This sentiment is the guiding philosophy of Michael Moosbrugger, the manager and lead winemaker at the Schloss Gobelsburg winery in the Kamptal region of Austria. He sees two styles of winemaking: the first is an interventionist method which uses industrial machinery and standardized techniques to create wines. These wines are uniform, modern and clean in style, and have reduced variation across vintages. He sees a place for these, as a way to introduce people to wine. In his view, the second form of winemaking is to act as the teacher or coach to the grapes: to work with them, encouraging the best expression of their character without forcing adjustments upon them. He sees this approach as ‘raising the wines up to reach their Platonic ideal’. Moosbrugger uses the French term ‘elevage’ to signify this style, which acknowledges ancient winemaking techniques. These wines reflect fully the character and individuality of the vineyard and grape varieties. This concept extends from careful selection of vines all the way to bottle aging where he seeks to find the right moment to capture the highest and purest essence of the wines.
The Kamptal wine region in Austria is named after the Kamp River that runs through the area. Here, there are in general two types of vineyards. Riesling vineyards in Kamptal are planted along steep, southern-facing terraces that have thin topsoil while Gruner Veltliner is grown along the lower areas with clay and loess soils. This results in a flinty, concentrated Riesling that is typically vinified dry; and a spicy, richer style of Gruner Veltliner. The region has a high diurnal temperature swing that encourages grapes to develop more complex aromas and greater ripeness while still maintaining a high level of acidity.
The Schloss Gobelsburg winery is the oldest in the region, and one of the oldest in the world. Cistercian monks from the Zwettl Monastery founded the vineyards in 1171 and performed the winemaking operations throughout eight centuries until 1995, when a winemaking / management contract was awarded to Michael Moosbrugger and his wife Eva. The monks had practiced organic grape-growing techniques since the late 50s, and organic viticulture is still practiced today. The winery is certified sustainable by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization).
Moosbrugger revolutionized winemaking results at Schloss Gobelsburg when he took the helm in 1996 and has garnered many high awards, including being named Winemaker of the Year by the Austrian magazine Falstaff. His attentive crafting leads to precise and distinct wines that reflect the essence of each site. He went back to the traditional style of wine making by practicing minimal intervention. The wines are open-fermented with no temperature control. Instead of pumping the wines around to different areas in the cellar, Moosbrugger developed wheel systems for the barrels to be moved, taking advantage of various temperatures throughout the cellar.
In general, Schloss Gobelsburg vineyards are rich in volcanic soils, with sandstone, mica and alpine gravel. Top First Growth (Erste Lagen) vineyard sites from Schloss Gobelsburg include Heiligenstein, Gaisberg, Steinsetz, Lamm, Grub and Renner. The Riesling vineyards of Heiligenstein and Gaisberg are laden with minerals. Heiligenstein is hot, dry and covered in sandstone and volcanic materials. Gaisberg is known for the mica enriched volcanic soil. Steinsetz, Lamm, Grub and Renner are Gruner Veltliner vineyards. Steinsetz is loess and tertiary gravel, Lamm has calcareous loam, Grub is loess clay and Renner is mica slate.
Below, we highlight two grape varietals grown by Schloss Gobelsburg: Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. Gruner Veltliner is indigenous to Austria. The word Gruner refers both to the grape’s color on the vine and to its delightful snap of green bell pepper notes. The grape takes on two distinct styles depending upon the winemaking methods. The first is a light, fresh style with citrus, vegetal and light peppery notes. The second is a brooding style with heft, spice and a rich complexity of citrus and pear notes that become honeyed with age. Both styles have a bright acidity that makes them excellent wines with food, especially seafood, pork tenderloin and Asian dishes. Riesling from Austria generally is rich and dry in style, with a lingering finish.
“The best lineup of GV I have ever tasted in a single vintage from a single estate!” –Terry Theise, in reference to the 2012 vintage of Schloss Gobelsburg
Schloss Gobelsburg Wines Here Now!
Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner Gobelsburger 2012 ($17.95) $14.00 special, 3+ cases available
Terry Theise notes: “Euphoric fragrance, sweet and tenderly delineated; sweet grains and white flowers; the palate is digital and pixilated, cressy and a tiny bit of langoustine-sweetness plus the brine from the stock of the shells. The quality-price rapport has to be among the very best on earth.”
Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner Grub 2012 ($59.95) $44.00 special, 12 bottles available
Terry Theise notes: “The vineyard sits in a basin below the Gaisberg and Heiligenstein; the soil derives from loess, and is sandy-silty and calcerous with gravel, atop silt and sandstone. It’s a wind-protected heat trap, and I often find its wines too brusque and oafish for my taste. Not this time. The aromas are remarkably mineral and the alcohol is actually moderate—rare for ’12—but as always it’s the most Puligny among GVs, though this one actually has green aromas of aloe and balsam underneath the thump; massively salty and completely rich and concentrated yet, miraculously, without heaviness.”
Joel Payne 90 points “Clearly defined aromas of grapefruit and yellow apple are highlighted by tobacco, pepper and smoky flint. Focused and nicely balanced, boasting an attractively crisp structure. Subtle grapefruit, apple and orange flavors linger appetizingly on the finish.”
Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner Lamm 2012 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 9 bottles available
Terry Theise notes: “This will occupy a seat at the table of the Great Gods. It is as sublime as wine can be, because of its astonishing combination of juiciness, angular power and trembling spiciness. Lamm as a rule is buckwheat-y, rusky, savory but not thick, like a vegetable-veal stock with barley, yet oddly also like lamb itself. (“Lamm” doesn’t mean lamb, but is rather a dialect word for “loam.”) It is a great wine though virtually without fruit per se. Compared to the endomorphic Grub, Lamm is the mesomorph. Its poise of gloss and power, intensity and outline, mass and transparency are emblems of the paradox without which no wine is truly great.” Joel Payne 92 points “Nuanced aromas of ripe apricot and peach, subtle honey, tobacco and mountain stream pebbles. Full-bodied and intensely flavored, with a subtly balanced creamy mouthfeel given shape by refreshing, nicely integrated acidity. Minerals and peppery spices linger long on the finish, projecting a strong expression of this famous site.”
Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner Renner 2012 ($37.95) $31.90 special, 23 bottles available
Terry Theise notes: “The site lies at the foot of the Gaisberg, and contains eroded gneiss with a high proportion of paragneiss, mica and amphibolite. A perfect condition for wines of minerality and generosity—just what this is. And it is also, and always the best value in this portfolio, because it costs about 25% less than its peers. Utterly gorgeous aromas and as nearly perfect a GV as any money can buy; all of its lilac, jasmine, vetiver and semolina and corn-bread and diver-scallop, and with stunning torque and disciplined power. The best vintage ever of this.”
Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner Steinsetz 2012 ($29.95) $24.00 special, 24 bottles available
Terry Theise notes: “For many years this showed the most esoterically spicy side of GrüVe, as if it were fined with glacier dust and scree and stirred with a peppermint stick. The 2010 was markedly juicier, but I ascribed it to the vintage. This ‘12 continues the new pattern—if it is a pattern, because I asked Michi if the “accent” of the wine was being changed on purpose, and he said no, suggesting that perhaps the older vines were creating another kind of wine. Mind you, this ‘12 is plenty spicy, minty and eucalyptus-y, but unlike the pre-2010 vintages it isn’t obdurately firm and nippy. Vetiver, flowering fields and juiciness coat the bones; barky and pine-resiny. A completely original white wine!”
Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Gobelsburger 2012 ($19.95) $16.00 special, 3 cases available
Terry Theise: “Sleek and discreet; radishes and aloe-vera, less effusive than the GV, more introspective. Still, it’s focused and silky and herbal.”
Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Gaisberg 2012 ($34.95) $29.00 special, 21 bottles available
Terry Theise notes: “The perfection of the cool, a moony minimalist wine, like a Miles Davis solo, or the waltz of the little dancer in the music box, or a full white moon over a black field of icy jewels.”
Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Heiligenstein 2010 375ML ($39.95) $27.00 special, 7 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points: “Schloss Gobelsburg’s 2010 Riesling Heiligenstein presents a smokily aromatic as well as more incisive and phenolically gripping palate impression than that of the corresponding Gaisberg. At a place where intense spice; herbal pungency; and of what for want of words can only be called diverse “mineral” impingements all intersect, you have this wine’s vibratory, invigorating palate rub-down. A crunch of berry seeds and piquancy of apricot kernel add to the effect of this vinous sauna (minus the heat!) Hints of gooseberry point toward the coolness of the vintage, while lilac and elderflower perfume unmistakably point toward the face of this great site. Look for at least the better part of a decade of stimulation both mental and physical, and if at all possible have some Gaisberg on-hand for direct comparison.” WA
Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Heiligenstein 2012 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 9 bottles available
Terry Theise notes: “Trades a little of Gaisberg’s outline and scores lovely exotic notes in return; spices, orchid-oolong and peony; not the gravitas of mineral of Gaisberg but more a semifreddo of middle-eastern spice and osmanthus.”