Austrian Immersion, Part 3 – by Jack Simmonds, Hahndorf Hill Brand Ambassador

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Days 5 & 6 – Wachau and Kremstal

The city of Krems is a university town on the banks of the Danube, 20 minutes by train from Langenlois and will be my base for exploring the Wachau and Kremstal wine regions. The ruling Babenbergs selected the site and established Krems as their seat of power in 1120 AD. Today it consists of its famous Altstadt (old town), virtually unchanged since the 1700s with its renaissance Rathaus (town hall) and a parish church that is one of the oldest in Lower Austria, and the more modern universities, museums and entertainment districts of the new town.
Only a short bus ride from Krems is the medieval village of Durnstein in the Wachau, which sits on a steep mountainside bend in the Danube; its huge fortification walls are up to 40m high and in some parts as thick as 20m. Perched high above sits the ruins of an ancient castle, for a brief time (and against his will) home to Richard the Lionheart. Large vaulted archways elevate covered walkways and dwellings above the concentric streets, and narrow laneways provide short cuts around the city for locals and the more observant of visitors.
Built into the gatehouse structure at the main entrance to the walled city is the Durnstein Vinothek; typical of shops in ancient cities, it is cosy and dim with thick walls and low roof. The Vinothek is a great ambassador for wines of the Wachau; owner Veronika is passionate about their signature varietals Gruner Veltliner and Riesling, charging only two euros to sample half a dozen of her best.

Jack at the Domaine Wachau cellar door

Domaine Wachau is the largest and most famous of the local producers. A co-op of 250 growers, Domaine Wachau now has global distribution and for many this is their first taste of Gruner Veltliner. They have a very impressive and modern cellar door and are only too happy to guide you through what makes their region special. A unique variety of soil types, climate and a quality classification system called the Wachau Codex all combine to make these wines some of the most desirable in the world.

Hahndorf Hill Austria Gruner Veltliner

A dazzling line-up at Domaine Wachau

Word got out that a Gruner Veltliner producer from Australia was visiting, so winery director Roman Horvath MW invited me to taste some very special and not publicly available mature vintages and as yet not-released, experimental wines. A delicious and enlightening few hours.
With time on my hands I decided to take a stroll along the Danube (I feel like I’ve heard that before) and just see what I could see. On the far side of the swollen and swiftly flowing river rose almost sheer cliffs that reluctantly broke off into thickly forested hills marching off into the distance. Nearby snuggled the three villages of Durnstein, Oberloiben and Unterloiben on a narrow strip of flat land that rose almost as steeply in a series of terraced and individually named vineyards.
The wines of the Wachau seem to come out of either large global brands or very small family operators whose wines rarely make it beyond the district; one such is Brustbauer. Karl Brustbauer is a former mayor of Durnstein, local historian and the current custodian of his great-great-grandfather’s winery. “My son and I do everything,” declares Karl, “but this is not mine, nor his. We belong to the land, not the other way around!” Karl invited me into his home chuffed beyond measure that a wine fan from what might as well have been another planet had taken an interest in his babies; he opened several bottles and humbly talked me through what I can honestly say are some of the best Gruner Veltliners I have tasted.
Karen Fink of Fink Wines is a lady my grandmother would have described as “salt of the earth”. An entirely missable sign posted high on the corner of her 500-year old house was the only clue as to what might be found inside. Her wines are priced in the entry to mid range but are honest, clean and well made. I found Fink by chance and with luck like this I think I might buy my first ever lottery ticket as soon as possible.
2006 is when Hahndorf Hill imported our first three Gruner Veltliner clones from Austria, but the research began long before that. For us thorough investigation into the different styles and terroirs of Gruner was – and still is – crucial to making educated decisions about our path forward, and it is for this reason we have kept a respectful eye on the Knoll winery – a master of the Wachau’s Federspiel and Smaragd-classified Gruners. Producing excellent single vineyard and “village” wines, Knoll’s range is perfectly tuned to the region.

Powerful Knoll line-up

The current 2016 and previous 2015 vintages both show crisp acid and zippy minerality, while less primary fruit than the Kamptal and Kremstal regions gives the Knoll Federspiel wines their signature “pfefferl” and savoury notes. I was given a very warm welcome by the winemaker Emmerich Knoll and his wife, but their big four legged and not at all intimidating security guard extracted a toll before letting me past the front door: a solid ten minutes of belly scratches.
Since arriving in the Wachau I have tried a dozen or so examples of Federspiel category of wines, each with fruit from the same block but vinified by different producers, and all share a characteristic I have not found anywhere else in Austria but which is prominent in the Hahndorf Hill Gru – and that is a delicate chalky mouthfeel on the roof of my mouth. It is thrilling to know that our wines are already growing up to resemble their illustrious and ancient cousins.

Bert Salomon and Jack at the Salomon cellar door in Krems

The newer quarters of Krems occupy the flatter ground between the Danube and the base of the terraced vineyards and old town which climbs the north-eastern slopes. Right on the seam between the two sits the Salomon Estate; Bert Salomon has a very high profile in both Austria and Australia (he currently produces vintages in South Australia). Topping well over six feet and with a handshake like a Kodiak bear, he welcomed me into his cellar door and pummelled me with questions on our 2017 vintage and if we suffered the rains he did.

Stylish line-up at Salomon

Selected Salomon wines are available in Australia and I would encourage you to try them. The 2016 vintage was good to the Kamptal, the wines are crisp but delicate, aromatic and flavoursome. The crew at Salomon share the Hahndorf Hill passion for food and wine pairing; we spent more time than I could really afford waxing lyrical about what we would serve with each wine when next we met.
Also in the city is Winzer Krems, a co-operative of around 1000 growers who together form Austria’s largest producer. They offer a range of varieties but Gruner Veltliner is their priority, making up 60% of their volume. The cellar door is perched atop a hill providing an awesome view of the lower Wachau opening into the central Austrian plain and the famous Gottweig Abbey, and all that is very nice but what draws the 1.5 million visitors a year is their “World of Wine” experience.
The World of Wine experience is a fully immersive tour where you are first guided to an original stone hut constructed to provide shelter for the vineyard guardians whose role it was to scare off grape thieves be they on foot or wing. Here you enjoy a glass of their premium Gruner Veltliner whilst your guide, in my case the lovely Terresa, gives a brief history of the company and region.

The giant map-room at Winzer Krems

Next we move into a giant map room measuring 8m x 8m where the entire floor is an illuminated map detailing the region and highlights specific points of interest such as the home of Winzer Krems and some of their highest rated vineyards. Looking back now it may have been a little immature but my headstone will now read:
Here lies Jack
“I moonwalked the Danube”
A walk through the underground cellar brings you to a large concrete vault where you can sip on a glass of red and look yet further down into the winery’s massive fermentation tank area. What happened next was something every winemaker, writer, seller and drinker should experience: a 4D film devoted to the geology, vineyard cultivation and maintenance, resident flora and fauna, weather and production methods that have propelled Winzer Krems to world fame.
Now if like me you just whispered “What is 4D?”, then hopefully my explanation can do it justice. You are handed a pair of 3D glasses as you walk into a very smart theatre, then the film opens to close-up shots of life blooming in a vineyard and sweeping views of the valley. Then comes the fourth dimension; as the film describes the winter weather a gale of glacial wind roars over you; a farmer mows between his vines and the fragrance of cut summer grass fills your nostrils. Fragrance plays a significant role in the experience, just as it does in wine. Next, aromatic components of both their reds and whites are wafted past you as the film describes what makes Kremstal wine the “most food friendly in Austria”. I make my living trying to evoke a sense of passion and sensory excitement in my customers, so believe me when I say that this film is a must see/feel/smell/taste experience.
The next station on the tour is a long tunnel where conceptual artist Georgia Creimer has constructed six projected light installations showing how wines should be enjoyed, with food, without food, with people or alone, for fun or serious debate. It’s almost as if she secretly spied on my house for a week! Then we arrive back where we started in the Vinothek; most of the Winzer Krems wines are available to taste and a large retail space means you can load the car up nice and easy.
Krems, Durnstein and all the charming little Wachau villages in between have offered up some of the finest wines of my trip. The views are spectacular and the people are warm and friendly. I lament spending only a few days here as a week or more could be lost very easily, but all good things must come to an end.

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Austrian Immersion, Part 2 – By Jack Simmonds, Hahndorf Hill Brand Ambassador

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Days 4 & 5 – Langenlois, Kamptal

The adjoining regions of Kamptal, Kremstal and Wachau in north-western Austria are to white wines what Burgenland is to reds. Langenlois, the capital of Kamptal, sits in a junction of the three main wine producing valleys and was my first stop in a region specializing in a variety close to the hearts of all HHW fans: Gruner Veltliner.
Two trains, one first class and very high speed then another a relic from the Soviet occupation, brought me from the open rolling plains of Burgenland into a landscape of valleys, streams and steeply terraced vineyards. Unlike Burgenland, this region grows very little of anything that doesn’t eventually end up in a bottle; the view zipping past my window is a beautiful patchwork of criss-crossing vineyards, small villages and swathes of ancient forest.

Jack Simmonds, Hahndorf Hill Brand Ambassador in the Jurtschitsch cellar

This region had been cultivated since the Bronze Age but we can point to two significant moments in its history that has transformed the land from mostly wild forest into the Gruner and Riesling powerhouse it is today. When under Roman control the local governor recognised the awesome potential of the rich but well-draining soils, allowing the “natives” to plant vines for wine production for the first time. Then in 1171 the monks of the Cistercian Zwettl Monastery were granted land and vineyards by the then ruling Earl of Kuenring. The Cistercians were a relatively progressive order and instituted a more methodical and scientific approach to wine production.
Langenlois is a jewel; the village itself is a blend of baroque and pastel renaissance buildings, narrow hand-paved streets and open squares. Encircling the village are vineyards that radiate up the hillsides and ridges to greet their kin at the summit that forms the border with the Kamptal and Wachau valleys.
For accommodation we chose the famous Loisium Wine and Spa Resort; of ultra-modern and open design the Loisium is the perfect place from which to explore Langenlois. On my first night I decided to dine in the restaurant and was greeted at the door by the sommelier who I had passed earlier; she had recognised the Hahndorf Hill logo on my jacket and after a chat about my mission and in collusion with the chef, put together an off-menu degustation designed to highlight how exquisitely the local Gruner Veltliners pair with food.
There are four main soil types that make up these valleys and having tasted many single vineyard wines from each type, I can say they are all distinctly different. Each soil type can be easily observed and understood when you walk the “Wein Weg” or Wine Way, a trail that loops through several vineyards, up to the top of the northern ridge then back through the village. Along the walk are dozens of information points describing what is happening at the spot on which you are standing, beautiful sculptures and excellently positioned observation decks that detail points of interest in the valley below. There are even stashes of wine to taste hidden along the way, made from grapes grown in that exact spot! I could not have been more impressed with the care, attention and passion that went into making what is in my opinion one of the great wine attractions of the world.
The stunning vista from the ridgeline contains a secret: The predominant soil type here is loess, a light glacial sand and soil mix that is very easy to tunnel into, and the Langenlois folk have been doing just that, for over 900 years. Underneath the village lies the Catacombs, a sprawling and interconnected network of tunnels and cellars dug out by generations of winemakers.

Hahndorf Hill Gruner Veltliner tour of Austrai

The descent into the 900 year-old Steininger cellar

The Loisium World of Wine experience is unique in all the world, a breathtaking complex marrying the old and new. The museum’s modern cube-like design blends into the sky by day and is brilliantly lit up at night. Here you collect a portable audio player and saunter down through a vineyard to a door into the underground cellars; I have seen subterranean cellars before but not like this. First you become part of an active ferment in a colossal steel tank; your audio guide talks you through the chemical process of fermentation and gives a quick history lesson on why the god of wine, Bacchus, is so important to winemakers and drinkers, all to a spectacular water and laser show. From there you descend into a section of the Labyrinth below the village; after fermentation comes maturation and here you are guided through the barrel cellars. Interactive light, audio and video shows demonstrate how the people of Langenlois lived and work here for centuries. One exhibit I found particularly exciting was a table laid out with earthen jars that each contained the individual aroma components of Gruner Veltliner.
I had the honour of meeting with several pre-eminent local producers and in addition to tasting many of their wines, they also toured me through their cellars. During the Soviet occupation of the 40’s and 50’s the cellars were completely stripped of wine but the huge ancient barrels and other artefacts remain. Rabl is an old house that is enjoying a significant rise in demand; in the last 15 years they have had to add extra capacity and are adding new tunnels to their existing network that was last expanded 300 years ago. Rabl winemaker Martin Schmidt described his cellars as “young” in Langenlois terms.

Hahndorf Hill Zweigelt and Gruner Veltliner

Stunning wines from Steininger

Lisa Steininger is the youngest of the three daughters of Langenlois Sekt (sparkling wine) pioneer Karl Steininger and was my host during my visit to their incredible estate. I tasted through a portfolio that is home to some of the very best Gruner Veltliners and Zweigelts I have ever tried. They have vineyards peppered throughout the region and offer site-specific wines that really do embody the concept of “people meets place” that we value so much at home. Lisa justifiably takes tremendous pride in her family’s network of ancient but expanding cellars and facilities.

Ursin Haus is a vinothek right in the heart of town. Well trained staff with very good English guided me through a selection of wines that they thought best represented the region. Tasters can choose from two options, either self service through a range of mostly entry and mid-level wines or hand themselves over to the staff to guide you through the whole lot including their Traditionsweinguter Osterreich or “Grand Cru” tier. No guesses as to which option I went for!
The Austrian word for palace is schloss and although the current façade of Schloss Gobelsburg reflects sixteenth century tastes, there have been nobles in residence on this site for considerably longer. It was in the magnificent state room that a tasting of local sekt wines was put on for the finalists in the World Sommelier Challenge and I was invited to join in. The Kamptal does not have a long history of producing sparkling wine but the Gruner Veltliner and Pinot Noir on the slopes visible through the huge hand-blown windows can do just about anything they want. I was pleasantly surprised at the variation and quality shown; I tasted Pet Nats through to bone-dry Nature styles and all were balanced and true to their variety.

Hahndorf Hill Adelaide Hills wine

The underground cellars at Schloss Gobelsburg.

The producers here take their sekt so seriously they are in the final stages of locking down a codex system to mandate minimum standards to protect the quality, similar to Champagne’s appellation system.
Once the sommeliers had tasted through the sekt and moved on to their next engagement, I was invited to stay behind for an extra special treat. Schloss Gobelsburg produces one of the finest St Laurents available in Austria and the current manager of the palace and head winemaker, Michael Moosbrugger, opened bottles of the current 2013 vintage back to the 2010 for us to taste. To say I felt honoured is an understatement; Michael does not usually do tastings. The wines were delicate and sophisticated, aromatic but with a firm tannin structure and in Michael’s opinion don’t start to wake up until they are around six years old. St Laurent is a variety HHW is about to invest significant effort into and I am glad we are; a St Laurent of quality can bring even the most militant Francophile or Bordeaux tragic to heel.

Jurtschitsch is one of the Kamptal’s top producers.

Operating since the 16th century, Jurtschitsch is a winery a few minutes’ walk from Steininger and while specialising in Gruner Veltliner, it also has the only Blaufrankisch planting in the valley. The wines were outstanding; the family and crew here are very conscious of their terroir and have broken their wines into three styles: One to represent the Village, one to represent the Vintage and the last to represent the specific Vineyard from which the fruit was sourced. Tastings are by appointment only so call ahead.
Brundlmayer wines and restaurant is in a wonderfully preserved renaissance vintner’s house in the village. I had made my dinner reservation weeks earlier and it was just as well; the restaurant and cellar door is a destination for gourmets from all over the world. Before dinner I sat in the beautiful courtyard and was indulged by the amazing staff who brought me flight after flight of their best Gruners, Zweigelts and St Laurents to taste. Then I was escorted to a table in the restaurant and guided through their degustation options; naturally I chose the big one. Each course was expertly matched to their wines and looked almost too good to eat, but of course I did!
Over two days I tasted too many elite wines and met too many generous and genuinely passionate winemakers to single out just a few to review, so do yourself a favour and get there quick. The tastings I had at Schloss Gobelsburg, Steininger, Rabl, Jurtschitsch and Brundlmayer were unforgettable and I cannot thank them enough.

Next month: Jack’s visit to the Kremstal and Wachau wine regions.

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Austrian Immersion, Part 1 – By Jack Simmonds, Hahndorf Hill Brand Ambassador

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Day 1 – Eisenstadt, Burgenland

Austrian varietals take pride of place in the Hahndorf Hill portfolio and the wine racks of many of our customers. My mission was to immerse myself in Austria’s world-famous wines and wine regions to gain a better appreciation of the geography, styles, culture and people that turn out such consistently enchanting wines.
Given the enormity of such an assignment I needed a strategy, so I decided on “divide and conquer”. Unlike almost all Australian wine regions that produce both reds and whites, the Austrians (for the most part) pick a side, so I devoted my first few days to Austria’s red heartland, the region of Burgenland.
The capital of Burgenland is the large picturesque town of Eisenstadt, only a short ride by train from Vienna airport.   It was a beautiful clear and warm afternoon as I stepped off the train to a stunning vista of church spires, museums and stately homes climbing the hill on which Eisenstadt is built.

Hahndorf Hill Blaufrankisch tour Austria

Jack Simmonds, Brand Ambassador for Hahndorf Hill Winery, outside the Selektion Vinothek in Eisenstadt

First stop was the Selektion Vinothek – a very classy wine bar and shop opposite the stunning Esterhazy Palace. (Vinothek is the title given to a wine tasting and retail space, often featuring only local wines arranged into flights or by the glass.)
The very well trained staff were more than happy to pull out all the stops for a true believer in what has made their region famous: Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, St Laurent and blends. After testing my credentials with a “decoy” wine, they told me to disregard the menu and strap in for the staffs’ favourites arranged into flights.
Three stand-outs were:
Hillinger “Jois” Gruner Veltliner 2013, from the region of Leithaberg. 13.5%. The rich golden straw colour of this wine gave me a hint of what I was in for. Honey and toasted buttery bread from the liberal use of French oak leapt from the glass to tease and provoke the nose. Creamy spiced pear and stewed apple demand your attention at first then the famous white pepper notes and very well balanced acid keep this animal on a tight leash. I am a big fan; this wine would appeal to lovers of big rich Chardonnays and Rhone blends.
Moric “Haus Marke” 2014 Cuvee, from Grosshoflien. 12.5%. A blend of the region’s superstars, Blau 40%, Zwei 40% and St Laurent 20%, this wine had a nose that captivated me straight away. Musky plum, cherry, white pepper and a slight bloody aroma all work together to build a platform for the curiously light palate. White pepper and sage upfront, then delicate oak and woody spices carry you through the long finish. Grazing platters of cured meats, cheese, dried fruits and olives would be the perfect way to enjoy this gem.
Kloster Am Spitz “Muschelkalk” 2014, From Purbach. 14%. Dark crimson and burgundy in colour with a distinct clearing rim, this Blau/Cab Sauv blend has the most perfumed nose yet. Reminiscent of fine pinot with aromatics of heavy, ripe plums and cherries tail off to delicate and slightly medicinal notes. Dry red and black fruits waltz gracefully with woody spices, while the oak/acid balance is spot on. This wine had the highest alcohol so far but was the most composed and very Aussie friendly; I could very easily blow a week’s wages on this one!
Side Note: Eisenstadt’s skyline is dominated by the bell tower of the Domplatz Cathedral, which needs only the flimsiest of excuses to peel out across the town. This combined with the resident population of roughly 17 trillion cuckoo birds (no two of which agree on the time) makes for a background soundtrack of joyous ding dongs versus constant avian objection and dissent.

Day 2 –  Deutschkreutz, Burgenland

The Deutschkreutz Vinatrium

The spiritual centre of Austrian reds is the small village of Deutschkreutz, a town in the region of Mittelburgenland close to the Hungarian border. Deutschkreutz identifies as “red centric” but not in the sense the typical Australian consumer of Barossa or Coonawarra wines would recognise; the wines here run the gamut from delicate and sophisticated rosè through to medium-bodied beauties and titanic oak bombs.
Regardless of variety, style, region or price, balance is the metric by which we must measure quality and there are scores of well balanced and exciting wines from all over Burgenland to be found in the Deutschkreutz Vinatrium.
A self-service co-operative on the high street only a short walk from the train station that has over 100 local reds open to taste at any one time, you can work your way through them all for only 15 euros. Deep underground in a converted cellar a lucky wine fan can move from station to station tasting bottles from all over the region and covering every style and price point.
Blaufrankisch is the dominant variety in Burgenland, with Zweigelt, St Laurent, Cabernet and Merlot also readily available.
I tasted several excellent straight varietals but it was the blends or “cuvee’s” as the Austrians call them that made the biggest impression on me.
Rotweingut Lang, Blaufrankisch Reserve 2013, 14%. Dark as night with just a suggestion of purple at the rim this magnetic red is perfumed with earthy black/blue fruits and violet floral notes. True to form this wine delivers exactly what the nose and colour promised; dark brooding forest fruits, earthy spice and a whisper of fine oak. Clean acid and chalky tannins make for a satisfyingly long finish.
Various Cuvee’s
An exceedingly strong group of blends got me very excited. If I were to peer into a crystal ball I am sure I would spy a Blau-dominant blend in Hahndorf Hill’s future, and if the range I tasted was as typical of Burgenland’s production as I was led to believe, than we will has some very stiff competition.
The stand-out examples all showed delicate spicy and violet aromatic notes on the nose with cured meats, woody spices and dark forest berries complemented by complex and delicate tannins on the palate. All had stamina and would be a very welcome guest at any table.
Bouer-Poltl, Domus Petri 2013, Blaufrankisch/Zweigelt/Merlot, 13%
Artner, Cuvee Falcon 2013, Merlot/Blau/Zweigelt, 14%
Reumann, Equinox, 2015, Zweigelt/Blau/Merlot, 13%
Gesellman, ZB*, 2015, Blaufrankisch/Zweigelt/Blauburgunder, 13%
Hans Igler, AB Ericio 2012, Blaufrankisch/Merlot/Zweigelt 14%
Regional Austria is very observant of their religious traditions, Sundays in particular are very special. So although the excellent Vinatrium was open, very little else was. Deutschkreutz is home to several cellar doors or “weinguts” as they are known in Austria including the world-famous Hans Igler and Gesellemann, but both are open by appointment only, so call ahead.
Side Note: I have been working on an analogy to describe the way Blau works in a blend and I think I have it. Blaufrankisch is the Phil Collins of the wine world, a stellar solo act but an absolute superstar in a band. The Cuvees I tasted today have convinced me that when blended with care Blau, Zwei and St L become greater than the sum of their parts.

 Day 3 – Gols & Rust, Burgenland

A barrel full of fun

A train ride of 40 minutes from Eisenstadt across the open plain to the north/eastern shores of Lake Neusiedl brings me to the penultimate stop on my tour of Austria’s red country.
Gols is a small village that differs from those I have visited so far; it is noticeably greener with wider tree-lined streets and more open spaces. Gols puts me in mind of several Welsh villages I visited as a boy and is home to many wineries, the Weinkulturhaus Vinothek and my new bestie, Gerhard Pittnauer of Pittnauer Wines.
The Weinkulturhaus offers tastings of most of the local producers’ entry level wines and is a good place to start. I tasted around 20 wines for 15 Euros and while the co-op is open to anyone looking to explore local wines, my next experience was not.

 

After calling in every favour Hahndorf Hill has ever earned and deploying no small measure of my own charm, I was granted an appointment with the famous Gerhard Pittnauer.

Jack Simmonds and Gerhard Pittnauer

Since inheriting the winery from his father in 1984 at just eighteen, Gerhard (we are on a first name basis now) along with his wife Brigitte have worked tirelessly to reinvigorate the once crippled local industry.
The Pittnaur commitment to excellence paired with a focus on the “Holy Trinity” of Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and St Laurent has resurrected not only his own business but along with a few like-minded neighbours, has helped to restore the reputation of a region that has been under vine since Roman times.
I have strolled through hundreds of vineyards, tasted through countless barrels and worked through entire portfolios before, but this was special. Gerhard was incredibly generous with his time, experience and wines. I could not find a wine in his whole range that I would not max out at least one credit card on.

I will not soon forget Gols.  I could have spent all day in Gols but I was told a village named Rust on the opposite side of the lake was a must-see so I made my way over. Arriving in mid afternoon I could tell after only a few minutes that I had done myself a disservice by not allocating a whole week to the most arresting village yet.
Rust was established over 1100 years ago and has elegant, winding streetscapes and architecture. Whilst home to many cellar doors the real icons of the village are 18 nesting pairs of stalks. The stalks make their nests on the chimney stacks of a select few homes and businesses; it is considered very lucky and is a source of tremendous pride by the residents to have their chimney chosen by a pair of stalks. One winery that must be singled out is Giefing; the wines are made with care, passion and are very reasonably priced. They were also happy to stay open after hours, insisting that I taste everything they thought I needed to. Lovely wines, lovely people.

The endless Pannonian plain of Burgenland

Summary: Burgenland is a vast plain of gently rolling hills clad in every shade of green. At its heart is Lake Neusiedl, an immense but very shallow body of water that has a significant effect on the region’s weather, particularly in the hot summer months. There is something universal about small country towns and villages the world over; the pace and rigidity of visiting city folk is anathema to the calm and open-hearted people that make such places their home. I was embraced and welcomed by the locals, particularly the kids who would giggle as they fed me constant questions just to hear me respond in a language they were familiar with but delivered in the most bizarre accent they had ever heard.
Side Note: Almost everyone claims a familial tie to Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Next month: Jack’s visit to the Kamptal wine region.

 

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Terrific Austrian varieties – 3

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Hahndorf Hil wine tasting

Tom Wood – the poetic palate in residence at Hahndorf Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In preparation for an upcoming trip to Austria by Jack Simmonds, our Brand Ambassador, the Hahndorf Hill cellar door held a staff tasting evening focussing on three Austrian varieties – Gruner Veltliner, Blaufrankisch and Saint Laurent.

Steininger ‘Grand Gru’ Gruner Veltliner – 2013, Kamptal Reserve, 14%
The first wine tried for the evening in the ‘blind’ line-up of Austrian (and Hahndorf Hill) wines. Deep, golden yellow in colour. The aroma instantly screamed Reserve Gruner; I was almost certain I had tried this wine previously, but had not. Beautifully rich pineapple and chamomile tea notes supported by creamy apple, hay, grass and subtle mixed herbs. Oak-work and malolactic fermentation noticeable on the palate with gorgeous creamy texture coating the edges of a citrus-based core. Plenty of fresh acidity, plenty of citrus keeping this modest, lively and refreshing.

Hahndorf Hill ‘Gru 2’ Gruner Veltliner – 2013, Adelaide Hills, 13.5%
Perhaps the most surprising wine to taste on the evening in many ways but for all the right reasons. I immediately thought that there had been a sneaky varietal thrown into the mix but time certainly changed my mind on that. Riesling-esque kerosene, key-lime and mineral notes were my first written notes; however within the space of a few minutes this wine had almost turned 180 degrees on me. Orange skin, dried peach and white pepper arose to the forefront by the time I had completed my first round of notes. Still fresh, very much so. Weighty, textural with serious length and authority.

 

Rabl ‘Dechant Alte Reben’ Gruner Veltliner – 2013, Kamptal Reserve, 14.0%
This wine didn’t quite have that same deep golden yellow colour that the last two wines had, yet what it had lacked in colour it certainly made up for in intensity. Unquestionably much riper and exotic in fruit character than the previous examples, displaying dried peach, pineapple, mango and ripe golden apples. There’s savoury elements and white pepper spice that sit in the background; no doubt this wine is all about the fruit. The one thing that drew me promptly to this wine was its density; that high intensity of aromas that leapt from the glass at first swirl followed directly through on the palate with power!

All three wines bringing great pleasure to drink, all for different reasons too. It was also amazing to see the differences across the three wines despite all wines being so varietal and fresh. Reserve Gruners age so gracefully and gorgeously and should never be overlooked for the cellar.

Krutzler Blaufrankisch Classic – 2013, Sudburgenland, 13%
Classic style Blaufrankisch, and as one would expect – no oak-work in sight. Raspberries, purple flowers, blueberries and sour cherry character. Grainy, floating tannin and berry-like acidity to add to its juiciness. It’s ever-so approachable and glides through the palate with breeze.

Hahndorf Hill ‘Blueblood’ Blaufrankisch – 2013, Adelaide Hills, 14%
Like all the other wines, tasted blind. This really intrigued me from the get-go and I have written in my notes that it really reminded me of red wine aged in port or sherry barrels. Beautifully ripe blue and black fruits with that aroma reminiscent of port, ever-so-faint raisin character and then sweet earthy, oak notes. The sweetness certainly isn’t reflective in the palate; however the ripe fruit characters are.

 

 

Kirnbauer ‘Goldberg Reserve’ Blaufrankisch – 2012, Mittelburgenland, 14%
This was such an insanely youthful feeling wine, especially for its bottle age (despite not knowing at the time). Very reminiscent of young Burgundian Pinot Noir. Fresh red cherries, sour cherry, dried meats, earth and faint vanilla pod perfume are the most pronounced aromas with whole bunch / smoky / fire notes to back. More-so on the medium-bodied spectrum with silky but firm tannins and that signature natural acidity that Blaufrankisch brings to the table. Long and rich finish. Delicious!

Hahndorf Hill ‘Blueblood’ Blaufrankisch – 2012, Adelaide Hills, 14%
All of the lush and fresh blue-fruited characters that I associate with the Hahndorf Hill Blaufrankisch have turned to rich, ripe dark fruits. Aromas of blackberry jam, blood plum and sweet baking spice are easily perceptible and equally enticing. Wonderful to see how well this wine ages.

 

 

 

 

Gessellman ‘Hochberc’ Blaufrankisch – 2011, Mittelburgenland, 14.5%
One of the riper interpretations of the varietal that we tried throughout the evening but none-the-less very enjoyable. This was admittedly one of my favourite wines for the night too. The wine shows intense dried black fruits, rich raspberry and blackberry jam notes as well as black tea, leafy and stemmy scents too. The tannic profile here is still relatively firm but plenty of juicy acidity and flow creating a harmonious balance. Perhaps the most pronounced wine of the Blaufrankisch flight in terms of flavour intensity and aroma intensity. The type of wine I want to take in front of the fire on a winter’s day!

 

 

 

Judith Beck ‘Schafleiten’ Saint Laurent – 2011, Burgenland, 12.5%
“Wine of the night… so far” were my immediate reactions to this wine. It remained my favourite also. It’s bright, it’s juicy but that’s all hiding behind red pepper, dried chilli, tar and barnyard character. It’s fragrant, structural and I absolutely love the tannin profile. Behind the funkiness there is blackcurrant liqueur, leaves and ripe red raspberries. I can see how this may not be for everybody but in my opinion this is unreal!

 

 

 

 

Kurt Angerer Saint Laurent – 2011, Kamptal 12.5%
Such a subtle and pretty wine. The initial thoughts all revolved around how much this reminded me so much of the gentle pressings of red grapes at vintage time and all that beautiful seductive, sweetly-fruited juice. A little vegetal character but this all is ‘prettied’ up. Morello cherry, sweet baking spice, raspberries and strawberry character on the nose. Very juicy but with concentration, intensity and great persistence.

 

 

 

 

Schloss Gobelsburg ‘Haidegrund’ Saint Laurent – 2011, Kamptal, 13%
This still feels very, very youthful and fresh. Classy, elegant but there is a spine to this wine too. A lot of pinot-esque character here; there’s red fruits in abundance and in particular red / sour cherries, pine and forest floor. There’s almost a watery texture to the acidity which works so harmoniously with the underlying mineral character that flows through the palate.

Gesellmann ‘Opus Eximium Cuvee No 25’ Blaufrankisch / Zweigelt / St Laurent – 2012, Mittelburgenland, 14%
Last but not least was an Austrian blend thrown into the mix. Undoubtedly one of the riper wines we tried for the evening. The balance here structurally was extremely impressive, in particular its acidity. Notes of plum jam, ripe blackberries, violets and chocolate powder on the nose followed by an abundance of ripe, lush black fruits on the palate with great length. Definitely a crowd pleaser!

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Gruner Veltliner, Hahndorf, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Terrific Gruner Veltliners from Austria – 2

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Hahndorf Hil wine tasting

Tom Wood – the poetic palate in residence at Hahndorf Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schloss Gobelsburg Steinsetz Gruner Veltliner 2013,
Kamptal DAC Reserve

Schloss Gobelsburg is one of Austria’s oldest wineries. The winery is situated next to the town of Langenlois and is known for being the best producer in the Kamptal. The winery was in fact previously managed by monks of the Zwettl Monastery until 1995 but documentation of viticulture dates back to the 1100’s.

Gruner tasting at Hahndorf Hill Winery

Schloss Gobelsburg

Although some vineyard practices and winemaking have changed in recent years, the guiding principle at Schloss Gobelsburg remains the same: ‘Simplicity and strictness are the two motifs of monastatic life still working their magic in the cellars’.

Barrels are transported on wheels in the cellar and Schloss Gobelsburg see this as an imperative element of dynamic winemaking. Their belief is that the combination of minimal mechanical influence in the cellar and utilization of natural resources helps preserve the true authenticity of their wines.

Vineyards sprawl across 35 hectares and undoubtedly the most important varietals are Gruner Veltliner and Riesling but Zweigelt, Blauburgunder (aka Pinot Noir), St Laurent and Merlot make up the remainder of the planted varietals. Ecological and sustainable farming is encouraged on all sites and has been for many years. The monks managing the winery prior to 1995 believed strongly in these practices and would use organic fertilizer, no herbicides and minimal plant protectants.

Schloss Gobelsburg Steinsetz Gruner Veltliner 2013, Kamptal DAC Reserve

This wine was made from 100% Gruner Veltliner from the Gobelsburg Steinsetz vineyard which lies just outside the village of Gobelsburg. Steinsetz is one of four vineyards which Schloss Gobelsburg believe to produce the best Gruner Veltliner. The vineyard soils are made up of loess and tertiary gravel with vine age of up to 25 years. The fruit was picked in November 2013 and aged in large format Austrian oak casks until bottling in April the following year. The resulting wine has 13% alcohol.

The wine is intensely aromatic, authoritative from the get-go. Aromas burst from the glass displaying clove poached pears, green mango, white pepper, honeyed oat and grapefruit marmalade. Ephemeral moments of feeling like oaked Chardonnay and intervals of feeling savoury and herbaceous. There’s a lot going on and this is definitely only the beginning of a long life in the cellar.

It’s fresh, semi-creamy, savoury, full bodied and has energy and life to give. Focused, dense and just about ‘jam-packed’ full of flavour. It’s rich, it’s generous but turns a sharp corner and finishes long, dry and with serious minerality. There’s more of a baked apple character to the palate certainly amongst poached pear, grapefruit and there’s a faint nougat edge too.

There’s just enough weight but refreshing and mouth-watering acidity plays the perfect balancing act. I would have to say this is probably one of my favourite Austrian Gruners I’ve had. Maybe not quite as rich or oaked as some, but this meets somewhere in the middle and they’ve just nailed it.

The wine is balanced, it’s refreshing, elegant and as previously mentioned, it certainly has life ahead of it. I’m enjoying this wine with creamy garlic seafood skewers with scallops, prawns and swordfish but I can see this working with rich white meat, other seafoods and vegetarian dishes also. Wonderful wine!

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Terrific Gruner Veltliners from Austria – 1

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Hahndorf Hil wine tasting

Tom Wood – the poetic palate in residence at Hahndorf Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Loimer Spiegel Gruner Veltliner 2013, Kamptal DAC Reserve

Fred Loimer began his journey studying winemaking at Klosterneuburg. After years doing vintages in Nahe (Germany) and with Walter Schug in Sonoma (California), Fred returned back to the family estate in 1997 and purchased the former cellar of the Haindorf castle in 1998.
Biodynamic viticulture has been practiced since 2006 and Fred is in fact one of the founding members of Respekt, an association involving wineries from Austria, Germany, Italy and Hungary. The wineries associated have committed themselves to the goal of producing wines of the highest quality using only biodynamic methods.

Gruner Veltliner - Hahndorf Hill

Loimer Spiegel Gruner Veltliner 2013, Kamptal DAC Reserve

With 200 acres under vine managed by Fred (owning most of them himself), the plantings consist predominantly of Gruner Veltliner, Riesling and Pinot Noir and are considered to be some of the best examples within the Kamptal. However, this particular Gruner Veltliner comes from the Spiegel vineyard, which is 5 acres in size and has pure loess soil. The yield is kept reasonably low (only 1.2 tons per acre) to ensure quality in the resulting wines. Ripe grapes are harvested in October in an effort to retain as much terroir in the wine as possible.

This wine has been made in the reserve style, which is a richer and more opulent interpretation of Gruner Vetliner. The juice is aged in barrels and left to naturally ferment and resulting alcohol levels are 13.5%.
Upon pouring the wine shows beautiful golden-straw colour with greenish flecks to the rim. The aroma springs out of the glass and immediately shows this is going to be a muscular and powerful example of Gruner Veltliner. To begin with there is a tremendous and inviting creamed green apple aroma amidst an abundance of green herbs and pears. As the wine slowly breathes in the glass it develops the trademark Gruner Veltliner white pepper with transient glimmers of doughy, champagne-like yeasty character.
The creamy, sweet green apple shines the moment that you taste followed by white pepper, pear and ultra-fine fennel character with a fresh mineral driven finish. Impenetrable, dense concentration, broad and expansive from the front-palate through to the back-palate. Powerful, creamy and opulent in its texture. There’s beautifully refreshing acidity playing a wonderful balancing act with the creamy, layered palate. The finish is giving and lush but that mouth-watering acidity leaves you eager for the next sip. There’s plenty of youth here, also plenty of authority.

In summary, a very enjoyable wine. I can see this working with a number of different foods from rich and oily seafood through to veal shanks, roasted duck and pork belly. In saying that I am drinking this with crab and zucchini fritters with creamy dill hollandaise sauce and they are working together in harmony!
Ever so enjoyable now with only a few years bottle age, but for the aged Gruner lovers this is definitely one for the cellar too!

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Wood of Hahndorf Hill explores a Blaufrankisch from Pittnauer

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Hahndorf Hil wine tasting

Tom Wood – the poetic palate in residence at Hahndorf Hill

Pittnauer is a very well-known producer located along the eastern shore of the Neusiedlersee, Burgenland. Gerhard and Brigitte took over the winery nearly 20 years ago and have gained much recognition ever since. In 2014, Pittnauer was voted by Falstaff Magazine as the winemaker of the year. This is the highest accolade for winemaking in Austria!

The vineyard practices have changed since 1998 however, and since 2006 the viticulture has all been done biodynamically. The specialty for Pittnauer is St Laurent, Zweigelt, Blaufrankisch and they even make a wonderful Austrian interpretation of Pinot Noir. The resulting wines are described as being very well balanced, structured and elegant and the ‘Heideboden’ is no exception.

The ‘Heideboden’ Blaufrankisch comes from the Heideboden which is a flat but gravelly and low-lying area between the village of Gols and Lake Neusiedlersee. The wine is made from 100% Blaufrankisch which is picked and hand sorted then fermented in stainless steel and further aged in used barriques for nine months.

The Pittnauer 'Heideboden' Blaufrankisch 2014 at Hahndorf Hill Winery

The Pittnauer ‘Heideboden’ Blaufrankisch 2014

I’ve had this in the fridge for 20 minutes and it reads a perfect 18.0 degrees on the Vinotemp monitor. Ruby-purple colour to the wine and don’t let its transparency fool you, this does have body and delivery! Instant thoughts were ‘is this burgundy?!’ (despite obviously knowing better); it immediately reminded me of some of the darker-fruited and meaty interpretations of Pinot Noir from the Côte de Nuits but this feels ever so fresh.

Olives in brine, blackberry and almost a dried prosciutto aroma that leaps out of the glass initially. As time went by the wine then started to show a lot more bright, red-fruited character. The olive brine and blackberry has nestled right into the background playing quite a nice supporting role. Aromas of fresh raspberry, juiced oranges, ripe blueberry, sarsaparilla and a spicy, floral incense have arrived right at the forefront and there’s barely noticeable oak work in sight.

The palate follows with raspberry and blueberry but there’s a dark chocolate that comes through with the faintest of bitterness; however not off-putting in the slightest. One very noticeable feature of structure here is alcohol, or the lack thereof. I’ve found myself double checking the alcohol at times which sits at 12.5%. The palate flows seamlessly. There is a raspberry-like acidity and the softest lick of tannin. The balance here is admirable. Honestly, it’s the type of wine I’m enjoying so much now for its freshness and I don’t want to see this sit in my cellar for too long; in saying that I’d be very interested in seeing some bottle development in a few years’ time.

I could see this working really well with Greek-style red meats, in particular with quite heavy garlic and salt content. It’d also work very well with thyme roasted mushrooms! Overall thoughts – the wine is very well balanced with great flavour intensity and wonderful value for money!

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Gruner Veltliner tastings in the Adelaide Hills

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

November was an important milestone for us at Hahndorf Hill Winery as our ‘White Mischief’ Gruner Veltliner 2016 won the Trophy for Best Gruner Veltliner at the Adelaide Hills Wine Show 2016, plus we were awarded the Trophy for Best Producer of Show (<100 tonnes).

Nick Stock, Chairman of Judges, spoke at the Show’s award lunch about how the Gruner Veltliner producers in the Adelaide Hills had made ‘amazing strides in a relatively short time’.

This success followed on from our ‘GRU’ Gruner Veltliner 2015 being selected to represent Australia at the prestigious Six Nations Wine Challenge 2016, where it brought home a Double Gold Medal.

November also featured the highlights of two separate Gruner Veltliner tastings – one organised by ourselves for our staff at the Hahndorf Hill cellar door, and the other organised by Willi Klinger, managing director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. This tasting was held in association with Nick Stock and the Adelaide Hills Wine Region and held at the Stanley Bridge Hotel in nearby Verdun.

Tasting 1 – staff training at HHW cellar door

The aim of the Hahndorf Hill Gruner Tasting was to further refine our staffs’ understanding of this wonderful grape variety, and various flights were arranged in order of style and age, featuring both Austrian and New World versions.

Gruner Veltliner at Hahndorf Hill Winery

Staff training Gruner tasting at Hahndorf Hill

Gruner Veltliner Adelaide Hills Australia

Flight 1

Flight 1 featured the Weinhofmeisterei Mathias Hirtzberger ‘Treu’ Federspiel 2014 (Wachau); the Pike & Joyce ‘Separe’ 2014 (Adelaide Hills); and the Am Berg ‘Kellerberg’ 2014 (Kamptal DAC).

The ‘Treu’ was produced by Mathias, son of the renowned Franz Hirtzberger winery from the village of Spitz in the Wachau. We met the friendly and innovative Mathias during our last visit to Austria.

The ‘Separe’ came from the beautiful Pike & Joyce vineyard in the cool Lenswood area of the Adelaide Hills.

The ‘Kellerberg’ came from a family-run winery in the village of Mittelberg in the Kamptal and, like many vineyards in Austria, the vines are surrounded by old fruit trees and vegetable/ herb patches – hence the owners call their property a ‘Weingarten’ (a wine garden). This wine took top honours at the Langenlois Wine Show.

Gruner Veltliner Hahndorf Hill Adelaide Hills

Flight 2

Flight 2 featured the Familie Hahn 2013 (Weinviertel Reserve); the Hahndorf Hill ‘GRU’ 2013 (Adelaide Hills); and the Nigl ‘Privat’ 2013 (Kremstal Reserve).

The ‘Familie Hahn’ winery is situated in the village of Hohenruppersdorf in the vast Weinviertel wine region, and, like the emblem of the German-heritage town of Hahndorf in South Australia from which our winery takes its name, it features a rooster (Hahn) on its label. Mr Hahn came specially to our cellar door on his last visit to Australia and we thoroughly enjoyed visiting his picturesque winery in Austria.

The 2013 ‘GRU’ was the ripest version of ‘GRU’ we have made yet, in our journey of learning in the vineyard of how Gruner Veltliner can best ripen with optimum fruit flavour yet still retain its bracing and characteristic acidity.

Nigl is one of a select number of Austrian producers whose wines can be found gracing the wine lists of top restaurants within Australia. The vineyards of Nigl are set in terraces along the Krems river right in the heart of the Kremstal valley, as well as in and around the medieval wine town of Krems.

Gruner Veltliner Australia Hahndorf Hill

Flight 3

Flight 3 featured the Jurtschitsch ‘Lamm’ 2013 (Kamptal Reserve); the Brundlmayer ‘Spiegel’ 2013 (Kamptal Reserve); and the Rabl ‘Kaferberg Alte Reben’ 2013 (Kamptal Reserve).

Jurtschitsch is one of Austria’s most acclaimed wineries, situated in the 1000-year-old wine town of Langenlois in the Kamptal wine region. ‘Lamm’ refers to its cult vineyard  (the name is derived from the word ‘loam’), although the soil in the vineyard is more famous for its metres-high layers of loess. The Lamm vineyard receives reduced late-afternoon sunshine and is also subject to cooling winds, so there is a significant fluctuation between the day and night temperatures.

Brundlmayer is another of Austria’s most acclaimed wineries, also situated in Langenlois. The vineyard used for this particular wine is also notable for its significant loess with its balanced mineral composition. The loess allows the Gruner Veltliner vines to be deeply rooted so that they are not adversely affected even in long periods of drought. This wine was the general favourite of the tasting.

Rabl is also one of Austria’s most well-known wineries, dating back to 1750. Rudi Rabl gives his wines ‘plenty of freedom’ in the cellar and is a true advocate of wild fermentation and long maceration. During our last visit to Austria we had the great pleasure of being taken by Rudi on a personal tour of the historic Rabl underground cellars and tunnels, which wend their way far beneath the bustling market streets of Langenlois.

Gruner Veltliner Hahndorf Hill Adelaide Hills

Flight 4

Flight 4 featured the Hahndorf Hill ‘GRU’ 2012 (Adelaide Hills); the Konrad 2011 (Marlborough, New Zealand); and the Stift Goettweig ‘Goettweigerberg’ 2010 (Kremstal DAC).

Our ‘GRU’ 2012 was the wine which won us first place in the 2013 Falstaff International Wine Tasting competition held in Vienna. It was developing well and in typical fashion was developing caramelized citrus components as well as characteristic tobacco elements.

The Konrad was the best Gruner Veltliner we have tasted yet from New Zealand, and it had aged exceptionally well. Konrad is the label of a German winemaker who emigrated to New Zealand, and the grapes came from a vineyard in the Waihopai Valley in Marlborough.

The ‘Goettweigerberg’ hails from the Benedictine monastery of Goettweig, situated on the south bank of the Danube opposite the town of Krems. At 449m above sea level, situated on the Goettweiger mountain, it offers amazing views from its terraces, as we can attest from having toured the medieval complex and enjoyed its tea-room and tasting-room.

Tasting 2 – presented by Willi Klinger from the Austrian Wine Marketing Board at Stanley Bridge Hotel, Verdun.

At the Gruner Veltliner tasting organised by the AWMB together with Nick Stock and the Adelaide Hills Wine Region, we had the great pleasure of meeting the irrepressible Willi Klinger, Team Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.

Hahndorf Hill attends Gruner Veltliner tatsing

Gruner Veltliner tasting hosted by Willi Klinger

This ticketed event was sold out very quickly, leaving many Adelaide Hills vignerons disappointed that they had missed out, but more than 40 fortunate winemakers were able to attend at the Stanley Bridge Hotel in Verdun.

Willi’s presentation of three flights of superb Austrian Gruner Veltliners was accompanied with wit and welcome insights. He revealed how the loess in certain Austrian vineyards can contribute to the creaminess found in certain desirable Gruners.

Flight 1 featured the Huber Markus Klassik Ried Obere Steigen 2015 (Trainsental DAC); the Jurtschitsch Klassik ‘Stein’ 2015 (Kamptal DAC); the Nigl Klassic Ried Senftenberger Piri 2015 (Kremstal DAC); and the Groiss Reserve Ried In der Schablau 2015 (Weinviertel DAC).

Flight 2 featured the Ott Bernhard Ried Feuersbrunner Rosenberg ‘I OTW’ 2015 (Wagram); the Tegernseerhof Smaragd Ried Hohereck 2015 (Wachau); the Brundlmayer Reserve Ried Kaferberg ‘I OTW’ (Kamptal DAC); and the Stadt Krems Reserve Ried Wachtberg ‘1 OTW’ 2013 (Kremstal DAC).

Flight 3 featured the Knoll Smaragd ‘Vinothekfullung’ 2006 (Wachau); the Schloss Gobelsburg Reserve ‘Tradition’ 2004 (Kamptal); and the Nikolaihof Smaragd Im Weingebirge 1997 (Wachau).

This was an excellent selection of wines and it was particularly interesting to see how beautifully the aged versions had evolved, lending huge credence to the general Austrian mantra that Gruner Veltliner is a variety which should be given the opportunity to develop in the bottle.

It was also very pleasing to observe that local Adelaide Hills Gruners are being produced with all the charm and complexity of the Austrian versions.

 

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, roses, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gruner Veltliner’s red siblings – Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and St Laurent

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

On a recent trip to the winelands of Austria, we paid homage to Gruner Veltliner, the local white wine hero. (See earlier blog http://bit.ly/2c3qwVP which covers our visit to Niederösterreich and the wine regions of Kamptal, Kremstal and Wachau.)

However, Austria has many other unique wine secrets and no less so than in Burgenland, situated south of Vienna in the easternmost part of Austria, adjacent to the border with Hungary. Here, the seemingly endless Pannonian plain stretches beyond the horizon, and the geography is as far removed as can be imagined from the Alps-dominated ‘Sound of Music’ landscape of western Austria.

The historic region of Burgenland, Austria’s oldest wine region, is known for its climate of hot continental summers. Although there is some snow in winter, many parts of Burgenland receive over 300 days of sunshine a year.

The release this month of the Hahndorf Hill ‘Blueblood’ Blaufrankisch 2015 is an apt time to revisit our journey last year to this red-wine heartland of Austria, where indigenous varieties such as Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and St Laurent thrive.

Neusiedlersee, Burgenland.

Neusiedlersee, Burgenland.

The viticultural focal point of the region is the vast, shallow steppe lake, Neusiedlersee, which helps contribute to the mild climate by storing heat and facilitating a long ripening season. The lake’s humidity also promotes the spread of noble rot in certain areas, resulting in magnificent sweet dessert wines.

Burgenland is divided into four wine-growing areas: Neusiedlersee (Neusiedlersee DAC), Neusiedlersee-Hugelland (Leithaberg DAC), Mittelburgenland (Mittelburgenland DAC) and Sudburgenland (Eisenberg DAC), each with its own diverse terroirs.

Each wine area has its own charming central town or village such as Gols, Rust, Deutschkreutz and Eisenberg.

The charming village of Rust

The charming village of Rust

 

Detail of stork's nest in Rust

Detail of stork’s nest in Rust

Burgenland atmosphere

Burgenland atmosphere

The road through Sudburgenland

The road through Sudburgenland

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we visited Burgenland in August 2015, it was at the tail-end of a heatwave that had climbed to 40 degrees in certain parts, and the days were still blisteringly warm in the mid to high 30’s during our visit. Since not all hotels in Austria have fully-functioning air-conditioning, this was sometimes an issue when transporting and storing wine, but fortunately we always managed to make a plan and we were able to make use of the Austrian Post Office’s excellent wine service to ship many cartons of delicious Austrian reds all the way back to Australia.

During our earlier adventure though the Gruner winelands of the Niederösterreich, we had visited many of the top wineries personally in order to taste their range. In Burgenland, however, we found that some of our best tasting experiences were to be found in the local wine tasting centres which house hundreds of wines from all the local wineries.

Vinatrium Cellars in Deutschkreutz,

Vinatrium Cellars in Deutschkreutz,

These wine centres included the WeinKulturHaus in Gols, the Selektion Vinothek in Eisenstadt, the Vinatrium Cellars in Deutschkreutz, and the Vinothek in Eisenberg. At these venues one can enjoy a wine flight or pay to taste a specific number of wines from different producers.

Recommended examples of top regional producers include Pittnauer, Heinrich, Kollwentz, Moric, Gesellmann and Hans Igler.

 

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How cool are our cool nights!

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

January 2016 is possibly going to pan out to be one of the warmest January’s on record in South Australia – just waiting for the meteorological team to make their call.

Fortunately here in the Adelaide Hills, we have a secret weapon. It’s called ‘Cold Nights Throughout the Year’. Not only does it make my life more bearable in summer when heatwave-days melt away to positively chilly nights, but it is also one of the defining features of the terroir for our Adelaide Hills wine region.

The grape growing region of the Adelaide Hills is defined as being ‘Cool Climate’ not because we have particularly cold days in our summer growing season, but because of these cold nights. What this night time chilling effect achieves is a considerable reduction in our mean 24 hour temperature recordings which are calculated as a mean of the summation of all the recording over a 24 hour period. Clearly, the more frequent the daily recordings, the more meaningful will be the mean.

Temp logger in Gruner Veltliner block

Digital temperature logger used at Hahndorf Hill

My trusty little digital temperature logger takes a recording every five minutes of the day for the full month of January, which permits me to calculate the Mean January Temperature (MJT) at our site in Hahndorf.

On the morning of the 1st of February I dash down to my weather station to collect the logger and plug it into my desktop and trawl though the January temperature data. There are 8928 individual recordings for the month of January plus a handy chart that graphically logs the temperature changes for the period.

Temp logger for Gruner Veltliner at Hahndorf hill winery

Double click on graph to enlarge

Note that there were 14 days in January 2016 that had maximums exceeding 30˚C which is indicative of how warm January was this year. There were also 10 mornings that dropped to temperatures below 10˚C, with the lowest being 5˚C on the morning of 17th January at 6.14 am.

The difference between the day’s maximum recorded temperature and the day’s minimum recorded temperature is called the diurnal variation – the drop between the highest recorded day temperature and the lowest recorded morning temperature.

The diurnal variation between the maximum of 35˚C recorded at 16.44 on the evening of 17th January, and the minimum of 7˚C recorded on the morning of 18th January at 06.34 is a whopping 28 degrees. This phenomenon of significant diurnal variations in summer is something that the Adelaide Hills has in abundance.

And the outcome of all these calculations? Well, our MJT for 2016 was 19.8˚C which is distinctly warmer than previous years, but still falls into the broad definition of Cool Climate grape growing, courtesy of the cold nights. Perfect for Gruner!

(To find out why cool nights are so significant with regard to growing wine grapes, please go to last year’s blog below:

The secret behind Gruner Veltliner success in the Adelaide Hills

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