neusiedlersee. Biodynamic since 2008. 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. The newly arived 2019 is delicious and vibrant, with dark fruit and light-medium body. People speak about drinkability, and we don't like to overuse the term, but it couldn't be more apt to describe this lovely red.
The name Kalkundkiesel designates the use of sites that are rich in chalk (kalk) and pebbles (kiesel). The blend is 60 % Weissburgunder, 30 % Grüner Veltliner, 10 % Chardonnay. The fermentation occurs with the skins, and the wine is aged for 6 months in neutral oak barrels on the lees. This wine opened up my eyes to the potential of Austrian whites, and I will always thank our esteemed former colleague Cari Bernard for bringing in interesting and "outside the box" wines from the country. Everything about this wine asks for patience and focus. The nose is enveloping, with stone fruit (white nectarine) and citrus notes, the texture on the palette is both rich and crispy/crunchy with mineral backbone. A lovely wine to sit back with and a very approachable (and clean) wine, particularly commendable as it's produced without added sulfites. A fine choice with Thanksgiving fare, as the stone fruit character and density make a suitable pairing for a fall harvest meal. -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
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, and orchard fruit.
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! -CB