TWO AUSTRIAN WINEMAKERS
Two of my favourite Austrian wine producers were in Dublin this week conducting tastings and holding dinners with people from The Corkscrew. I got to one in Thornton’s. Some great wines.
Fritz Wieninger has 35 hectares of vines up in the hills surrounding Vienna. His family ran a heurige, a Viennese tradition of winery/pub/wine bar that offers wine by the glass or bottle along with some food. Fritz has taken the winemaking side into a different league and is today the best producer in Vienna and one of the greatest in Austria.
We tried several of his ‘Gemischter Satz’, wines made from a field blend of many different grape varieties. This is another Viennese tradition. The first, from several vineyards, was a delicious fresh spring-like glass of wine; the sort that makes you want another sip, and then another – the kind of thing you would love to come across in a Heurige. The second from his Nussberg vineyard, reckoned to be the finest site in Vienna, was altogether more serious, a rich concentrated wine with lovely mineral traces too. We then moved on to his Nussberg Riesling 2013, a wonderful pure textured wine with racy green fruits and excellent length.
Later in the tasting (the two winemakers tic-tacked) we returned to Wieninger’s Chardonnay Select 2013, his Trilogie (Zweigelt/Merlot/Cabernet) and his Pinot Noir Select. Apparently he made his name in Austria with these three wines. I enjoyed the Chardonnay, but was less impressed with the two reds; possibly the Viennese prefer this style and have too many great white wines from others? Good wines but I thought the first three white wines were the standouts.
I have been visiting the Hirsch stand at Vievinum, the great biennial Austrian wine fair, for many years now. I have a soft spot for the Kamptal anyway – the more elegant refreshing style is right up my street, and the region boasts some of Austria’ greatest producers – Scloss Gobelsburg, Bründlmayer, Loimer, Jurtschitsch and others besides. I have always put Johannes Hirsch right up there with the very best, and it is great to see his wines return to Ireland after a few years absence.
At the tasting we worked our way through three vintages of his Zöbinger Gaisberg Riesling, one of his two great single vineyard Rieslings. The 2008 and 2009 were very good and very different in style, with a little more residual sugar, but the 2010 was the star wine of the entire day, a youthful but beautifully structured wine with distinctive flavours of orange peel and juice, a refreshing acidity and wonderful length.
Three 2013 Grüner Veltliners, from three different vineyards were fascinating, but here the Lamm was a real star. Hirsch has 33 hectares of vines. He was one of the first to put his wines under Stelvin (screw-cap) and says one Austrian magazine asked his readers to boycott his wines for this crime! As a result he suggests decanting his wines before serving to allow them develop.
I would certainly love a few bottles of the Wieninger Gemischter Satz 2014 for €17.50, and the excellent Nussberg Riesling €28.50 seems very reasonably priced.
The Corkscrew has the Hirsch Riesling Gaisberg and the Grüner Veltliner Lamm from 2013, both for €47.95 – expensive but well worth it, and a match for most burgundy at the same price or more. The Riesling Zöbing 2013 at €24.95 would serve as a very good introduction to the house.
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