July 10, 2014
2014 Terry Theise German and Austrian Offerings
“In the Pfalz they reversed the old military expression “hurry-up-and-wait,” because having waited and waited, botrytis arrived rampantly and now they had to hurry up.A couple growers spoke of a 6-day picking, “harvest[ing] day and night and mostly by machine,” as one of them said. Grapes went from green on Tuesday to brown on Wednesday, in effect from under to overripe in the course of 36 hours. And yet, two outstanding collections from PFALZ growers (Catoir and Von Winning) joined excellent lineups from Eugen Müller and Theo Minges, and it began to seem that meticulous vineyard and canopy work, combined with ruthless sorting at harvest, could give truly exciting wines. All my Pfälzers were at least very good. The wines can be said to resemble 2011s, with a little less ripeness and a little more acidity.”Moving north and west, everything I saw in RHEINHESSEN was clean and quite-good to good. Maybe not wines of legend, but you and I will enjoy drinking them. The three RHEINGAU estates I visited all had very good vintages in the rather jittery ’13 manner; the wines are like a teenager jiggling his leg constantly, such is their nervous energy. You’d seldom call them sedate. But they can exhibit something of the poise of the classic, for all that.”The NAHE seems to have drawn the winning number in 2013; everyone made excellent wines and one estate made perhaps their best wines ever—Kruger-Rumpf. Here one didn’t taste a vintage in which “challenges were surmounted,” one didn’t say These are good for ’13s—they were just kick-ass wines through and through, though of course they show the torn-silk textures and prominent acids of the vintage.”The MOSEL and SAAR are where things get…interesting. Upending the pattern of the past decade or so in which vintages tended to improve as one moved north/ west, the Mosel in general got a little roughed up in 2013. But how will you take this? If you’re reading “He says not to buy Mosels” you’re reading it wrong. There’s loads of lovely wines. But where the vintage failed, it was most likely to fail here. Yet it fails in a curious way.”The vintage is very small. Many growers made one-third of an average year. At best it was 40-50% below average, coming on the heels of the short crops of 2012 and 2010, and so every possible wine was on the table.
“Nor am I by any means certain that I got the whole picture of these ’13s. In 28 years of tasting young German wines I have never seen a more reticent backward vintage. I lost count of the number of times a freshly-poured wine was irksome, and then returning to the glass after five minutes (or more) the wine had changed, thrown off the yuckies and started showing fruit. Snap judgments will not do these wines any justice. Especially these wines, because they are obstreperous and gaudy and wont to trip over their own feet, and often it’s just these kinds of wines that gain grace and restraint through bottling. I’ll be deeply curious to taste them again.-“TT
VON WINNING/DR.DEINHARD (Pfalz)
“WINERY OF THE VINTAGE!
“Is there any hipper an estate in Germany right now? Not that I can see.
“They zoomed out of almost nowhere. The wines are unanimously superb, every one of them, and your humble servant has the rare chance to pick the sweetest cherries from a group of very sweet cherries. And the wines are superb in a way I have never seen from any other German Riesling estate.
“As the estate improved with each year, rising steadily through the German critical firmament, it grew clear that Attmann took a kind of pan-European view of what greatness in wine signified. He didn’t look to the likes of Egon Müller or to Dönnhoff. His heroes were the Burgundians. He wanted his wines to be mighty.
“This involved raising Rieslings in oak casks, not in barriques but rather in the traditional “Stückfass,” that holds around 1,000 Liters. As these were new, they imparted a degree of flavor to the wines, but Attmann was sure of two things: one, the influence of oak would fade—and yes, that’s what they all say—and two, that his Rieslings would have so much of their own power they would subsume the wood in which they were made.
“They are stunning through and through and in all price ranges. But they are supernally stunning at the top of the range, in the Grand Crus, and the best I can say is, these cost what they’re worth. Placed alongside any of Europe’s great white wines, they have their place, they warrant their prices, and many of them are relative values vis-à-vis much of Burgundy.”-TT
Von Winning Riesling 2013 ($24.95) $18 special
“Lilac, melon, wisteria, markedly flowery; a tasty wry balance on the palate, wherein a tiny sweetness delivers a huge payoff. Slim and lissome but long and classy. Completely amazing quality in the “basic” echelon, and a classic example of one of the Great Truths of German wine: A perfect dry Riesling is often not perfectly dry.” -TT
Von Winning Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten Riesling Trocken 2013 ($34.95) $27 special
“Tasty, barley and cask-y notes behind a grainy delineated Riesling; less creamy than the ’12 and showing some of ’13’s more pointed edge, but it delivers length, clarity and some ineffable Pfalz-ness, and they tell me it will be smoother by the time its bottled.” -TT
SCHLOSSGUT DIEL (Nahe)
“The Rieslings hail most importantly from a trio of contiguous Grand Crus: Goldloch on thin loam and gravel over a rocky subsoil, Burgberg on quartzite, and Pittermännchen on Hunsrück slate. “The age of the vines are similar in the three sites, the microclimates are similar in the three sites, only a few meters separate them from one another, yet they are entirely different based on terroir,” says Armin…That sense of being put-together extends to the wines, which are sophisticated and aristocratic and engineered with exquisite craft and intelligence. They’re also consistently delicious, the way a BMW is consistently marvelous to drive. They take the aesthetics of tastiness about as far as such things can go, and the grateful drinker is duly admiring. And if this sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, I’m not. It’s fun to be with such wines, where the trouser-crease is impeccable and the pocket-hankie is folded just so, and the shoes are gleaming. They make it all look easy, they taste so good—and of course it’s anything but easy, and we don’t see the sweat and toil behind the bottles. We only drink the wine.”-TT
Schlossgut Diel Dorsheimer Burgberg Riesling Spatlese 2004 ($69.95) $54.50 special
“Resplendent aromas of papaya, pineapple and oyster shell. Dense but juicy, with a finely spiced acidity that seizes one’s palate. Finishes with impressive concentration and length. One of the finest spatleses of the vintage.” – Tanzer
“In essence the BRÜCKE is a minerally wine; it shows a more masculine profile, it’s more fibrous and nutty than many other Nahe wines, but just at the moment you think you’re tasting everything in it, it comes at you with even more nuance, yet another facet of flavor. If new-world-oaky-creamslut wines are like basic addition and subtraction, these wines are like integral calculus—except that any ragamuffin palate (even mine!) can grok them.
“NIEDERHÄUSER HERMANNSHÖHLE is one of those vineyards that gives utterly miraculous wine. You shake your head in delighted perplexity that fermented grape juice can attain such flavors. It is a steep hillside, not very large (8.5 hectares), with ideal exposition and a soil whose complexity is mirrored in its wines. Walk fifty yards through the vineyard and you see a mish-mash of soils, as though this were a geological junction, an Arc de Triomphe of slate, porphyry, melaphyre and conglomerates—sometimes all jumbled together. The only possible drawback is drought in the drier years. Its favorable exposure makes Eiswein almost impossible.
“Dönnhoff is currently producing the very best wines from HERMANNSHÖHLE, and you need look no further to see one of the wine-world’s great confluences of a great vineyard and a great proprietor. I don’t care what a hot-shot palate you have, the complexities of these wines will tax it to its outermost limits. The fundamental aromas and flavors are a mingling of sharply sweet cherry, sometimes black cherry, and currant-cassis, but there is a hint of anise too, something spriggy, and an undertow of stoniness from the slate. Botrytis brings tropical fruit notes. I would go so far as to claim that NO SINGLE WINE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD IS AS COMPLEX AS DÖNNHOFF’S BEST FROM HERMANNSHÖHLE.”-TT
Felsenber Riesling GG “Felsenturmchen” 2013 ($69.95) $54.50 special
“Distracted while tasting, so my note is sketchy. The wine is markedly sleek and delineated, and “greener” (in terms of tea and herbs, not lack of ripeness) than ’12. “-TT
Dellchen Riesling GG 2013 ($69.95) $54.50 special
“Remarkably approachable young Dellchen! It’s not that the wine is usually forbidding; it’s just closed until about 3-4 years old. But this is as pixilated and herbal-stony as I’ve ever tasted, so full of grasses and herbs and rock-dust. Ethereal finish, exceedingly delicate.”-TT
Hermannshohle Riesling GG 2013 ($79.95) $59.00 special
“Surprisingly forceful and masculine, and showing a certain Calvinist rectitude, as if the Trimbachs had visited and vinified it. This view is likely distorted, as this among all the wines was the least forthcoming.”-TT
Oberhauser Leistenburg Riesling Kabinett 2013 ($31.95) $24.00 special
“A trebly wine in general meets a trebly vintage in particular, and the result is like a St. Elmo’s fire of flavor; high-toned lemony aromas, talc, spearmint, with a scythe-like cut and relief; almost shockingly taut in this very young stage”-TT
Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese 2013 ($49.95) $41.90 special
“An aside—there’s no Felsenberg Spät in the small crop of 2013, as all of it went into the dry wine. Thus we head straight into Brücke, and into its quiet monastic stirring and yearning. That’s the essence of Brücke, this kind of ur-Riesling that seems to find our own primordial souls. In ’13 its acids feel more prominent, and it’s brooding just now, but serenely—Brücke can be obscure but is never austere. I opened the 2001 over the winter and it needs 4-5 more years, though you can drink Hermannshöhle now if you insist. “-TT
Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese 2013 ($64.95) $51.90 special
“After the Brücke this was vividly lively again. Qualities of sublimity and qualities of almost hyperactive acidity. A decades- keeper, or if you drink it young, then food please. You need to carpet over an end-palate snappiness. The trebly skeins-of-herbs-and-flowers style of ’13 is well expressed here! But again—take this all with some grains of salt. I was early to this particular party.”-TT
Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2013, 375ml ($39.95) $33.00 special
“The first since 2006. Clarity goes without saying. Berries, mint and wintergreen and aloe vera; the transparency, reserve and intricacy are divine, and the Gyokoru and balsam finish is heart-rending. The best Auslese I tasted from 2013—so far”-TT
Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2013, 375ml ($49.95) $39.00 special
“Now we see the cherry and verbena elements of this greatest of all Riesling vineyards in the elevated form of a parfait. It’s sweet and overt yet also mysterious, as intense and as light as the best macaroons.”-TT
“Spreitzer’s wines certainly speak in the prevailing “syntax” of the times: crystalline, refined, perfumey and polished. These are Rheingau wines as Diel might make them. Andreas and Bernd’s wines are, in the best sense, fashionable, spiffy, well turned-out. Thankfully the two of them are plenty unpretentious.
“There are very good reasons for the consensus among Germany’s critical community that Spreitzer is near the very top of his region.”-TT
Oestricher Doosberg Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2013 ($24.95) $18.00 special
“A sponti done in large cask; fragrances of lilac and iris; dry but gentle and complex; still cerebral but lots of pleasant musings in its flowery lime oil and green-tea articulations. I’m drinking a pot of Wen-shang Bao-Jhongas as I write, and the limpid deliberate crawl of exquisite flavor is analogous to this wine.”-TT
Lenchen “Rosengarten” Riesling GG 2012 ($39.95) $33.00 special
“As a rule the Rosengarten is among the least demanding and most forthcoming of Germany’s self-serious Rieslings; reliably juicy and explosive, it’s a virtual lip smacker. I tasted this `12 painfully early but even then, the aromas were compelling.”-TT
Rosengarten Riesling GG 2013 ($49.95) $39.00 special
“Two bits of news: one, the Rosengarten is now officially a GG—up till now the designation was approved pending the final decision. And two, it’s now “GG” everywhere (instead of “Erstes Gewächs” in the Rheingau alone). It would be hard to imagine two more opposite wines. Rosengarten is all about fruit and yumminess. Even in ’13, though it’s angular out of the gate, the finish is suave and juicy, and the whole thing’s like a herb-and-fruit smoothie. “-TT
Wisselbrunnen Riesling GG 2013 ($49.95) $39.00 special
“Wisselbrunnen is almost anti-fruit, more about nut-husk and toasted grains and quinoa; it’s firm, in control and sure of itself, and shows the greater complexity. But Rosengarten is more adorable.”-TT
“The 2013s are a happy shock. Somehow they are full citizens of 2013 while having sidestepped every negative facet of the vintage. I don’t quite know how. You don’t discuss minutiae of vineyard or cellar work with Rolf or Alfred. I do wonder whether they are nonplussed by how close ’13 comes to the monumental wines they grew in 2010. Such a vintage is a once-in-a-lifetime proposition, until its uncanny sibling-vintage comes along three years later. Not that the wines are identical; ’10 had more acidity and cleaner fruit, while ’13 has its botrytis to reckon with. But the vintages share a solidity you almost can’t fathom in such a slender frame, as though someone had pounded a half-ton concentrate of terroir into a single small syringe.”-TT
Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2002 ($24.95) $18.00 special
“Pure and lovely, though there’s a bit of young-vines stiffness; it’s pedagogically slatey. We’ll move into a juicier fuder 23, which is quite salty and mineral, when this sells out. “-TT
JOH.JOS. CHRISTOFFEL (Mosel)
“Will you understand me if I say the wines from here have been unnervingly consistent for the past ten years? One wonders by which remarkable device they have avoided the vintage-variations that swing in wider arcs at other wineries. I don’t know, won’t surmise, and certainly won’t remotely accuse; after all, the same thing can be said of J.J. Prüm, and it’s patently absurd to criticize consistency. But I’d be perversely reassured to taste something ornery or clunky here once in a while. This is markedly dramatic with the 2013s, which don’t taste like anyone else’s 2013s along the Mosel—at least what I tasted. They taste like another marvelous Christoffel vintage, and who but a churl would take them to task for that? The point seems to be, you open the bottle and the wine does the job. It tastes like it should when it’s healthy and true. The question of whether it tastes like a ’13 is something for geeks to fuss over.
“In general the wines continue to present with polish and brilliance and digital focus. (Eymael’s own Mönchhof wines are rather more baroque.) They are certainly more masterly than Merkelbach, and at many points in each vintage they are wines that raise your eyebrows and send a flush of pleasure through your senses. They’re high-bred and racy, and at their best they touch upon mystical qualities.”-TT
Estate Riesling Feinherb 2012 ($24.95) $19 special
“We have Christoffel Estate QbA in stock for the first time since the 2002 vintage. This is sourced from several young vine parcels in the Treppchen and Würtzgarten and contains the elements of these two distinct terroirs – red oxidized slate and blue Devonian slate. This is feinherb style, a typical Mosel coolness and snappy acidity make it a perfect introduction to the 2012 vintage, from a famous and historic estate.” Feinherb is a recently newer designation the basically replaced ‘Haulbtrocken’ or half-dry. This shows off all the beauty of Trocken with the extra oomph of fruit flavors.”
Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2013 ($29.95) $24.00 special
” Steady as she goes; a teensy tic of ’13 saltiness but otherwise polished and silky, very ripe and salty-sweet. It has some of the ’13 cling, but check this out—over 110º Oechsle with acids over 9g/l and RS 62g/l/. It makes me wonder, what do we mean by “Kabinett” any more?”-TT
Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2013 ($39.95) $29.00 special
“Curiously, though this is sweeter now, it also seems cooler and shadier than the two Kabinetts. (This sometimes happens at Diel too.) Another salty wine but not a beast; it’s ultra-refined and crystalline.”-TT
Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2012 ($39.95) $29 special
“Now this is explosively expressive. If I say “apple and slate” yet again, it’s boring but true. It’s the combo of hi-def clarity and torque, firmness and brilliance yet many-layered density, and this goose-flesh tingle threaded through it all—that makes it uncanny”-TT
Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese “Herzlay” 2013 ($69.95) $59 special
“‘Lay’ is old dialect for slate. This is from an old ungrafted parcel among the cliffs, and as it often it, it’s masterly. Divine apple and walnutty slate; stunning salty length, like having an old Comté with those crunchy crystals and putting that and an apple in your mouth together. Somehow with “only” 115º it tastes markedly riper than the (110º) Kabinett. This is the spectacular wine; next up is the compelling riddle.”-TT
Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2013 ($29.95) $24 special
“The one and only Kabinett of their vintage! The first wine I tasted, not knowing what was to come, I wrote that it overcomes the vintage’s botrytis by sheer density of spicy material, and an almost incredibly fervent expressiveness, so absurdly spicy it’s almost a caricature of Würzgarten.”-TT
Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 2013 ($39.95) $29 special
“Now we really do taste botrytis, which is curiously reassuring. It has the semi-solid construction of ’13, and all sorts of lime zest and lime blossom and if you could concentrate lime juice and strain it through pulverized slate, it would also taste like that. The complexity unfolds tart and salty but in a basic matrix of sweetness. It unfolds deliberately, like an opening rose. A wine with secrets, and plenty of time to tell them”-TT
Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese “Kauen” 2012 ($49.95) $41.90 special
“We’re making a change in labeling. When we did stars – 1-star, 2-star, 3-star – it tended to create a false hierarchy, and led buyers to suppose they had to have the “best” one or the bullies would kick sand in their faces. So now we’re going to use the actual micro-parcel name, because the wines do in fact hail from single small pieces of land. It’s more informative, more truthful. This parcel is way up in the most forbidding terraces, and its wines have a kind of para-sensual slate expression, a sonnet of the rocks. It’ll buzz your fillings, this wine. “-TT
Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese “Kranklay” 2013 ($69.95) $59 special
“This parcel is below the sundial, spreading to either side, down where the slate is more crumbled and the wines have more finesse. This transparent delicacy is prized, bless them, above all other things such as ripeness or power. But this ’13 is a typically dark and brooding, at least today. It tastes like it’s encased in a crust of salt, fruit in a tiny dense kernel, waiting to pop.”-TT
WILLI SCHAEFER (Mosel)
“If you’re new to all this, there’s a reason these wines are so beloved. Part of it is they’re so scarce; the estate is all of 4 hectares with no desire to grow. Part of it is the wines themselves; they’re silly with deliciousness. And as crystalline as they are, as ethereally complex and limpidly clear, they have a quality of calm; they don’t fuss at you how amazing they are. They are, dare I say, affectionate; they just sit in the glass and love you. And so we love them back. We banish all the unruly beasts of our ragged natures, and slip into the warm pool, and let ourselves, for once, be happy.”-TT
Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2013 ($27.95) $24 special
“It’s limpid though some botrytis is present through the gently polished texture; as is often the case with ’13s the fruit emerges with air, as does the salty concentration; the delicate (and moderate) sweetness is welcome. Which wine is it, the salty botrytisey one or the semi-solid fruity one? We shall see.”-TT
Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese 2013 ($39.95) $33 special
“Again quite backward, a concatenation of stubbornness! At first only botrytis shows, and the sweetness seems too low. Patience… and after about five honest minutes it starts to smell like itself, and really good; lots of lime, wintergreen and empire apples, and now with fruit showing the sweetness seems correct, but the acidity gives the wine a Feinherb profile.”-TT
Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese #4 2013 ($59.95) $49 special
“Sleek, tangy, streamlined version of Himmelreich, angular and quince-y. Acids are pointed and botrytis is high-toned and gingery. At the moment depth is obscured by the glaring brilliance; there’s little apparent middle, yet there must be, so judgment of necessity deferred.”-TT
Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett 2013 ($27.95) $24 special
“Very spicy and salty and the acids are quite prominent; ginger and tropical fruit are emphatic, but this is still pre-filtration and it has many more tartrates to precipitate—so hard to judge right now.”-TT
Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spatlese #5 2013 ($49.95) $39 special
“Highly complex aromas in a strong-willed rendition of this perennially great wine. Pure force of self and no desire (or need) to charm. Swollen acidity engulfed in turn by massively dense fruit and perfectly balanced RS; the wine seems creamy, clotted, you could ladle it as much as pour it.”-TT
Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #14 2013 ($109.95) $89 special
“Candied ginger. Rather into BA-territory now. The first of these to taste discretely “sweet.” Already balanced, albeit turbulent, but this is glaringly brassy and brilliant. The customary Schaefer serenity is elsewhere. Impressive finish here, and fathomless miles to go.”-TT
Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #11 375ml 2013 ($49.95) $39 special
“Solar flares of Domprobst, almost shrieking intensity as it shakes away its external mintyness. There’s a great Domprobst in there somewhere.”-TT
A.J. ADAM (Mosel)
“The wines are highly expressive, whether they’re old-fashioned leesy spontis or more stainless-steel primary fruit driven. They’re muscular for Mosel wines, mouthfilling and complex and loaded.
“For me Adam is the ultimate example of applying long-held and grounded principles into the making of excitingly conservative Mosel wines. He isn’t reinventing an already perfect paradigm. He is reaching into the heart of its gravitas and expressing it in Rieslings that embody what great classics should be.”-TT
Riesling Trocken 2013 ($27.95) $24 special
“A little purchased fruit this year, the crop was so small. All Dhron. Half & half sponti and cutured yeast, all done in steel.The ’13 aroma is there but the wine is more limpid and pebbly than most, balanced-dry, with cool quince-y fruit; ’13expresses as burnt-candle now, and this smells as much like (good!) Chenin as like Riesling”-TT
Hofberg Riesling Trocken 2013 ($69.95) $59 special
Hofberg Riesling Trocken 1.5L 2013 ($149.95) $127 special
“This is the quasi-GG and of all these obstreperous ’13s it was the best behaved. In fact a lovely dry Riesling, herbal, juicy, malic and salty; long and clinging finish; amazing equipoise of ethereal delicacy and heavy density and grip. 94º Oechsle, rather little botrytis, cask-fermented and aged on the fine lees, and finely smoky; only 8.5g/l RS but extract concentration confers a kind of facsimile of “’sweetness.'”-TT
Dhron Hofberg Riesling Kabinett 2013 ($39.95) $29 special
“Half-half cask and steel, this was typical and completely delicious; everybody’s favorite among the ’13s that day. Euphoric site fragrance, like a Nahe wine; mirabelle, quince and lemon pudding, not to mention Alishan Oolong. The considerable RS is obliterated by natural acidity that looks scary on paper but which cracks and pops in the glass.”-TT
Dhron Hofberg Riesling Kabinett 2011 ($27.95) $21.90 special
“This in fact was a cask-sample, and is entirely rapturous! Just splendid gorgeous Mosel Riesling. Will be the last lot of ’11 Kab to be bottled, and <whew> you’ll be the happiest person you know as soon as you drink this.”-TT
Dhron Hofberg Riesling Spatlese 2013 ($49.95) $41.90 special
“A voodoo-exotic Auslese-styled Spät that’s left the corporeal world behind. It’s all steel, and tasted like melted candy, a sort of pure experience of untamed flavor, a study in superripeness and lavish, almost kinky fruit.”-TT
“Austria is quite apart from Germany in meso-climate. It’s more easterly and more southerly. It takes you 7-8 hours (if you’re lucky with traffic) to drive from the Rheingau to the Wachau. As most Austrian vineyards lie in the wind and rain shadow of the Alps, the growers struggle with insufficient precipitation. Germany’s climate is still “maritime,” but Austria’s is continental. However, the dryness of climate in Austria allows for a large proportion of organic production, both in crops and grapes. Austria has the largest percentage of land in certified-organic production of any nation in the EU.
“Austria is of course a smaller wine country than Germany. It also has a feverishly thirsty domestic clientele, who are served by an activist wine press who compete against one another to be the first with the earliest reviews, thus everyone’s ass is up for grabs, so if you don’t make at least decent wine, you’ll be exposed in a hurry. Thus the base-line of competence is markedly high in Austria.
“Austria’s greatest contribution to the wine world is its native and signature grape variety, Grüner Veltliner. Most of you know it exists, yet there’s a kind of stink to it, as in something that “used to be trendy.” Think of the way you’re discovering all these hitherto-unknown cool things from all over the place, and how much fun it is. That was Grüner Veltliner in the late 90s and early “aughts.” And you don’t want to repeat what those guys did; you want to do new things. Got it, and sympathize.
“*THE 2013 Vintage*
“No reason to be coy. For Riesling and Grüner Veltliner this is a classic vintage, a serious candidate for Greatness, and the best young crop I’ve tasted since the 1999s.
“They made me nostalgic, because I was carried back to the days of tasting those 90s vintages, at least the good ones, before everything got overripe and botryisey. Certainly there’ve been no “bad” vintages since ’99, but you had to tiptoe around and pluck the best wines with your delicate little fingers. And these 2013s behave in similar ways to those great 90s wines I first tasted and fell in love with. They can seem demure when poured, but they blossom lavishly with air. (They have this in common with the German ’13s.), They do the delayed-finish thing I first noticed about Austrian wines twenty years ago. You spit or swallow the wine and it seems to be gone. Or so you think. Ten seconds later it returns, having transformed itself into a semi-solid so obdurate you wonder if it will ever leave your palate. And you ask, how can this be?
“It was a late harvest, and the meteorology of the vintage was unremarkable except for the very late beginning and uneven flowering. Cool and warm periods alternated, and as the Fall lingered on there were no issues with rots. The growers talked about high acidity, and by their standards it was noteworthy, but I tasted no wines in which acids were marked. (The prevailing acids for GV run between 6g/l and 7, and for Riesling between 6.8 and 7.8.) But I emphasize there were very few times I felt “This wine is zippy!” but many times I felt What a lovely paradox, so much detail with so much substance with so much liveliness.
“You will only demur if you lay high emphasis on a vintage being “monumental.” 2013 doesn’t froth and spume. It is lilting and lively, mischievous and delightful; its gravitas is lyrical, not tragic. And I am aware that a wine needs a certain force and surge to be truly great.. What reassures me about these ’13s is, even as the top wines are transparent and articulate—some would say “light” because the alcohols aren’t bellicose—the ordinary wines have amazing substance. The vintage as a whole stands on solid ground.
“So, I’ll stick my neck out with “classic,” because I just had one hell of a good week tasting, but I’ll reserve “Great” for the fullness of time.”-TT
“Ott at a glance // Enormously consequential estate, especially as a Lama of Grüner Veltliner.
“How the wines taste // Not heavy, but weighty. Not fat, but corpulent. Not creamy, but substantive. Imagine the polar opposite of, say, Nigl. These are analogue and warm-feeling, even when they’re lithe and structured. Quite particular in site delineation, and highly redolent of not only “terroir” but also of landscape.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner Am Berg 2013 ($24.95) $18 special
“CORE LIST WINE. Bernhard’s entry-level GV is ludicrously good in 2013, partly because of the vintage but also because he controlled all the grape-sellers vineyards for the first time, and picked them by hand with his own team. It’s sensationally juicy and rich, not in ripeness but in substance. I found I couldn’t spit it, however manfully I tried.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner “Fass 4” 2013 ($34.95) $27 special
“Salty and herbal pork crackling or the skin of the roast; rose hips and rhubarb; the plus is for sheer torque and force, and the wine has the absurd happiness of a great rock song.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner “Der Ott” 2013 ($49.95) $39 special
“Ott’s premiere line of Grüner Veltliner’s begins with “Der Ott,” made from the younger, 10-12 year old, vines of the top three Erste Lage sites – Spiegel, Stein and Rosenberg.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner Spiegel 2013 ($59.95) $49 special
“The highest elevation among Ott’s three Grand Crus, thus the coolest and breeziest. The soil is gravel over conglomerates. This ’13 is salty and pheasant-y like a sous-vide breast with Burgundy truffle; esoteric spices and tropical fruit and parsnip chips; markedly ripe and concentrated.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner Stein 2013 ($59.95) $49 special
“The subsoil is the so-called Gföhler gneiss (such as is in the Gaisberg, for example) with a sandy-loessy topsoil. Bernhard leased the vineyard in 2006, as part of a growth phase. The owner watched him working in the vineyard, and was so impressed by the way he cared for the soil, she offered to sell it to him for “any price you want to pay.” I heard that story and had to blink a few times… Complex aromas, like a quarry of mineral; a firm, stand-at-attention GV, intense and cool but wonderfully expressive, not aloof; basmati and corn, something leafy, lemon and mint, a liquid Ricola drop; herbs and stones and grains. Technically in the Kamptal, by the way.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner Rosenberg 2013 ($64.95) $51.90 special
“The exegesis of loess here. Wet cereal, polenta and honey and buttery scrambled eggs; it has an imposing salty force, pure power, not just the alcohol-facsimile of power; eucalyptus and ginger; a vibrating mass of ur-salt, magma; a singular vintage of this GV icon.”-TT
Willi Brundlmayer (Kamptal)
“Bründlmayer at a glance // Generally considered Austria’s best winery, based on steadily outstanding wines across the entire range. I’ll confess it’s gotten harder, not easier, to sum this up over the 20 years I’ve been visiting here. In recent vintages the texture of Willi’s wines has changed. Lately they’re showing the calm zen demeanor of Alzinger’s wines. Perhaps less explicitly articulate, yet somehow more kind. I don’t think it’s on purpose, or at least, it may be a collateral effect of something else he set out to do. Willi is remarkably willing to let the wines control their own destinies. In many vintages, one or another of them will escape, such as the insanely peppery ’09 Vogelsang GrüVe. I can hear him say “We don’t seek to shape it; the wine follows its own preferences.” Willi refers to me as a “classicist,” because he notices how I wince at certain extremes, of alcohol perhaps, or botrytis. He in turn is admirably willing to love a wine even if it’s what I might call ornery. His sparkling wine is the nearest thing to Champagne of anything that isn’t Champagne, yet it doesn’t imitate Champagne and only tastes a little like it. His reds are strikingly fragrant, but he seems to prefer them cool, sometimes to a point I perceive as stiff. But this is how he wishes them, lean and stretchy and sinewy. It is very good of him to tolerate my being selective among them. I’d call Willi’s wines sophisticated and civilized, as long as you know these aren’t euphemisms for diffidence. The best ones taste as though they were fond of you.
“How the wines taste // The wines are quite unlike any wines I know, not in their actual flavors, but rather the way flavors are presented to the palate. They are, it might be said, the Stradivarius of wines, distinguishable (and made precious) by the beauty of their tones. Indeed, I always seem to think in sonorous terms for Willi’s wines: “THE ACOUSTICS of the fruit are perfect,” I wrote at one point. You taste class immediately.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben 2008 ($49.95) $41.90 special
“You get to make a stylistic choice; the ’08 is out of diapers, and it’s all green beans and twigs, with the cool angularity of the vintage, and with a kind of power having little to do with strength but rather with a precise expressiveness.”-TT
Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein 2008 ($39.95) $33 special
“What a perfect time to reintroduce this lovely ’08. And what a perfect foil it is to the masterly ’13. The older wine is herbal and mineral, tansy and dill and romanescu. Back in ’09 I described it as piquant, and having “moon fruit.””-TT
Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein “Lyra” 2012 ($74.95) $61.90 special
“The wine is named for the Y-shaped trellising system that increases canopy, thus shading the grapes and increasing photosynthesis. It also “looks like the vine is throwing its arms up toward the sun,” says Willi (poetically!), who adds, “And it shows that you don’t need old vines to give great Riesling.” I show you the ’13 basically for-the-record, as it won’t be released until 2015, not to mention any sensible person would jump on the grandiose 2012. I’m starting to sense that Lyra is a music that’s begun to write itself. Willi’s early goal was to show the utmost rapture of fruit, as an alpha to the omega of the Alte Reben and its darker gravitas. But for the last three vintages, Lyra has become almost overwhelmingly beautiful. It isn’t just fruit any more, and what began as a rapture has changed to a kind of apotheosis of fruit toward a gleaming and complicated divinity. The wine remains ecstatic, but these things are never earned easily. ’13 is graceful and massive, dense and weightless, a whirligig of complexity in which a hundred elements glide in an esoteric dance, moving quickly, stepping lightly; it has the focus and the beatific glow of Alzinger (and his wines!), somehow both serene and hyperactively intricate.
But ’12 is something else again. It smells like the pears in the Garden Of Eden, or like a cool cream in which yellow rose-petals and vanilla bean have been steeped. Has there ever been a greater Lyra? Cool and infinite; a tight nucleus of mineral and Saturn-rings of fruits, flowers and herbs. It isn’t overwhelming power—though power it has. It’s an almost devastating beauty.”-TT
Zöbinger Heiligenstein Riesling Alte Reben 2012 ($89.95) $69 special
“First offering. And an utter contrast to Lyra. This is all herbs and stones and hay, all in an ever-shifting mosaic; exceptionally pure, Gregorian, woodsy, even spicy and minty; it’s Riesling asserting every one of its flavors that aren’t flowers or fruits. I don’t know what’s on the far side of this, nor do I insist it’s as sensually pleasurable as the Lyra, but I’m sure they only make complete sense as a unit, each fitting over the other’s shadow like a palimpsest. A short note to my somm friends. I know your wine programs are agents of hospitality first and foremost. They’re not dissertations into the Very-Meaning-Of-Wine-Itself. Yet I also know that these two wines form a whole that’s enormously greater than the sum of its parts, and that some of what prompts you to buy are cerebral or conceptual concerns. If you drink these two Rieslings together, a door is flung open and your knowledge of wine is catapulted forward as if you’d been shot from a trebuchet.”-TT
Schloss Gobelsburg (Kamptal)
“My co-winery of the vintage could have warranted that designation for any of the last several vintages, and I think it’s time to say this is among the world’s most compelling and consequential wine estates, and though I wouldn’t say it’s “the best” in Austria, I would say there are none better.”-TT
Gobelsburger Riesling 2013 ($19.95) $16.60 special
“Greeny and grainy and slinky and juicy and herbal and dry.”-TT
“Hirsch at a glance // Zoom! Went this agency, from out-of-nowhere to the top. Stellar-quality wines from a star-quality vintner at reasonable prices.
“How the wines taste // For such great wines these are comparatively “easy” to understand: they’re juicy and spicy and their flavorsare candid and animated. Specific nuances are, as always, determined by the vineyard.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner Lamm 2011 ($59.95) $49.00 special
“The ‘11 is back-lit by its extreme youth, but there’s a shimmery brilliance that’s really compelling; it’s back-palate now, but silvery rather than meaty withal it’s as massive as Lamm always is; it’s salty not stocky, like a slice of cucumber between two arugula leaves with a few grains of selgris. Again singular in the context of 2011.”-TT
“These are powerfully expressive yet mostly gentle wines, the kind that you might believe can release oxytocin into your body, they deliver such affirming calm. I drank a bottle of F.X. Pichler’s 2002 Steinertal Riesling one night, and it was as marvelous as I expected it to be. I’ve long admired the glossy power of those wines at their best. Yet when I looked at the words I was using to discuss it—it was showing well, it performed beautifully—I realize I felt like I was an audience for the wine, that I was separate from it in some crucial way. Perhaps this has everything to do with me, and it’s by no means a slam on a highly laudable wine, but when I drink Alzinger’s wine I have no such feeling. With them I feel included, roused, affectionate; I feel a thing akin to love.
“Alzinger’s wines are no more forceful than any of the other Wachau greats. They aren’t longer, or riper. What they do is take the serenity with which they’re endowed and pass it upward through a kind of apotheosis, beyond which they are beatific and glowing.”-TT
Riesling Dürnsteiner Federspiel 2013 ($39.95) $29 special
“A soft-voiced murmur draws you into its cool green poetry; every sweet green leaf, like mid-winter spinach when it’s frost-bitten and the leaves are incredibly sweet; grows more expressive and determined as it sits in the glass; an exegesis of chlorophyll. If you’re evaluating or “scoring” this wine, humor me a second. Pour it, taste it and score it, and leave the rest in the glass. Ten minutes later taste it and score it again. If you’re a 100-pointer I guarantee you’ll have five points more with that second sip.”-TT
Riesling Liebenberg Smaragd 2013 ($59.95) $47 special
“This is the best vintage ever bottled of this wine. Above the radish spring-onion aromas there’s a foam of buttermilk and quince; look, this is a dry Riesling Ideal, not to mention a paradigm of pure fascination; white tea, chalk, water chestnut, soursop, in a digital mille-feuille of mineral.”-TT
Riesling Hollerin Smaragd 2013 ($59.95) $47 special
“Elderflower, malt, peach, talc; an insanely and wrenchingly beautiful palate with everything, green leaves and herbs, balsam, stone-fruits and that mineral meringue; perfectly poised and blissfully synchronized in a wordless gliding dance, euphoric and quivering. Best vintage ever of this wine, an articulate divinity both glowing and thoughtful.”-TT
Riesling Höhereck Smaragd 2013 (59.95) $49 special
“Leafy again, bouquet-garni and a kind of sweet smoke. Indeed this gives everything a person can ask from wine. Nor do the few mingy grams of RS hurt in any way. Energetic now, a bundle of passionate intricacy. Hollerin is divine; this is erotic, pulsing, addictive.”-TT
Riesling Loibenberg Smaragd 2013 ($59.95) $49 special
“It’s a profligacy of plusses. But this wine is terroir on peyote! Lost for words. Grandiose, profound, solid, massive yet transparent, silky. Tons of fruit yet not “fruity.” This is Greatness—a monument. A tender loving monument.”-TT
Riesling Steinertal Smaragd 2013 ($69.95) $59 special
“The most primordial among the smaragds. It’s the very perfection of its classic aromas. Direct, almost mordantly spicy. Wafts of green sweetness. Salty low notes. But we need to wait a year, and then approach with held breath.”-TT
“It’s a shame that words like “sublime” can lose their music and force through squandering, and I know I’m part of the problem. But the quality of sublimity in Nikolaihof ’s wines has to do with their basic characters; hale, trustworthy, unaffected, substantive but never tiring, explicitly connected and charged with a gentle force. It isn’t about making you love them; it’s about what they can do to ease your way, by whispering their tender steady reminder of the sweet secrets of the world we share.
“It’s starting to be possible to talk about the “style” or the language of these wines. They are wines of atmosphere, and some of that atmosphere is that of the cellar, its ambient aromas and also the environment of the casks. Nikolaihof ’s wines are (almost) never what we’d call woody, but the casks have perfumed their breath. In “normal” wines there is an explanation; in these wines there is a breathing. When I open a bottle at home, and I open a lot of them, I always feel, with the first whiff of aroma, that I’m opening the pages of a 19-century novel. Yes they smell like GV or Riesling or whatever, but they also smell like food cooking and people laughing in the next room.
“And, you know, the wines are good. I mean good by any objective measure. The recent round of reviews arrived as we were sitting there, including the triple-digit one, the first ever for an Austrian wine, and as far as I could observe Nikki and Christine were certainly pleased, but less puffed-up by their “achievement” than gratified that the reviewer took such pleasure in their wine.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner “Hefeabzug” 2013 ($29.95) $24 special
“CORE-LIST WINE. It means sur lie. It’s exotic this year, but has the spicy flowery euphoria of ’13 and its usual semolinasweet lees; less starchy than usual but vastly more floral, as if a potion of wisteria were dissolved in it. Very long wintergreeny finish.”-TT
Grüner Veltliner Im Weingebirge Federspiel 2013 ($39.95) $29 special
“Well this is a miracle-wine. Sparrowy energy; perfumed so pungently it’s like smelling your irises and lilacs from inside the house; a delicate minerality, but this wreaks an utter havoc of charm and deliciousness, all with that delicate woodsy breath of the cellar. Numinously gentle, unforgettable wine.”-TT
Nikolaihof Gruner Veltline Im Weingebirge Smaragd 2012 ($69.95) $59 special
“Spices and tobacco; an old dialect not only of GV but of wine; a kind of melting exhalation of relaxing, nothing to prove, no point to make, just delicately forceful; at the edge of oxidation, but feels mysterious, not decadent. Banish the noise!”-TT
Riesling Vom Stein Federspiel 2013 ($39.95) $33 special
“Bottled in 2014. Pure quiet profundity here, in a markedly smoky form. Very dry, adamantly leathery, charred, nettle-y; firm and austere. But not meager nor remotely punishing – just not a “nice guy.” I see it with a sorrel soup or something in an herb sauce with pea shoots, cressy micro-greens, yet there’s also this lovely smell of old leather.”-TT
Riesling Vom Stein Federspiel 2006 ($49.95) $39 special
“Smells like cookie dough! Also notably woodsy, and then the Riesling spice and brightness kicks in; verbena, shiso, bay leaf and an echo-note of marrowy cask. Has complete repose but isn’t at all slack, and the finish peals and clings.”-TT
Riesling Vom Stein Smaragd 2011 ($79.95) $66 special
“This is gorgeous. Fresh fruit but a cloistery silence around it. Hay and straw, the fresh profile only hinting at its murmury depths; a wine of the brightest morning, with decades ahead of it.”-TT
MV Riesling Steiner Hund, 6/750ml ($699.95) $549 special
“There are five vintages in the mix—I don’t know which will constitute the extra bottle in a case-of-6. The beautiful 2009 you remember from last year; fresh and pure mineral. 2008 is superb and complicated, with plenty of exotics and Chartreuse-y herbalness to counterpoint its jasmine and white chocolate yang side. 2007 smells like irises; it’s in the typical trough of that vintage but is highly promising. 2004 is astonishing from a good bottle, +++ quality and the best-in-show. 2003 has darkened, but there’s an attractive beeswax note and still some mineral. 2002, while also dark-colored, is a fine lovely “antique” Riesling.”-TT
“Steinriesler” 1998 ($84.95) $69 special
““Riesler” is an archaic term for Riesling. Saahs wanted to see how a wine might age in cask without sulfur if it were an ordinary and not a grand wine to begin with. The first example was a glorious 1999, offered two years ago. So what do they do for an encore? Offer something even older. This is a masterpiece of time, nature and instinct. Less “humble” than that ’99 was, and more insanely, dauntingly complex. I could detail its three paragraphs worth of nuance if I had 40 minutes to study it. Let’s just say, a perfect positive oxidation, a whole encyclopedia of wild flowers and herbs, a mélange of every possible salt, and the gentlest note of allspice and pink peppercorn. I don’t care what it costs—don’t miss it.”-TT
Stephen Tanzer 92 points “Rich bouquet of brioche, acacia blossom, pine resin, sweet hawthorn and lime zest. On the palate, this riesling’s subtler elements are drowned in its supple, yeasty character, but its caramel fruit sweetness is leavened by understated acidity. Finishes long, with flavors of wet stone, anise and baked apple. Very unusual, but in its own way astonishing.”
Riesling “Baumpresse” 2006 ($139.95) $115 special
“Expensive, yes, but it’s a bottle of history, the reintroduction of the world’s largest still-functioning wooden press. The wine, in fact Im Weingebirge Smaragd, is out of this world. A swollen extravagantly ripe Riesling, ripe in age and in body; massively juicy and vinous and stocky.”-TT
Riesling Steiner Hund ‘Reserve’ 2010 ($89.95) $69 special
“Among all the Rieslings I know, this one has the most esoteric mélange of herbs and minerals, like if you took a Geigercounter to the soil programmed to register complex terroir, the damn machine would blow apart in your hands. The ’10 is curious and cunning. It has the oxidative note these have recently had, along with the firm smoky adamance of ’10, and that chartreuse-y herbal thing and the arcane vineyard-geology thing, and ’10’s mulish length, getting almost fiercely spicy with five minutes in the glass.”-TT
Nikolaihof Riesling Vinothek 1997 ($219.95) $179 special