2021 Kamptal Grüner Veltliner “Terassen”
I’m inferring this is a regional wine that’s been permitted to use the name “Terassen” as a brand and not a declaration of origin, even vague origin.
For twenty nine years I have insisted that GV is a superb variety from which many great wines are made. I’ll probably taste one in the next half-hour. But right now I have a different claim to make: I think the scents of a fresh young GV are about as lovely as a white wine can ever smell.
This mid-weight (12.5% alc) is especially aerial with the high tones of ’21, but this is stronger on the plate than aromatically. Actually, the palate is rather silvery and subdued, a little bird with her wings folded. Bründlmayer’s wines possess a side one could call “scrupulous,” a kind of study-in-correctness. I respect it, but I remark upon it here because the palate doesn’t quite fulfill the charm and promise of the aromas.
Do we want it to, invariably? That can be debated. Seen through a lens of paradigm, this wine is just-right, and I am left to observe that the wine has a facet common (evidently) to the lighter ‘21s, which is a bracing purity and focus, and a finish that is…let’s say, merely bracing.
None of this was different 48 hours later, and from a slightly larger glass. A brisk wine can be welcome in a warm vintage, but a brisk wine in a brisk vintage can feel pure to a point of bloodlessness. Still, it smells good. And in a further two days later – and tasted from a Jancis glass – it smells really good.
The palate is still lean and sinewy, but it’s also more complete and even more typical. The question is, is the wine simply a shape-shifter? Because I imagine its eventual drinker might quake at something so temperamental, at this price and for this use.
2021 Ried Berg Vogelsang Grüner Veltliner
This is a fascinating aroma. And the color is rather richer than one expects. It’s intensely herbal and wild, seems to include either botrytis or its simulacrum, and shows a whomp of pepper (Ashanti, but you have to take my word for it), and all the intrigue of the kitchen vizier.
And yet! The palate, again, is clamped down in a steely barrier, and it’s a lock I don’t seem to be able to pick. There are suggestions of lentil and einkorn. There’s acidity, and jalapeño heat (but not from alcohol), and I find myself flapping and sputtering and guessing.
Maybe it’s the closed-down phase of a wine that was probably a riot nine months ago. It’s marginally more expressive from the Jancis, suggesting it may emerge again. If you are wondering, the sample(s) have rested since arriving ten weeks ago, in a cellar ranging from 50-54º with slow fluctuations, and this is being tasted in an aired-out kitchen on another of those weird high-40s days we’ve had most of the “winter” in Boston this year.
I recognize the things I like about the vineyard Vogelsang, the haricot verts and savory and fennel. Then there’s the stinging ’21 finish. I’m cautiously optimistic this will open up in a day or two, but in the interim I’m left contemplating the potential gist of a wine that smells so good and tastes so unyielding. It could work well with a winter soup from turnips or parsley root, but (to extend the thought) I couldn’t really see it two months later with asparagus or stinging nettle soups. For that it would want more middle, and remember, there is a kind of fruit that isn’t “fruity” and also a sweetness that isn’t sugary. For all this wine’s virtues, either or both of those things would be quite welcome.
That is the vintage, I can hear Willi say. “If we put it on the label then you should be able to taste it in the bottle,” he once told me. And really, what could they have done? Deacidify? That’s anathema for the estate. Leave a whisper of RS? They don’t like RS in their Veltliners. Blend a bit of a “fatter” wine in to give the wine some middle? That smacks of manipulation and “fashioning;” better let the wine be itself, whatever self that is.
Like the first GV, this grew less forbidding over a 4-day period, and like the earlier wine, it compels the question whether the drinker should have to wait that long.
2020 Ried Käferberg Grüner Veltliner +
First, a STANDING OVATION for Bründlmayer, for not using pretentious stupid heavy bottles for their Grand Crus. Bless them!
Then, a remark: We have the site name prominent on the front label, but in smaller print we also have the name of the variety. In my view, this is as it ought to be. I respect the contrary argument (that site is paramount and variety is consigned to a back label) and the idealism and intellect that fuels it, but I like this system better – site above variety, and in larger script.
Which brings us to Käferberg, often a rather musclebound GV whose alcohol has sometimes overrun its banks, but here we have a modest 13% and boy, we have a rip-snorting fragrance.
(We have leapt over the “Alte Reben” and the Ried Spiegel in the normal sequence – just so you know. And that A.R. will probably carry the village designation Langenlois in the future.)
This is a fine, fine Käferberg. It is a cool cream of tapioca and jasmine rice, with a hint of crunchy pilaf and fresh oyster mushrooms, before they get skanky. But clearly I am betraying my preference for the cooler over the warmer style, and as I see it I can obtain the creamy white-rice richness (that makes me think of a St Aubin 1er Cru) without the tiring body and “intensity” of the hotter years. So there’s my cards on the table.
One could argue it isn’t open enough, lacking in gras and generosity, and showing the querulous finish of so many ‘20s. Those are not untrue things to observe. They’re just overridden by the virtues of grace and proportion. But sure, if they ever stage a vertical tasting of Käferberg, this ’20 will be seen as one of the “smaller” ones. So no one will object when I grab the half-filled bottle to have with lunch….
With air and a couple days open, a low-tide nuance arrives, just on the border to funky, but not crossing over. Choice of glass matters here; from the larger Spiegelau “white-wine” glass there’s a vivid minerality that really enlivens the wine. The long-stem round-bowl glass makes a mess of it. (I shudder to think of the gristly slaughter that’d transpire from a Zalto “Universal…”)
At its best this is a handsome sophisticated Käferberg that feels like it ripened in deep shade. The phenols of ’20 show at the end, but that matters less than the wine’s poise; it’s a generous wine that’s admirably diffident about receiving praise.
2020 Ried Lamm Grüner Veltliner
The icon. And in this rendition, a wine full of mischief and controversy. I’ll show you my note, which I later showed to the estate, wherein an enlightening conversation ensued. I realize this is a lot of cha-cha over a single wine, but if you think GV is important, as I do, and you agree that Bründlmayer Lamm is one of its monarchs, then a little discussion is warranted.
First, the facts: It was whole-cluster pressed and fermented in 300-liter casks, of which 20% were new. Minimal agitation thereafter, as is typical here. A certain woodiness has always been present in this wine, but the 2020 is, to say the least, provocative.
A lot of gold in the color already, and a lot of cask to introduce the fragrance. More than usual; enough that you need to do a double-rinse before pouring the next wine into your glass.
This is partly a wine – and a significant one – and partly an idea of a wine. I imagine the idea is, when the oak is absorbed into the complex mélange of other flavors, it will be seen as having (in effect) “carried” the wine until it was ready to walk. Here’s why I say that. The wood is like a curtain that isn’t entirely closed, and through an opening you can see a whole community of flavors milling about, and when you walk away you remember what you saw, not the curtain through which you glimpsed it.
That’s a fanciful way of saying we have quite a fanfare of wood, which gives way to the remarkable complexity of the site such that when you reach the finish, the wood has been effaced and maybe forgotten. To lapse completely into koan-mode, this is not one of the great Lamms, yet it shows why Lamm is great.
Time will tell whether the cask calculation was correct. It could well be that I’m seeing the wine in its rather turbulent puberty. Right now it veers toward the crude aromatically, and then makes a soft turn on the palate, showing more site terroir and mineral.
Two days later the oak blasts from the glass like a clumsy Cal-Chard from the bad old days. This is not a winery that blunders, so I have to assume the wine is as they intended, albeit their intent seems more roguish than usual. Oak can often be a good employee, but is always a bad boss, and I can only hope that this admittedly fascinating wine makes a fool of me some day.
2021 Kamptal Riesling Terrassen
Please see the associated GV above to interpret the meaning of the description.
Like many ’21 Rieslings this smells interesting and wonderful and direct; in this case in the herb/mint family, with both a floral and a peppery note – call it a flowery pepper (Timut or Tasmanian), and by the way, Whole Foods is stocking Timut peppercorns so you can try them and discover I’m not crazy after all.
This has always tended to be zingy and it is again here. I like it best in warm years when its zing is welcome, but others who relish what the German-speakers call “puristisch” will be very much at home. It has the gin-tonic notes recalling Dautel’s Rieslings – indeed this behaves more like a German wine than like the more effusively juicy Austrian.
As the “classicist” Willi Bründlmayer told me I am, I respect and admire the strict lack of ornamentation or frills here, but I can’t say it’s very much fun to drink. “Fun” is probably not the point, but I sense there is a point; wines like this don’t just happen, they embody an idea of what a proper dry Riesling should be. And to be fair, this takes on a lot of lovely herbal length as it gains air. Willi likes the Japanese green teas, and this recalls a fine Sencha.
The finish is deliberate and mineral. The wine is a half-step better than its GV counterpart, at least on first encounter, though it takes some patient cajoling to extract its intimacies. It may have surprises ahead.
The next day, it does and it doesn’t. It’s a little more expressive, but the sometimes-sharp 2021 finish is also a little more expressive. Perhaps even with an everyday wine like this, the estate takes the long view, seeing their wines as long distance runners as opposed to sprinters. The sentiment and the wine are admirable, and the drinker decides.
2020 Ried Heiligenstein Riesling ++
If I’m not mistaken this is the first vintage in which the old “Lyra” material is enfolded into what once was a third variant of Heiligenstein, the “basic” one. I understood, though I loved Lyra and am sad to see it go.
This little fellow has all of 12.5% alc, and smells beautiful, mingling the scents of the vintage with the many and varied ethers of the great vineyard. And the palate is an explosion of melody.
The great parfumeur Mandy Aftel has a fragrance called Forest Bathing which this wine brings to mind. It seems to address every possible green thing, especially the sweet ones (honeydew, lime leaf, woodruff, Bao Jhong, wintergreen, aloe vera) and only feints in the tropical fruit direction.
That’s the vintage, and it isn’t a bad thing. It’s also a fleeting thing, as peach-pit and salts come around with air, and the tertiary finish is sweetly malty. It’s one of the few ’20 Rieslings from Austria that I have loved without hesitation or qualification. In fact it reminds me of the supernal 2014s from here (though growing conditions were radically different in the two vintages), which was another vintage whose glories unfurled slowly and profoundly. Time will tell if this is that good, but I have seen this flavor once before.
The wine retreats rather than expanding after a day open. Its mineral gesture is more dramatic and its fruit is more diffident. I anticipated the opposite, and am perplexed. How much, and how little we know about wine….
The phenolic finish of 2020 is present, admittedly, but it is quickly overwhelmed by resonant echoes of fruit and a wonderfully stubborn minerality. The empty glass smells like rapture. This is true immediately and also the following day. It asks for, and rewards, closer and closer attention, yet the finishing grit of the ‘20s may seem rather emphatic. This is a wine you can drink upon opening, when it’s at its best. What can possibly follow it?
2020 Ried Heiligenstein Riesling, Alte Reben ++
A demure 13% alc.
Somewhere in my vast reams of writings I have sought to say what this wine is like. At times I think I succeeded. It’s one of those wines that is both implosively complex (and remember, true complexity entails the inscrutable) and as expressive as a basically solipsistic wine can be. Because as far as it is concerned, it has no need to explain itself to you, but it is so expressive it can barely contain itself.
It’s very different from the first Heiligenstein. That wine is melodic and tangible; this one is almost tormented, like some broody Shostakovich work.
Imagine if you could concentrate petrichor into a paste, and you left it outside so that when rain fell in it, you’d get petrichor to the tenth power.
This wine tends to need a few hours to speak its entire text, but at first glance we are deep into earth and stones, almost to a degree that can unsettle you with its indifferent rudeness. This comes from temporary esters that retreat and reveal…not exactly fruit but something like a petrified forest of fruit, or like the fossil shells of fruit, embedded in primordial stones. An orgy of stones! A steely screaming ecstasy of stones. (How low will he go…???) It’s as craggy as Keith Richard’s face. (That’s how low, pal!)
It’s like the sharp granite summits of the Karakoram, almost forbidding, but grand. I rejoice in wines like this, being the rock-head I am, but obviously this is a perverse sort of hedonism that many won’t share. Still, the aroma left behind in the glass could teach a post-doc seminar on How Wine Can Smell.
2021 Rosé (of) Zweigelt glug-glug-glug
This is paler than even supermarket farmed salmon. Considering how dilute is looks, the power of aroma is almost shocking.
This has long been a wine the estate does well. It has an apex of personality tied to an apex of freshness. It’s the best possible element of frivolity, because it is also interesting. I’m tasting it with most of a year of bottle-age, and it’s virginal and spunky.
And it smells like Zweigelt! I have to ask, how in the world did they do it? In its flippant way, this is as much of an achievement as anything from the winery.
SEKT Extra Brut Reserve
Deg. 4/2021; PN/CH (not sure the proportions, not the contributing vintages, though the lot number contains “07/17.”)
Having just tasted through the large Gimonnet range, my palate is happily shocked at how different this is. If you insisted it was Champagne, I’d be guessing Marne Valley, someone good, like Dehours. For a CH/PN blend this is rather exotic, and I think that has to do with an oxidative note, probably in the Chardonnay, registering as hazelnut.
Before you keep reading, this wine did a 180 after a few hours, shedding the “exotic” notes you’re about to encounter, and reverting to its standard classicism. I can’t account for it. There was no evident oxidation; the cork was almost virginal – the wine just started one way and changed abruptly. I’ll put those (errant?) first impressions in quotes.
“The wine is lean but not scrawny, with that curious bruised-apple thing that recalls certain artisan ciders or even varieties like Furmint. But as can transpire with sparkling wines, this freshens in the glass and becomes less outré while retaining its unusual Satsuma/chestnut elements. The cork looks as it should, so the oxidation (or whatever it is) lives within the wine.”
I’ve tasted it three times and sipped it once. It remains an “interesting” wine, closer to the proper than it first appeared, but still leading a kinky double life.
SEKT Brut Reserve +
Deg. 11/2021, a complex assemblage of RI/GV/PB/PG/PN
The fragrance is charming and inviting, more “proper” than the above. The palate, too, is just delicious, with enough vim to carry its richness and enough spine to accept its (moderate) sweetness.
This has always been noteworthy, and recently it’s been receiving its due as one of the very best sparkling wines in Austria. (Some of us have known this for….a while.)
It behaves like Champagne in its graciousness and poise, but it doesn’t taste like Champagne. It tastes like something made from Marsanne or Petit Manseng or even Viognier – there was an incredible Virginia bubbly from Viognier with ten years on the lees – I wish I could remember what it was!
I’ve used up all the associations over the zillion years I’ve written about this, but suffice to say it has the fruit of the patisserie with the backbone of its cool environs and early picking.
SEKT 2015 Blanc de Noirs Grosse Reserve Extra Brut ++
Deg. 9/22/21, all PN.
An imposingly beautiful aroma. Really, this has to be a high-water mark for Austrian sparkling wine – at least I’ve never tasted better, or close to this good.
It tastes like PN. Not like a high ethereal register of PN – like Pinot Freakin’ Noir. It also smells and tastes like the best charcuterie platter you were ever served. The balance is perfect. The suavity is richly delicious and the corresponding freshness is ludicrously delightful. Is it the Nth degree of complexity? Maybe not, but is it the Nth degree of class, smart blending, perfect length of tirage, and pure grown-up bliss in drinking? Hoo yes!
It’s also a wonderful gesture of Pinot Noir-ness in a surprisingly pure form; an excellent still wine went into tirage here. Combines the avuncular with the fresh and sweet (like parsnips you just sliced and still smell on your fingertips), and for all its richness it’s still chipper and lithe. Truly, when you look at this and at the old-vintage Sekt from Gobelsburg (and at some of the remarkable bottlings from Sekt-specialist Christian Madl) you have to celebrate the emergence of another serious fizz producing country that adds its voice to the foamy chorus.
SEKT Brut Rosé +
Deg. 11/2021, PN/Zweigelt/St Laurent
For a long time this has been the most popular among the Bründlmayer sekts over here. It’s original, tasty and gives the buyer something to “talk about” in the store or (more often) at the restaurant tableside. I liked serving it to a small group of folks at a wine/food weekend at Husky Meadows Farm in CT, as part of their “Seed & Spoon” offshoot.
It’s sadly kind of rare to gather a few people who are “wine-adjacent,” interested enough to investigate but neither the geek class nor the others who presume they’ll never “get” wine. This in-the-middle group tends to have exceptionally open minds, and they took this wine on its merits and responded accordingly.
I know the wine well, and it’s showing just fine. It has its rose hip and redcurrant and tomato-leaf sides; it’s full of class but tastes nothing like Champagne, the balance couldn’t be better, and it colors just far enough outside the lines to establish its particularity. I like the top notes of cherry and the surmise of wildness, something just a little feral that rides along in the passenger seat. A slightly exotic sumac nuance is also present. (We have powdered sumac in our admittedly ridiculous pantry…)