I confess I’m on a Hiedler jag the past few years. The wines have always been singular among the “names” of the Kamptal – though these days ‘Hannes Hirsch’s wines are perhaps even more outré – but the last few vintages have shown one of the most heartening phenomena in the wine world: A synergy between generations. The young men, Ludwig Jr and Dietmar, have refined the family’s wines without altering their fundamental profile.
I’ve written and written about this, and said it as best I could, but I’ll put it this way; while many of the other top Kamptal estates make wines with a certain digital focus and sheen of modernity, Hiedler’s wines are analogue, with the inviting warmth that people find from music on vinyl. They give me a different key of pleasure than Bründlmayer’s or Gobelsburg’s wines – not better, certainly not worse, just different. They are less sleek, differently shaped and contoured, more food-like.
I had some thoughts about the “Maximum” concept, seen here with wines from Riesling, Pinot Blanc and GV. Apart from how the actual wines “show” and even from how they taste, I found that the longer I spent with them the more meta my approach became, precisely the sort of thing that would be precluded by nearly any other form of tasting. If you have time, you have a chance to speculate and to seek and to ask questions. And I heard myself ask, Why do these wines exist?
They are the latest picking from the oldest vines, and as such they often have some dessicated or dehydrated fruit. (The botrytis they used to show has appeared to retreat in recent vintages, which I welcome.) The resulting wines are rich, intense and concentrated. That’s no surprise. The question is, what do they show us that we need to see? Or is this a kind of quest of the Hiedlers, to see just how far a type of wine can be taken?
It’s a 90s concept, really; a decade when many producers pushed many envelopes until it grew clear that they’d gone too far. But that’s fine; you have to go too far to see where you ought to have stopped. For all I know, Ludwig Hiedler’s envelope-pushing preceded the general trend, because my old friend does like big wines.
I find the series to be fascinating these days, as the wines have attained an uncanny grace to go with their voluptuousness, and this is no small achievement. But I can’t shoosh a voice that keeps saying “Yes, but they’re answering a question that didn’t need to be asked.” Here is what I mean: When you taste (say) the GV Maximum following the trio of 1er Lagen Thal, Schenkenbichl, and Kittmannsberg, it is obviously the richest wine of the family, but its very richness seems to preclude the site characteristics shown by the preceding wines. For some drinkers the bargain’s worth making, while others may wonder whether they traded away too much specificity to get all those dollops of richness in return.
What do these wines say, in effect? “This is as intense as it gets” is all well and good – and clearly these wines need many years to reveal whatever incipient cores-of-self that crouch in hidden corners.
Hiedlers would have every reason to admonish me. Come on Terry, the existence of the Maximum wines doesn’t obliterate the site-wines; they coexist and drinkers can choose which ones they like best. That would be justified! Not to mention, I’d choose both, and lest we forget, the family likes to push the power envelope, and so the wines express them as much as the other wines do. That’s always a good thing. I’ll shut up now – which is another good thing, I’m sure.
What follows is a proper tasting of the wines I tasted in Langenlois with the family in April. By now you know what I mean by “proper…”