Special Austrian Wine Report:

The Stellar 2019 Vintage, Greening Trends, Digital Atlas Unveiled & Buyer’s Guide

By John Szabo MS

This feature was commissioned by Austrian Wine.

This past June 8th, Austrian Wine organized the most ambitious digital tasting event yet seen in Canada. In this first “stay-at-home” in Canada edition, over 120 Canadian wine professionals received up to 40 mini sample bottles each of wines of their choosing, selected from 28 participating Austrian wineries. Over the course of the day, participants had the opportunity to book private video meetings with winemakers via the online conference platform Brella, which resulted in nearly 300 virtual face-to-face engagements. The day began with a 30m introductory seminar “Discover Austrian Wine” hosted by yours truly (watch the replay here) to set the stage. I spent most of my interviews querying winegrowers about the 2019 vintage, the main one on offer, which was touted as the best of the last decade and happily lives up to the hype in the glass. And in a follow up to my special feature article on sustainable winegrowing in Austria last year, and recent Wine Thieves podcast episodes on the same subject, I checked in on the latest developments in that field, noting the inexorable shift to more environmentally-friendly practices across the entire industry. I personally tasted through 80 wines (I received a double shipment – it pays to have friends in high places) and compiled a buyer’s guide of the best for this report, all represented in Ontario. And lastly, a few days after the event Austrian Wines unveiled an amazingly detailed new digital wine atlas. I’ve never met a wine lover who doesn’t like a good map. Read on for all of the details.

The Stellar 2019 Vintage

2019 was, by all accounts, an excellent vintage, conveniently keeping alive the ‘niner’ tradition of legendary years like 2009, and 1999. It’s almost as though it were predestined to be great. The unusual combination of the coldest May since 1991, also very rainy, followed by the warmest and driest June since temperatures have been recorded lead to the high quality. Those extra water reserves in the ground provided buffering reserves for the vines to weather the heat that continued through an almost-as-hot July and an August, although the heat waves were not as extreme as in 2017 and 2018.

Andreas Wickhoff MW, general manager of the Bründlmayer winery in the Kamptal described a stress-free harvest, in which you could “pick and choose your harvest date” and harvest grapes at your desired ripeness. He finds the Grüner Veltliners to have particularly high extract levels and juicy acids, while Riesling yielded “stellar, crystal clean wines with maximum purity of fruit”.

10th generation winegrower Michael Malat of Weingut Malat in the neighboring Kremstal region matches the sentiment saying, “2019 is the first time I really agree with the press comments. It really is one of the best years in recent times, and shows excellent ageing potential. All varieties performed.”

Heinz Frischengruber, winemaker at Domäne Wachau and native to the region, has never seen a better vintage in his 46 years, while Lorenz Allram in the Kamptal spoke of the ideal conditions, describing how “everything worked out so nicely”, likening the year to 2015, 2012 and 2009. Even Allram’s ‘lesser’ parcels yielded excellent results in 2019.

From the 2019 wines I tasted – mostly regional and village-level wines; the single vineyards were not yet released when the samples were gathered for the tasting – I can concur with the accolades and agree with the press comments, too. I found almost all the wines to display excellent fruit purity and dense, concentrated flavours with the underlying support of marvellous acids. Opulence without heaviness was a reoccurring theme, as was seamless integration. The top wines will no doubt age extremely well.

2019 is a vintage to buy, especially considering the more variable 2017s and 2018s, both much warmer years overall. There are some very good wines to be sure, but the stress of the hot dry summers is apparent in some wines. The best examples managed to hold on to sufficient acids to contain the billowing ripe fruit, though the majority are destined for mid-term cellaring at the most I feel.

On the other side of 2019, the 2020s will be in short supply, especially wines from the Wachau, where August hail wreaked havoc. Lena Funke, export manager at Domäne Wachau lamented the loss of around 40% of the harvest on average, and in some areas, like in the Wachau’s Spitzer Valley, loss was near total. So, enjoy those 2019s while you can.

Hail Damage in the Spitz Valley, Wachau, Austria, August 2020
Hail damage in the Spitz Valley, Wachau, August 2020

Greening Trends

Austria continues to lead in the spheres of sustainable, organic and biodynamic practices. Conventional growers are moving towards more sustainable farming, sustainable wineries to organics, organic wineries to biodynamics, and biodynamic wineries to even more extreme forms in a virtuous ripple-up effect.

Motivations vary. Matthias Marchesani of Weingut Dürnberg in the Weinviertel, which exports 60% of production, tells me that the strong demand for certified organic wines is driving the company’s transition from sustainable to organic certification, which will come into effect from the 2024 vintage. “We want to get ahead of the market’s demand”, he says, anticipating it will only continue to grow.

The cooperative Domäne Wachau, the Wachau’s largest producer counting some 400ha of the region’s 1200 farmed by 250 families, is moving from sustainable certification (since 2018) to organic, an important development for the region and a massive commitment for the company. But the motivation here is not so much commercial as a logical and necessary step. 80 hectares are already certified, with the rest under conversion, spurred along by a series of organic farming seminars for growers organized by the company. Winemaker Heinz Frischengruber is behind the shift, a firm believer in organic farming not just to make better wines, though quality is expected to rise, but also to protect and enhance the Wachau’s biodiversity. It’s what Frischengruber describes as “winemaking by heart”.

Niki Moser of Sepp Moser winery in the Kremstal describes a family heart-to-heart as the impetus to evolve. The family-run winery, Demeter-certified biodymanic since 2005, decided last year to move away from grape monoculture and towards more traditional polyculture. “We’re planting fruit trees – apples and apricots – to make the estate “rounder, more balanced and holistic”. The Mosers now have two horses, and have brought in a little herd of Sheep. Pigs are next. It seems a natural evolution for anyone following the biodynamic philosophy, and it’s much as Rudolf Steiner, who established biodynamic principles a century ago, would have imagined it: the farm as a complete, self-sustaining entity. They’ve also opened a small shop selling local organic vegetables, cheese, milk, ham and other foods.

And if you’re already certified biodynamic and practicing polyculture, and selling other biodynamic products, where does one turn? “Natural wines”, says Niki Saahs. Saahs, of the Nikolaihof winery in the Wachau where wine has been grown for a thousand years and which was one of thew world’s first biodynamic wineries from the early 1970s. Along with girlfriend Katharina Salzgeber, and with the family’s blessing, Saahs has launched a new side project called Semicolon to explore the potential of Gewürztraminer and Riesling in the Wachau. He describes the Semicolon wines as “wines without direction”, unlike the more predictable (in a good way) Nikolaihof wines, a sort of laboratory for experimentation inspired by the natural wine movement. Grapes are harvested up to three weeks earlier than the rest of the estate’s vineyards and fermented on the skins, with nothing added or subtracted, of course. “Like the semicolon, which is not subject to any grammatical rules, the wines also shed the corset of the familiar and encourage a mature discussion. Wines in motion; without grammar; everything is allowed, nothing has to be. Independent in every phase and yet connected as a whole. The route is the goal; for mature drinkers. Untreated, of course.” There’s something to sip on.

Wherever Austrian winegrowers find themselves on the production spectrum, and regardless of what motivates them, the net results for Austria and wine drinkers worldwide are positive.

Niederösterreich - Generic Winegrowing Region Map

Digital Wine Atlas Unveiled

Students of wine and especially curious wine drinkers will be delighted to learn of a terrific new online learning resource for Austrian wines: a digital wine atlas. Origin, of course, is everything for wine, and detailed maps with topographic information are an invaluable resource to further deepen one’s understanding of terroir and its effects in the glass. Initiated in 2018 and launched this past June, the project is a collaboration between the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (now simply called Austrian Wine), the University of Vienna, Department of Geography and Regional Research, Cartography and Geographic Information, and the Burgenland-based engineering company plan+land.

Wachau - Specific Winegrowing Region/DAC Map

The website presents digital interactive maps of all the designations of origin in Austria with an unparalleled amount of information, from generic regional designations to single vineyard (Ried) wines, including climate data, elevation, slope angle and aspect, and the origin of the vineyard names where known. The plot specific Ried data was gathered from local geographic information centres and processed for cartographic presentation; only vineyards whose name is permitted by Austrian wine law to be printed on a wine labels are included on the site. It’s the most comprehensive project of its kind to my knowledge. (There is currently no single vineyard data for Styria, but the information is expected to be available in the autumn of 2021.) Ongoing collaboration will ensure that the project is regularly updated and continually developed.

Achleiten Ried (Single Vineyard) Map

Buyers’ Guide Austria: 2019 and 2018 Whites

Austrian Wine Samples

NB: Below are the top picks from a tasting of 80 wines, tasted from 3oz sample bottles. Wines had been transferred from 750ml to the smaller format under argon gas, but samples suspected of oxidation were not reviewed. Red wines appeared more susceptible to bottling issues (reduction, oxidation) and were more variable overall, so all were excluded from review.

2019 Grüner Veltliner

Sepp Moser Gr├╝ner Veltliner Von Den Terrassen 2019, Kremstal

93 Sepp Moser Grüner Veltliner von den Terrassen 2019, Kremstal DAC
($24.95, Le Sommelier)

This is a brilliantly sapid and fleshy, savoury and sweet herb-infused Grüner from Sepp Moser, from terraced, deep loess vineyards biodynamically farmed since 2005. I love the seamless texture, the opulent mouthfeel without heaviness or excess fat, the creamy acids that still tone and shape the ensemble. This is absolute textbook loess-based Grüner, also made with virtually no intervention, yet clean and expertly managed through to the finish. Terrific wine.

Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Langenlois 2019

93 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Langenlois 2019, Kamptal DAC
(Artisanal Imports)

Gobelsburg has crafted a marvelous 2019 Ortswein (village) Langenlois wine, generous and medium-full bodied, creamy yet perfectly balanced by terrific acids, succulent and sapid. Length and depth are exceptional, too. Complexity and balance come effortlessly, and all seams are expertly rendered invisible, leaving a harmonious whole. One of the best vintages for this range at Gobelsburg in memory, and the estate has been at it for no fewer than 850 years. Textbook classic.

Nikolaihof Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Ried Im Weingebirge 2019

92 Nikolaihof Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Ried Im Weingebirge 2019, Wachau
(The Living Vine)

A lovely, sapid, savoury, crunchy and herbal expression of Grüner, nicely balanced, with both adequate weight and freshness to find balance and harmony. Acids are firm but ripe, and complexity overall is highly impressive. There’s an ease and natural feel here that yields a seamless impression on the palate, while length is excellent. Lovely wine, drinking well now, but as history shows, also capable of cellaring over the medium, or even long-term. 

Schloss Gobelsburg Gr├╝ner Veltliner Ried Steinsetz 2019

92 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Ried Steinsetz 2019, Kamptal DAC
($31.50, Artisanal Imports)

A single vineyard bottling but not quite considered at the Erste Lage (premier cru) level, this Danube south shore vineyard features river gravels under loams and wind-blown loess, yielding a more fruity, broad, immediately enjoyable Grüner, but as always, up to this 850 year old estate’s very high standards. The nose is classic but in the riper spectrum, offering white and yellow-fleshed orchard fruit, pears and apricots with a dusting of pepper, though not pronounced in this ripe, even-keeled vintage. The palate is firm, well-composed and tight without austerity, which, unlike the immediately appealing Village Grüner, could use another year or two in the cellar to flesh out. Fine wine, best after 2023 or so, or hold until the latter part of the decade.

Loimer Fred Grüner Veltliner 2019

91 Loimer Fred Grüner Veltliner 2019, Kamptal DAC
($26.13, Le Sommelier)

Ripe, if slightly bruised fruit-inflected; there’s oxidation noted here. The palate however is glorious, fullish, fleshy, ample and mouthfilling, while maintaining excellent freshness. There’s evident breed and class on display here, superior concentration and depth, and that extra twang of energy that the best wines have. Terrific length with an additional freshness lift thanks to the noble point of bitterness on the finish. Provisional review.

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Weissenkirchen 2019

91 Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Weissenkirchen 2019, Wachau
($28.44, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits, Inc.
Still tightly wound and showing some sulphur on the nose, Domäne Wachau’s Weissenkirchen village Grüner Veltliner comes alive on the palate as a properly lean and stony, citrus and white orchard fruit-inflected wine. Be sure to splash decant if serving over the near term. In the final analysis, it’s a racy and stony example, in line with the mid-level Federspiel ripeness category, also balanced per the 2019 vintage if on the leaner, stonier side. I’d think best after about 2022, or hold until late in the decade.

Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Terrassen 2019

91 Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Terrassen 2019, Kamptal DAC
(H.H.D. Imports)

Slightly subdued aromatics, though the palate is broad and rich, clearly very ripe, yet retaining sharp acids. Lees add their creamy flavour and textural contributions.https://www.winealign.com/wines/133194-Brundlmayer-Gruner-Veltliner-Terrassen-2019 There’s notable phenolic extraction – grip and grit on the palate – balanced by high fruit extract. Excellent length and depth. Well-balanced, sharp wine, with potential to improve over the mid-term not doubt, or hold up to a decade for a fully mature experience.

Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Hirschvergnügen 2019

91 Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Hirschvergnügen 2019, Kamptal DAC
(Rogers & Co.)

Clean, subtle, led by citrus and wet stone flavours and crackling acids on a mid-weight, lively but dense-knit frame. Refinement and subtlety are words that keep coming back – it’s tightly wound and stately, beautifully balanced, with deceptively long, lingering perfume that just hangs on and on. Very impressive for an “entry level” wine, and appears to have some cellar legs as well; should be at its best from about 2022 on.

Wieninger Gr├╝ner Veltliner Ried Herrenholz 2019

91 Wieninger Grüner Veltliner Bisamberg-Wien Ried Herrenholz 2019, Wien
($30.01, Le Sommelier)

A broad and creamy, nicely concentrated but also nicely balanced Grüner from Wieninger’s Herrenholz vineyard on the Bisamberg above Vienna, showing classic stony-peppery character with a particular focus on the former. Fruit, mostly citrus, per and apple-inflected is very much a secondary feature. I love the streak of acids that course through the tight, mid-weight palate. Excellent length, superior wine.

Huber Markus Gr├╝ner Veltliner Terrassen 2019

90 Huber Markus Grüner Veltliner Terrassen 2019, Traisental DAC
($18.95, Woodman Wines & Spirits)

A broad and fleshy, finely concentrated, classically styled Grüner complete with white pepper and lentil-leguminous flavours in the varietal idiom featuring alongside ripe, white fleshed orchard fruit, pear and golden delicious apple. The weight and depth of flavour are really quite impressive in this category, and length, too, is excellent. Textbook stuff, ready to enjoy or hold 2-3 years.

Dürnberg Grüner Veltliner Reserve Tradition 2019

90 Dürnberg Grüner Veltliner Reserve Tradition 2019, Weinviertel DAC
The reserve version of Dürnberg’s Grüner is composed of a selection from three old vineyards with extended time on the lees, as well as 20% aged in large (1000l and 1200l) cask. It shows a more complex, if still classically peppery character with a range of fruit that moves beyond simple citrus and shifts into the apple and apple skin, pear and lentil spectrum, all within varietal expectations with a little more depth and complexity than the mean. The palate shows very good weight and balance, with the creamy textural impact of lees in evidence. Quite impressive overall, harmonious and balanced, an ode to older vines and patience in the cellar.

89 Nikolaihof Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Zwickl 2019, Wachau
(The Living Vine)

Don’t be put-off by the cloudy appearance; Zwickl is the name for bottle-conditioned beers, yeasts and all, and this Grüner from Nikolaihof is made in the same tradition, bottled straight out of the fermentation cask without any fining or filtering and is intended to throw sediment. Flavours spin in the apple camp and show a touch of oxidation, as is typical of the low-sulfur, biodynamically-grown wines of the historic estate. But it’s clean, and fulfills its function as a gentle, competent entry point into the more natural wine category. Chill and crack young for best results.

89 Allram Grüner Veltliner Strass 2019, Kamptal DAC
($19.95, Terra Firma Brands)

This 2019 blend of no fewer than 10 vineyards in the village of Strass in the Kamptal is still quite tightly wound on the nose, and takes some swirling to bring to life. It’s crafted in a more restrained style in any case to be sure, more citrus than orchard fruit, stones and sweet green herbs. Acids are yet relatively soft, while length and depth are good. Solid stuff.

Rabl Gr├╝ner Veltliner Langenlois 2019

89 Rabl Grüner Veltliner Langenlois 2019, Kamptal DAC
($18.95, Vintage Trade)

Very clean, pungent and ripe, with straight-from-the-vat fruity aromatics, banana and apple, green and yellow, simple but engaging. The palate is mid-weight and nicely rounded, with creamy-ripe acids and good length. Classically styled, clean, fresh lively, ready to enjoy.

2019 Riesling

Bründlmayer Riesling Ried Zöbinger Heiligenstein 2019,

96 Bründlmayer Riesling Ried Zöbinger Heiligenstein 2019, Kamptal DAC
(H.H.D. Imports)

Quite tightly wound on the nose at first, this bottling needs some aeration to come alive. And when it does, what a wine of depth and class, concentration and searing minerality, dry and uncompromising, a very essence of the “Heiligenstein Heiligenstein”, the central sub-zone of this historic and famous cru of the Danube Valley, the most celebrated in the Kamptal and planted since the at least the 12th century. There’s just such monumental extract and stony-citrus-orchard and stone fruit flavour – the kind of depth and complexity that can only come from a great site with careful and attentive farming. Length is immense. A grand vin to be sure. Drink, or preferably, hold until the mid-’20s, or cellar deep into the ’30s I suspect without issue. Top notch.

Nikolaihof Wachau Riesling Federspiel Ried Vom Stein 2019

92 Nikolaihof Riesling Federspiel Ried Vom Stein 2019, Wachau
($40.00, The Living Vine)

Lean, tight and stony as expected, and hoped for, Nikolaihof’s 2019 vom Stein (“from stone”) is a marvellously pure and saline example of Wachau Riesling, bone dry, finishing on salty-acids in the best way. Fruit is not the main feature to be sure, though it rarely ever is at this address, it’s far more about the purity of fruit and the expression of site. Don’t expect easy access and wide general appeal; this will suit fans of salty and stony wines, which the region does so well. Drink or hold a decade or more without concern.

Allram Riesling Strass 2019

92 Allram Riesling Strass 2019, Kamptal DAC
(Terra Firma Brands)

The Allram Strass Ortswein (village wine) comes mainly from the younger vines on the Gaisberg cru (80%), and as such punches above its classification, especially for fans of the more reserved, stonier examples of the variety which Austria does so well. On the palate it delivers a significant freight of flavour as well as depth, palpable grippy texture and excellent length. In the final analysis, a wine of race and breed, classy, best after 2023 or so, with ageing potential surely into the late ’20s-early-’30s. Tasted June 2021.

Huber Markus Riesling Terrassen 2019

91 Huber Markus Riesling Terrassen 2019, Traisental DAC
(Woodman Wines & Spirits)

A lovely, crunchy-fresh, citric and malic, green apple-flavoured Riesling with a squeeze of lime, spring-fresh and finely balanced. This is yet another terrific 2019 white from Austria, really an excellent vintage across the country, finely stitched together, with both vibrant acids and depth of fruit, full flavour development and just ripeness. Length, too is terrific in this category, and I find this a little tighter and stonier than the mean for Traisental, a very good thing. Drink or hold mid-term.

Sepp Moser Riesling Von Den Terrassen 2019

90 Sepp Moser Riesling von den Terrassen 2019, Kremstal DAC
($28.95, Le Sommelier)

Niki Moser’s 2019 Terrassen Riesling is surprisingly soft and loose, open and ready to go, delicious to be sure and not without definition, representative of Riesling grown in predominantly loess soils more suited to Grüner (the 2019 Terrassen Grüner from Moser is exceptional)  vs. the more stony soils in which Riesling usually thrives. In any case, it’s a pleasant and fruity version, with rounded edges and very good length – farming and winemaking are impeccable, even if the terroir isn’t quite grand cru. Still very much worth a look. Drink short term.

Domäne Wachau Riesling Federspiel Terrassen 2019

89 Domäne Wachau Riesling Federspiel Terrassen 2019, Wachau
(Noble Estates Wines & Spirits, Inc.)

Tight, lean, grippy on the palate, very citric, with electric acids, saliva-inducing, destined for refreshment or drinking alongside any foods on which a squeeze of lemon would be welcome. I can’t call this easy and widely appealing, but Riesling fans will find comfort in the bone dry angularity of this wine, taut and uncompromising.

2019 Gemischter Satz + Others

Wieninger Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC 2019

92 Wieninger Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC 2019, Wien
($21.95, Le Sommelier)

Fragrant and flowery, citric and stone fruit-scented, with more than a whiff of wet stone to add interest – this is a terrific vintage for Wieninger’s field blend from Vienna, a wine comprised of multiple varieties co-planted, harvested and vinified together in the Viennese (European) tradition. I love the lightness and freshness coupled to density and genuine flavour intensity; acids are perfectly crisp and crunchy while fruit is clearly ripe. Seems to be a vintage in which everything came together seamlessly and effortlessly.

Umathum Grauburgunder 2019

92 Umathum Grauburgunder 2019, Burgenland
This is a rather rich and concentrated, broad and complex, serious Pinot Gris from Umathum in the Burgenland, with excellent density and richness on a bone dry, lightly phenolic (bitter, but positively) frame. Length and complexity are excellent. Ripe citrus-lemon/orange zest flavours lead with subtle florality and pronounced stony-sulfide character, clean and balanced. I love that savoury, sapid, saliva inducing finish, and the excellent length. Quality wine.

Umathum Rosa 2019

92 Umathum ZW, SL, BF Rosa 2019, Burgenland
A rather deeply-coloured rosé composed of Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent and Blaufränkisch, this is generously fruity and pleasantly lactic, showing black cherry-raspberry yoghurt flavours, rich and creamy but with a proper refreshing twang of acids. Complexity, depth and length are well above the mean, in fact, I’d be tempted to put this more in the light red category than rosé, certainly not a frivolous patio sipper in any case. Serious wine, for current enjoyment, or cellar comfortably another 2-4 years or more I suspect if you prefer a more evolved and savoury expression – this has the structure to continue to improve, not just get old.

2018 Grüner Veltliner

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Ried Kellerberg 2018

94 Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Ried Kellerberg 2018, Wachau
(Noble Estates Wines & Spirits, Inc.)

A terrifically sharp, tight and citric 2018 Grüner, though typical of the cooler Kellerberg, more often planted to Riesling due to its particularly stony soils. Grüner struggles here in the right way, finding a much tighter and stony expression than those from the more generous loess soils (though Domäne Wachau gets their Grüner from the lower part of the slope where the soil is a little deeper). There’s a sweet herbal-fennel twist uncommon in the variety, also tarragon, joining the crunchy pear and lemony fruit. Length and depth are excellent. I’d suggest cellaring another 2-4 years for a more complete expression. 

Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Langenloiser Alte Reben 2018

94 Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Langenloiser Alte Reben 2018, Kamptal DAC
(H.H.D. Imports)

Showing the beginnings of maturing character on the nose, with lightly candied citrus fruit, billowing also with yellow fleshed orchard fruit, peach and apricot, evidently very ripe (14% alc. declared). The palate also delivers significant depth and weight, and real old vine vinosity with plenty of lees character and even some phenolic grip. This is a sizeable mouthful of wine, very textural, with terrific concentration and length. Best after 2022.

Allram Grüner Veltliner Ried Straßer Gaisberg 1ötw 2018

93 Allram Grüner Veltliner Ried Straßer Gaisberg 1ÖTW 2018, Kamptal DAC
(Terra Firma Brands)

2018 delivered a sizable Gaisberg in the hands of Lorenz Allram, opulent and rich, with wonderfully creamy texture and terrific depth. Like the best wines of this warm vintage, acids pierce through the billowing fruit to keep the ensemble in balance, while an appealing point of bitterness adds freshness to the long back end. While certainly ripe, fruit spans a range of spectrums from candied lemon and orange, through soft pear and golden delicious apple, to the edge of tropical. This has much yet to gain in the cellar; I’d suggest trying again after 2023 or so. Lovely wine.

Nikolaihof Wachau Gr├╝ner Veltliner Terrassen 2018

91 Nikolaihof Wachau Grüner Veltliner Terrassen 2018, Wachau
($29.30, The Living Vine)

Remarkably lean and light considering the hot 2018 vintage, Nikolaihof’s Terrassen comes in at just 11.5% alcohol with tight accompany acids. Yet the wine avoids austerity thanks to long ageing on the lees, an estate specialty. There’s also a typical salinity and sapidity here that makes this infinitely drinkable, increasing desire for another sip. Very good length and depth. Drink or hold until the end of the decade.

Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Ried Lamm 1ötw 2018

91 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Ried Lamm 1ÖTW 2018, Kamptal DAC
(Artisanal Imports)

Fragrant and exotic, very ripe, Gobelsburg’s 2018 Lamm slips into the tropical fruit spectrum, like star fruit, pineapple, and passion fruit, over orchard fruit, pears in syrup and tangerines. The palate is full-bodied, round and creamy, yet kept in shape by a little phenolic grip; acids are in balance and sufficient to keep the ensemble in check. Overall complexity is relatively modest in this context, being a mostly fruit-driven expression, at least for now. The wine is excellent to be sure – even if it won’t likely be counted among the greats from this historic estate. Enjoy over the mid-term.

2018 Riesling

Domäne Wachau Riesling Smaragd Ried Achleiten 2018

95 Domäne Wachau Riesling Smaragd Ried Achleiten 2018, Wachau
(Noble Estates Wines & Spirits, Inc.)

Ripe, even exotic, this celebrated cru delivered an unusually fruity Riesling in 2018, at least on the nose, until you get it on your palate where the generous entry quickly regains composure, turning tight, narrow and scorchingly stony on the long back end. The nose explodes with peaches and apricots in a Mosel like-idiom, but the palate is all Achleiten: dense, tightly knit, austere and authoritative in the best way. Intensity is almost painful. Just a magic drop of wine, best likely 2024-2040 or so – give that exuberant fruit time to settle.

Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Ried Heiligenstein 1ötw 2018

95 Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Ried Heiligenstein 1ÖTW 2018, Kamptal DAC
(Artisanal Imports)

Pure and crystalline, scorchingly stony, remarkably austere on the palate for the generally ripe and open 2018 vintage, Gobelsburg’s Heiligenstein Riesling is a marvel of balance and depth, and above all, site expression. This is all about the stein – stone – uncompromising, nourished the just measure by lees contact without turning creamy or soft. The exoticism of the vintage is on display, but in the reserved, demure Gobelsburg style. When you’ve been around for 850 years, there’s no need for bling. Best 2024-2040.

Allram Riesling Ried Zöbinger Heiligenstein 1ötw 2018

94 Allram Riesling Ried Zöbinger Heiligenstein 1ÖTW 2018, Kamptal DAC
(Terra Firma Brands)

The great Heiligenstein vineyard delivered a ripe and forward, rather exotic Riesling in 2018 from the cellars of Lorenz Allram, with the hallmark ripe stone fruit of this warm cru (Allram’s parcel is in the heart of the vineyard, a subzone, called “Heiligenstein Heiligenstein”) and very ripe citrus, lemon custard and tangerines. Acids are remarkably vibrant and there’s plenty of energy here, driving through the long finish. Open and engaging as it is, I’d still suggest at least another 2-3 years in the cellar for a full and complete expression, and while this may not be the vintage to lay down for the long haul, there’s no rush to drink either.

Huber Markus Riesling Reserve Ried Berg 1ötw 2018

92 Huber Markus Riesling Reserve Ried Berg 1ÖTW 2018, Traisental DAC
(Woodman Wines & Spirits)

The Ried (Cru) Berg in the village of Getzersdorf is a steep east-facing terraced slope with very meager soils –  only a thin layer of humus over limestone conglomerate.  High iron and manganese content give the soil its reddish colour. Although surprisingly closed on the nose, the palate nonetheless displays a high degree of flavour intensity and ripeness, and a rather creamy-soft texture for Riesling, complete with a little leesy-creamy texture and flavour. Alcohol presents a little palate warming at 13% declared, and the fruit has a golden, more autumnal profile than spring fresh. Density and richness are very high, making this a Riesling for fans of richer, rounder styles, but make no mistake – there’s an acid backbone underlying it all, driving the long finish. Perhaps not an arch-classic vintage, but a very good wine nonetheless from a fine site. Drink or hold mid-term.

2018 Others

Tement Weissburgunder Gutswein 2018

92 Tement Weißburgunder Gutswein 2018, Südsteiermark DAC
($28.85, Le Sommelier)

Lovely, clean, pure, fresh, reserved and restrained for the vintage, more stone forward and fruit backwards, this Pinot Blanc from Tement is like a freshwater spring. There’s no wood influence, while acids and alcohol line up beautifully, as does the fully integrated lees component. Length and depth are marvellous. A transparent, pure, stony pleasure, sophisticated but also thirst quenching and satisfying.

John Szabo, MS

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