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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
Neuburger. Once relegated to the level of pallid blending grape and a variety that has seen a stark decrease of planted hectarage, there has been an increase of really compelling wines being made solely with this humble crossing of Roter Veltliner and Sylvaner. Markus Altenburger works to preserve and continue producing beautiful wines with autochthonous varieties. These 'local' grapes take well to the Burgenland climate and soils, and Markus has some really great sites within the Leithaberg DAC, northwest of the Neusidlersee. Here soils can range from shell limestone and slate to schist, gneiss, and loam. 'Betont' is a play on words, translating to 'pronounced', while also referencing the german word 'beton', which is concrete. 80% of the grapes are destemmed and left on the skins for five days before spontaneously fermenting and aging together in concrete egg with the remaining 20% that was whole bunch macerated for two weeks. The wine stays on the lees until being bottled unfined, unfiltered, with very low sulfur addition. A really fun mix of minty herbaceouness and tropical fruitiness on the nose, there's just a slight tack from the skin contact woven into the savory leesiness, pears, yellow apples on the medium-weight palate. A delightful wine! Cari Bernard *bottle photo courtesy Schatzi website
Organically-farmed Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt grown on limestone (kalk) soils outside of the town of Jois in Burgenland, fermented and aged in stainless steel tank. Cherries, strawberries, cinnamon, and florals on the nose, the palate is refreshing with notes of juicy raspberries, ripe strawberries, and a lactic creaminess balanced by crisp minerality. Fresh and fun, pair with a large helping of moules-frites, a rare tuna burger, fried chicken, you name it! Cari Bernard *bottle photo courtesy Schatzi website
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
Ried Zanzl is a northwest-facing vineyard that abuts the Dunkelstein forest. This cooler site is also home to deep gneiss and loess topsoils, with gravel, mica, and amphibolite below. A great vineyard to grow Grüner Veltliner, which can draw lots of water and ripen slowly, Zanzl is usually the last site Georg Frischengruber will harvest. The grapes are delicately pressed and natural fermentation is low and slow in neutral oak barrel. The wine will age on the lees until the following summer. Fantastic density balanced by a vibrant acid structure, notes of green strawberries, apricots, mango, and ripe nectarine with saline freshness. Cari Bernard *bottle photo courtesy Schatzi website
Renner sits at the base of the Kammerner Gaisberg, soils here are a mix of limestone and sandy loam on top of loess and mica schist with alluvial deposits. Cellar info paraphrased from the Skurnik website: whole cluster pressed, natural yeast fermentation and aging in a mix of stainless tank and large format, neutral oak barrel with lees contact until just a few months before bottling. 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
Paraphrased from the Weygandt website: Rotes Tor is a reference to a gate in the town wall that was red with blood during the Swedish Wars (1630). Vines here are on average 25 years old, planted on a mix of gneiss, mica, schist, and brown soil. The Vinea Wachau website says that the 2001 vintage made for Grüner Veltliners with "great density and concentration."
2015 was a very warm vintage, with drought conditions during the summer months, followed by intermittent rains later in the harvest. Although wines were on the more concentrated and ripe side, acidity still remained fairly fresh for the vintage. Paraphrased from the Weygandt website: Rotes Tor is a reference to a gate in the town wall that was red with blood during the Swedish Wars (1630). Vines here are on average 25 years old, planted on a mix of gneiss, mica, schist, and brown soil.
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
'Joiseph' is the project of three friends (Richard Artner, Xandl Kagl and Luka Krawmann), started in 2015 in the town of Jois, north of the Neusidlersee in Burgenland. They've slowly been acquiring great parcels (now with close to six hectares in total), farming organically with some biodynamic leanings. We were drawn to their 'Mischkultur': a mix of Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Neuburger, Muskateller, and Traminer from two separate parcels, with vines ranging from 10 to nearly 100 years in age, on limestone and slate soils. Not sure what the skin contact time is on this, but the wine is bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with very low levels of sulfur added. White cherries and almond cream on the nose, the medium-bodied palate has a beautiful play between texture and juicy pineapple with a more bitter almond note over apple tart tatin, and white flowers. Cari Bernard
A new arrival from Alwin and Stefanie Jurtschitsch in the Kamptal, 'Mon Blanc' is a blend of Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Gelber Muskateller and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) from the Loiserberg vineyard (cooler site, glimmerschiefer and loess, certified organic since 2009). About two weeks of skin contact, spontaneous fermentation in open-top wooden vats, aging is in 600L old oak barrel, the wine is unfined and unfiltered with a small amount of SO2 added only at bottling. High-tones of lemon zest and herbs with peaches on the nose, the wine is refreshing and tart with just a hint of texture framing white florals, lemon juice, apricot and chamomile. 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. Grüners in this vintage had the ability to hang long enough to gain lush density.
Lackner-Tinnacher may be new to us, but the family-run estate has been making wine since 1770, with Katharina Tinnacher now at the helm (since 2010). The estate has been organically certified since 2013, and this is a large undertaking, as the vineyards are steep and the region sees three times the amount of rain in an average year than the rest of the Austrian wine regions, so disease pressure is very high. The Gamlitz Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from three vineyards: Eckberg, Steinbach, and Türken. The five different types of massale selection Sauvignon Blanc they have planted have been selected for both their aromatic qualities and lower yields. Everything is hand-harvested, fermentation is spontaneous in stainless tank and the wine spends eight months in tank on the lees before bottling. The aromatics skew away from pyrazines, and more towards wildflowers, white fruits, and anise, the palate is at first saline and fresh, followed by a soft, and densely fruity reflection of the warmth of 2018, with lush apples and yellow apricots rounding out the finish. Cari Bernard
A blend of Welschriesling, Grauburgunder, and Traminer biodynamically grown on a rocky loam soils. Hand-harvested, the grapes macerate for about a week followed by spontaneous fermentation and aging in stainless tank on the lees. The wine is unfined, unfiltered, and only 25 mg/L of SO2 is added before bottling. A nice balance of florals, apricot, slightly oxidized apple, and savory leesiness with just a whisper of texture. 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
Im Weingebirge is quite possibly one of the oldest central European vineyards on record, with references to St. Severin's time spent in the vineyard in 470CE. It's only fitting that one of the oldest estates in Europe would have vines here, and that the Grüner Veltliners produced from this site are some of the most singular and unique we've tasted in recent years. 2015 is the current release of Im Weingebirge Smaragd in the US, and what an interesting bottle this was! Fresh mint and root beer waft through the nose. Surprisingly ethereal for a Smaragd from a warmer vintage, with tart green apple and just ripe apricot lifting the palate. Beautiful! 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
Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, 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 Bernard
Sonntag Geschlossen (“Closed on Sundays”) is a collaboration between Florian Schuhmann and his friend Marcus Sonntag. The story goes that Marcus had been farming his family’s two hectares of old-vine (50 y/o) Grüner Veltliner for years, converting to biodynamics in 2009. Interestingly enough, he really didn’t take to the winemaking part, so the juice was kept in old barrels in his family’s cellar being topped up and lightly sulfured for nearly seven years before Florian got around to asking after the wines. Florian offered to bottle the wines under this label, releasing each barrel separately. This first release is from a 2400L (very old) barrel, unfined and unfiltered. Slightly oxidative on the nose, with bitter herbs, salted pineapple, yellow apple core and stone on the finish—we look forward to future barrels! Cari Bernard
Florian Schuhmann of Quantum Winery never fails to surprise with every new vintage. Der Herr Baumann is sourced from a parcel of 35-year-old Portugieser vines on sandy clay soils. Although the parcel belongs to a friend (Christophe Bauer), the grapes here are tended to by Florian, are hand-harvested and undergo a five-day maceration, spontaneous fermentation, and the wine ages in 300L neutral oak barrel followed by a rest in stainless. The wine is unfined and unfiltered, and Florian only adds a small amount of sulfur at bottling. The nose is resinous and herbal with notes of strawberry jam, on the palate the wine is both bold and fresh, notes of cranberry, plum skin, tarragon, red grapefruit acidity with just a touch of structure. 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. 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
Franz Weninger has vines in both Sopron, Hungary and Burgenland, Austria. He started converting to biodynamics in 2006 and is now Demeter certified. Franz grows a variety of grapes on a mix of limestone, clay, loam, and loess soils (on the Austrian side), but his main focus is Blaufränkisch and its ability to showcase terroir. You can see this dedication in the sheer number of different, single-vineyard expressions he bottles from both sides of the border. The 2017 is from multiple Burgenland parcels. Cari Bernard