Austrian Questions

Terry - Thanks for importing and championing such great wines, for writing your catalogs and book (I have read it twice and given it as a gift multiple times) and for answering questions! I wanted to get my questions in under the wire…

1.) Do you have any observations on Biodynamic wines based on your long relationship with Nikolaihof. Particularly on a comparitive basis to your other producers and notable differences in bad vintages or extremely hot vintages.

2.) Thanks to you I paid more attention to Alzinger and now they are one of my favorite producers. They do tend to be under appreciated in larger wine geek type tastings or with inappropriate foods. How do you like to enjoy their wines and with what food? I loved your recent comparison to FX Pichler.

3.) Favorite vineyards sites for both Grüner and Riesling?

4.) Do you like Neuberger? I wish more producers made and exported it to the US.

5.) What do you think of the potential of Sauvignon Blanc in Austria? Ever think of working with Tement? Their wines are very hard to find.

6.) Do you like Zierfandler?

7.) What is the Austrian equivalent of Scheurebe?

8.) How come the 2009 Alzinger Steinertal GV was imported in such small amounts? Can you get more?

9.) What do you think of all of the young producers in Vienna?

10.) I recently had an amazing 2002 Cab Franc from Bründlmayer, what is the story behind this?

11.) Can you talk a little, I realize it is a complicated and long answer, about how your producers changed their practices in the winery (particularly SO2) and/or vineyard when they switched to screwcaps?

12.) How come almost no one ages Austrian wines? I have had amazing wines going as far back as the early 60s and decent wines from the 40s that would have neen better if the corks would have been better.

13.) What do you think of BAs and TBAs from Austria?

14.) Have you beed to Edi & the Wolf yet, the new restaurant in Alphabet City from the Seasonal Boys -" onclick=";return false;

15.) Do you really like WWF and Death Metal?

I could go on and on if you have not guessed Austria is by far the biggest part of my wine collection…Thanks in advance!

I need to get o/t for this thread Todd. Man has some questions, uh huh.

In order:

  1. This area is fraught with arguments between straw-men-bearing-doctrines. What I can say is, the decades-long evidence at Nikolaihof strongly suggests it is possible to achieve physiological ripeness earlier under Bio-d than under other systems. And, in their relatively airy vineyards, they have very few issues with vine disease, especially fungal diseases. However, it’s otiose to confine this to strict questions of viticulture. For this family it is an holistic system of living in which all things thrive because they are loved and tended with curiosity and respect. Drawing larger inferences must be done with equivalent humility and delicacy.

  2. I enjoy Alzinger’s wines in an unexceptional way, i.e., no differently than any other wines I enjoy (leaving aside the question of their particular virtues) and with the ordinarily appropriate food.

  3. Again, we all know the top Crus. I suppose my special favorites are Steinertal and Heiligenstein. Yin and yang for sure.

  4. Yes I like Neuburger, but when I offered it no one bought it. There’s not much market for these nutty umami-rich wines, though the recent vogue for Jura whites might suggest otherwise - at least until you remember that anything with French words on the label is immediately more (commercially) viable than everything with German words.

  5. The best Sauv-Bl in Austria is among the very best - repeat, VERY best in the world. Because there isn’t much of it, it’s expensive, and because it’s expensive, the U.S. market was wary of exploring it. I shipped Polz and Skoff for a while and sales were mediocre. Vin diVino still ships Tement, or is it Weygant? The wines are excellent, whoever it is.

  6. I like it OK. I mean, I like that it’s one of those distinctive wines-of-place, but honestly it’s a minor variety, unless one likes wines that taste like radish juice.

  7. Scheurebe! They grow it there. It’s often called “Sämling 88.” But if I get the spirit of your question, the better answer would be Gelber Muskateller.

  8. Because it was 60% of a normal harvest and I took what I could get. As I mentioned in another thread, we have a certain struggle to sell these top GVs at $65 and higher, notwithstanding that they’re the best damn wines on earth for that money. So I haven’t fussed at Leo to up my allocation, as the wines drib&drab out.

  9. Can’t say, don’t know 'em. I hear the same good things you do.

  10. Willi makes it, I sometimes like it. His reds are on the “cool” side, and they often need either a warm vintage, bottle-age or both. I liked that '02 quite well, though it needs food to tame its tannin.

  11. It’s too long to go into here, as you correctly surmised.

  12. You tell me! And here it’s not just us umlaut-averse Americans; the Austrians don’t age them either, and that is really sad. No dry white on earth ages better than GV, and a mature example is as great an experience as wine can give you - and almost no one knows.

  13. I rarely like them more than a little. I’m fairly tepid toward “dessert wine” in any case, and the fatter they get the less I like them. As always, certain noble exceptions exist, but for any single “sticky” I offer, there were five I tasted and went “meh.”

  14. I have not - should I?

  15. WWF is the equivalent of eating a whole bag of Doritos; I don’t do it often, I don’t especially like myself for doing it when I do, but WHEN I do it is the perfect thing to be doing at that very moment. I used to watch a lot of wrestling when my son watched it. We “bonded” over Stone Cold Steve Austin. He’s grown up and out of the house and so I hardly watch it any more. I love it when I watch it but I don’t in the least miss it when I don’t.

I don’t like death metal. But again, I was exposed to it, and I don’t disapprove of it, and there’s plenty of other genres of music I detest even more.

Thanks for the answers!

Some responses:

  • I do think there is a market, albeit small, for Neuberger. Crush just did an offering. Everytime I bring an old bottle to a wine geek tasting there is universal praise and awe.

  • There is also a market for $65 Grüners and I think it will grow (really!). I can’t tell you how much time I spent hunting down my four measly bottles of 09 Alzinger Steinertal GV (I assume most went to restaurants).

  • My guesses as to why no one ages Austrians wines…the wines drink so good young, they do not shut down as hard as other great white wines that age (ie, German Riesling and Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blancs) so many are drunk mid-life, most are inexpensive so the perception is that they are not to be aged and lastly and probably most importanly not many people have experienced the pleasure of a perfectly stored bottle of old Grüner. Another random thought is that when you go to Austria and ask this type of question the producers don’t rush into their cellars to prove to you that their wines ages (as least they didn’t for me) like they do in Germany so the producers could do a better job educating (but why would they?).

  • I love the Zierfandler from Mandel-Hoh.

  • Yes you should go to Edi & The Wolf. The SPÄTZLE and SCHNITZEL are excellent. AND it is great to see a packed restaurant (mostly younger people) drinking Neurberger and St Laurent (the wine list is almost 100% Austrian). It is quite a scene and great for Austrian wine and food. I live right down the street so let me know if you go…I will bring some old Neuberger!

Thanks again for your thorough and speedy reply!