10 Austrian Whites to Drink this Season
Most of the intake for this month’s Austrian slot are non-single vineyard whites wines from 2014, a vintage that was panned by some commentators while winemakers were still picking grapes last fall. While there was a lot of rain and therefore rot, those who sorted and selected carefully and put in all the hours now present a range of squeaky-clean wines that defy the doomsayers.
The wines deliver authenticity and originality—true to land and vintage. Grüner Veltliner offers taut, bright and focused whites and conforms once again to its delicious varietal hallmark of herbal pepperiness—something that tends to get lost in riper vintages.
Cooler seasons bear out this intriguing facet unequalled in other whites. Rieslings have even more citric thrill than is customary. That dollop of extra acidity from a cool vintage merely changes the aspect and flavor spectrum, not the quality: for Riesling it is citrus rather than stone fruit, for Sauvignon Blanc it is nettle rather than passion fruit, for Gelber Muskateller it is even more lightfootedness. For Austria’s indigenous varieties like Neuburger, Rotgipfler and Zierfandler this cooler vintage spells less tropical exoticism and more savory spice.
A very welcome side effect of the 2014 vintage is the altogether lower alcohol levels: Many wines hover around or even below the 12% abv mark but show ample depth and flavor. If you have cellared the spectacularly ripe 2012 wines, get some 2014 to illustrate the contrast.
The wines have the substance and freshness to age well. Cooler years often triumph in maturity. Tracing the personality of each changing vintage is a joy for every true wine lover. Vintage variation is to be celebrated—it provides fresh aspects, new insights and not least a host of delicious, unusual wines. Zum Wohl!
Eichinger 2014 Wechselberg Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal); 93 points, $19. Apart from fresh citrus peel and yeasty savoriness, this Grüner delivers a full herbal repertoire of chervil and rocket, watercress and lemon balm. The spine is of lemony acidity, painting a picture of thrilling, concentrated freshness, interspersed with peppery layers of interest and a nearly endless herbal finish. Weygandt-Metzler.
Nikolaihof 2014 Hefeabzug Grüner Veltliner (Wachau); 93 points, $25. Funky notes of yeast still dominate the nose, but there is an abundance of yellow, juicy pear and Russet apple once they blow off, framed by citrus freshness and underlined with a yeasty savoriness that recalls slightly pungent herbs like watercress and arugula. The finish is ultraclean. Skurnik Wines, Inc.
Anton Bauer 2014 Rosenberg Grüner Veltliner (Wagram); 92 points, $22. Very pure fruit notes of yellow, ripe pear mingle with fresh citrus zest on nose and palate of this supercrisp Grüner. The aftertaste reinforces that wonderful pepperiness and lends extra vivacity to this streamlined, dynamic wine. Very moreish. Select Wines Inc.
F X Pichler 2014 Loibner Klostersatz Grüner Veltliner Federspiel (Wachau); 92 points, $37. If you could get an essence of grapefruit peel with edges of savory herbs and tingling white pepper, this wine would be it. This is wonderfully bracing and fresh yet concentrated, so there is tone and muscle but slenderness, too. Totally sleek and exhilarating now, will open up through 2019. Weygandt-Metzler.
Direder 2014 Donatus Grüner Veltliner (Wagram); 89 points, $12. Both fresh green and ripe yellow pear make an appearance on the nose, along with a subtle hint of pineapple candy. The palate is more crisp than expected—in line with the 2014 vintage—but provides ample refreshment and citrus zing. If you like zippy you’ll love this. Grape Expectations (CA). Best Buy.
Bründlmayer 2014 Steinmassel Riesling (Kamptal); 93 points, $35. There is something eternally invigorating in this citrus-pure Riesling that smacks of grapefruit and lemon zest. There is a softer apple aspect too, uniting all in a fresh, pure fruitiness. There is something simply authentic at its very heart that keeps you sipping. And with such a light-bodied wine, you can (almost) do so with impunity. Terry Theise Estate Selections.
Josef Ehmoser 2014 Vom Gelben Löss Riesling (Wagram); 92 points, $25. Crunchy, tart but ripe apples abound on the nose and even more on the palate. This is reminiscent of a red-cheeked Cox’s Orange Pippin apple and offers the same thrill and contrast between ripe fruit and crispness. This is dangerously animating and racy. It will make conversation sparkle. Finishes with a lasting apple tang. David Bowler Wine.
Markus Huber 2014 Engelsberg Riesling (Traisental); 92 points, $25. Flinty highlights join lemon zest freshness on a thrillingly pure and streamlined palate bursting with lemon and tangerine zest. This is taut and slender but packs a citrus punch. This is destined for hot days; it is lovely now but will also last. Some spritz enlivens the finish. Drink Now till 2020. Broadbent Selections, Inc.
Stadlmann 2014 Badener Berg Riesling (Niederösterreich); 90 points, $19. Fresh, ripe Mirabelle plum complements the lemony, crisp freshness. The textured palate also cushions the briskness that is so typical of 2014, the finish is wonderfully clean and lasting, drawing out more of that lemon purity. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd.
Forstreiter 2014 Stoa Riesling (Kremstal); 89 points, $20. Some fermentation aromas still swing in the nose but lemony freshness soon takes over on the nose and palate. This is light-bodied, slim and very, very fresh. Save this for a really hot day when you need cooling down. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd.
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