Winery Profile: Pfaffl Winery, Austria
A Broad Appeal
By John Szabo, MS, with notes from David Lawrason and Michael Godel
The following is a special paid report on the R&A Pfaffl winery in the Weinviertel wine region north of Vienna, Austria, represented in Ontario by importer AMV-Whiz Trading Ltd. In late November the WineAlign crü sat down to review the full Pfaffl portfolio – 19 wines. Complete reviews and scores are posted on WineAlign.
AMV-Whiz Trading Ltd. is an Ontario-based importer of wine, beer and spirits, brokering principally on behalf of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). The company represents some 60 wineries from nine countries, with the greatest coverage in France and Italy. R&A Pfaffl is the company’s sole Austrian supplier.
The Pfaffl winery was officially established in 1978 by Roman Pfaffl and wife Adelheid, who took over the family farm and converted it from mixed agriculture to wine production. Still a family operation today, second generation Roman Jr. along with his father farm 57 hectares in both the Weinviertel and Vienna appellations of Lower Austria, including several key vineyards such as Zeiseneck, Haidviertel, and Hundsleiten.
Pfaffl was an important figure in the creation of the Weinviertel DAC, Austria’s first official wine region for Grüner Veltliner, also Austria’s largest at 13,000+ hectares. It’s confined by the Danube in the south, the Czech and Slovak borders in the north and east, and the Mannhartsberg Mountains in the west.
Pfaffl is considered an expert with Austria’s most planted variety. Half of the family estate is devoted to Grüner, with Zweigelt and St. Laurent leading among red grape varieties. 2/3 of production is exported, though Canada does not figure in the top twenty most important markets.
The range includes the more whimsical ‘flavour’ series at the entry level, mostly single-variety wines named after their most prominent flavour, such as “Pepper” (grüner veltliner), “Peach” (riesling), and “Cherry” (zweigelt). A number of single vineyard varietal wines are also produced. The style overall is clean and technically spot-on, mostly unwooded, designed principally for short-term drinking. A vague impression of sweetness often broadens the appeal.
Below are our top picks.
Top White Picks
Pfaffl 2015 Gruner Veltliner Zeiseneck, Weinviertel DAC ($22.30)
John Szabo – Clean, technically spot-on winemaking yields a crisp, fresh, yet relatively soft expression of grüner from the Weinviertel (2015 was a warm vintage), with green apple fruit and balanced alcohol/acids. Decent length. Drink now.
David Lawrason – This has a quite fine aroma of gooseberry, dill, cucumber – not unlike sauvignon blanc from NZ’s Awatere Valley. There is pear and guava as well. It’s light-bodied, quite zesty, a bit sweetish with enlivening CO2. The focus and length is very good to excellent.
Pfaffl 2015 Gruner Veltliner Haidviertel, Weinviertel DAC ($23.50) (235696)
John Szabo – Still marked by sulphur on the nose, this is nonetheless one of the more characterful whites in the Pfaffl range, with an extra measure of stoniness alongside white fleshed fruit and citrus notes. The palate is soft and easy-drinking, free from oak influence, with decent length. Best after 2017.
David Lawrason – This shows some of the complexity I love in better gruner. Expect guava, celery, floral notes and a touch of gruner’s pepper still registers. It’s slender, with some sweetness, CO2 freshness and liveliness. The length is very good to excellent. Serve with richer seafood.
Michael Godel – The Haidviertal from the heavy territorial Austrian wine production area known as the Weinviertal (“wine quarter”) is a bigger, rounder, fleshier and heavy set kind of grüner veltliner with a real corporeal sense of varietal wonder. The desperate level of tang and mineral accent helps to balance the zaftig fruit, along with just enough acidity to keep it humming along. The peppery jolt is honest and righteous, not one that emits from the simple staged act of CO2. The combination of honesty and presence really gives this grüner a lift. It will develop some honey after a year or two in bottle.
Pfaffl 2015 Austrian Elder Sauvignon Blanc, Niederösterreich ($18.60)
David Lawrason – This is one of the more successful wines in this “flavours” series because sauvignon lends itself well to the winemaking style – lively, spritzed and bright. It does show some elderflower and cut green pepper. The palate is just off-dry with good acidity and good to very good length. A fine sipper, well chilled.
Pfaffl 2015 Austrian Nut Pinot Blanc, Niederösterreich ($18.60)
Michael Godel – The walnut is not a true botanical and neither is this pinot blanc. Stylistically speaking it very much resembles the sister Austrian Sunshine but with more weight and substance on the palate. The acidity is also much improved, soliciting the saliva glands to prepare for food and another sip. This has some great freshness and even a moment or two of tension, not from sapidity but by way of brine and salinity. Finishes with some stone-fruit sweetness.
Top Picks Red/Rosé
Pfaffl 2015 Zweigelt Sandstein, Weinviertel DAC ($23.50)
John Szabo – A fine and juicy, dark cherry- flavoured Zweigelt, fleshy and plush, easy drinking but also satisfying. There’s no obvious wood influence, just juicy dark fruit. Tannins are relatively soft and acids are balanced-fresh.
Michael Godel – The Sandstein stands apart in deference to the Niederösterreich zweigelt in that it concentrates on freshness and a subtle, gently spicy edge. As a younger wine there is no surprise but this is what zweigelt prefers, wants and needs. The vineyard “In Neubergen” is slightly warmer than in the rest of the Weinviertel. Though this builds with intensity, some well under the threshold astringency and finally, a steeped liqueur like raspberries in Cassis, it always returns to its first love. Freshness.
Pfaffl 2013 St. Laurent Waldgarten, Niederösterreich ($23.50)
John Szabo – Dark fruit, gentle spice, light but firm tannins – this has some character and depth. I like the range of savoury dark berry and resinous herbal spice. Drinking well now, but also should improve over the next couple of years.
Pfaffl 2015 Austrian Cherry, Niederösterreich ($18.60)
David Lawrason – Here’s a fine little intro to Austrian Zweigelt. It is fruity, fairly plush yet dry with subtle aromas of black cherry, almond and a hint of spice. It’s nicely rounded with fine dry tannin and some pepper. The length here is very good to excellent. Chill lightly.
Pfaffl 2015 Vom Haus Red, Niederösterreich ($19.70)
Michael Godel – The vom Haus zweigelt comes from Niederösterreich, Austria’s largest wine-growing region in the area around the capital of Vienna. The soils are primarily Loess, the days relatively hot and the nights conversely cool. Extended hang time and generous pressing have resulted in this full-bodied, fruit-forward, gently spicy and mildly tannic red. It’s quite loyal to its varietal ways and manages to avoid astringency while maintaining acidity and basic, solid structure. Very pleasurable wine.
Pfaffl 2015 Austrian Rose Rosé, Niederösterreich ($18.60)
John Szabo – Here’s a pleasantly fresh and fragrant, fruity, strawberry-raspberry flavoured rose made in a fully dry and food friendly style. I like the crunchy acids and the light tannic grip on the palate. Lots of fun.
That’s all for this report. See you over the next bottle.
As a regular feature WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery. Our critics independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the winery profile. Wineries pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to WineAlign. See below for more details provided by the winery and their agent in Canada.
Our pride and joy are our vineyards. Of this, we are very much aware. We cultivate around 90 hectares. Our vineyards are distributed around the village of Stetten in the Weinviertel and in neighbouring Vienna. Due to the numerous vineyards and their diversity, we are able to produce a broad spectrum of wine styles. It is always exciting for us to see how each terroir is expressed in its wine.are
Handcraft is at the core of our wine philosophy. Respect management of our natural resources and our environment is very important to us. Meticulous canopy management, manual selection of grapes, and sensitivity for the vines’ needs make it possible for us to cope with the vagaries of the weather and produce top quality wines year for year.
On January 30th, 2017, we will receive the WINE ENTHUSIAST Wine Star Award for “European Winery of the Year 2016” in a black-tie gala at Nobu Eden Roc in Miami. What an honour! We are the first Austrian winery receiving this title. We feel so honoured and are so proud, not only for us but also for our winemaker colleagues in Austria and for all our friends who are working so hard to bring our wines to the world! Thank you so much to all of you!