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Weingut Hiedler: Langenlois, Kamptal

Tasting Year


Well that was a fun week.

The “new” era at Hiedler isn’t so much new as newly clothed. These were wines that “dress up good,” that placed the typical ebullience of this family’s wines in a snazzy new suit.

I can’t credit the 2020 vintage – with its cool articulations – because there are only two wines from that vintage. Everything else is 2019 (or older), warm and generous years where one might have anticipated wines that bellowed with lusty generosity. This wasn’t quite the case. They were full-throated, certainly, but they did more singing than bellowing, while staying true to their basic forms.

For me Hiedler is one of Austria’s most interesting estates precisely because they are neither this-nor-that. No one is rendering these amazing terroirs in such a way. In lesser hands the wines might be rustic, in lesser soils they might be mundane, but here at Hiedler there is an accord between human and soil for which I’ve never found precedent nor equivalent.


2020 Grüner Veltliner Löss

I tasted this before, from a mostly full sample bottle left over from a local tasting back in June. It struck me immediately as different from its predecessors, and I wrote to Ludwig Hiedler and asked if he’d included some wine from the single-vineyard Ried Spiegel in the blend. He had indeed! Gold star for me.

More back-story: This wine had a unique place among the “entry” level GVs I worked with. Whereas most of them were what I’d call digital, vertical and precise (with Nigl and Gobelsburg as the apex of the style), Hiedler’s was always analogue, imprecise and horizontal. By “imprecise” I mean impressionistic and driven by umami. And yet as attractive as the wine was, explicit wines will always garner more attention than inferential wines. Human nature, tasting situations, etc.

This 2020 is either a herald of a new “type” or else it’s just ’20 being its particular self. The addition of the Spiegel, with its stolid and adamant profile, seems to indicate a deliberate wish to give this wine more thrust. The result is to-the-point and rugged. But the “point,” itself, isn’t insistently varietal. Yes it’s peppery but not blatantly so; yes it’s lentilly but not starchy; yes it’s herbal and citric but not obviously so. Back in June I noted Well that’s Hiedler. Corn-pudding, caraway, the circular aromas they do so well. This is both crisp and juicy, and delightfully giving and present. ’20 might well be a swell vintage for those who make lavish wines, and my money would be here, compared to the “basic” GVs I’ve tasted so far. It has punch, flesh, mineral clarity and more presence than is typical for this innocuous genre.

Now in October the wine is less ingratiating but remains expressive and serious. And a second tasting two days later brought forth much more roquette snappiness – that being the especially peppery kind of arugula we see more often in Europe than here. In any case it’s mizuna-like and brisk.


2019 Ried Thal Grüner Veltliner

Hiedlers say their Thal is “inextricably linked to [their] estate.” It tends to be a large wine on a small scale – or smaller scale, and it reveals a GV profile we seldom see so clearly.

In a ripe year like ’19 this is really a witch’s cauldron of peppers, spicy paprika, oleander and mimosa flowers. Cooler years like 2016 or 2008 bring more fruit, and are my favorites.

But there seems to be an “issue” with this wine – this screw-capped wine, and that issue is either TCA or a near facsimile. It could be in the cellar, in the cask, on a wooden pallet, but it’s discernibly present. It was there in a bottle I tasted last June, but I deferred conclusions until I could taste from an unopened container.

I have it in three different glasses. The TCA (if that’s what it is) is barely evident in the aromas, only becoming apparent near the back of the palate. It disappears on the finish. But it got more pronounced a day later, and sad to say, this wine seems to have a problem.


2019 Ried Schenkenbichl Grüner Veltliner Erste Lage           +

Diam cork, as all their cork-finished bottles have.

A beautifully rowdy Hiedler wine, a big swashbuckling GV, and an overflowing gob-full of spices and peppers and juice. The helpful back label tells us the wine hails from two terraces at the highest altitude in the site, on gneiss and amphibolite, yet the wine works warm rather than cool, with a sort of contained generosity. A disciplined extrovert, one could say.

It’s also a wine that calls a happy thought to mind: Nothing else is quite like this. Most other Grüner Veltliners aren’t like this. I found myself thinking of Gros Manseng, Marsanne; there’s even the fervidly radishy scent of many Greek whites. “Ferrous” doesn’t begin to depict its obsidian core. It’s certainly quite grill-y and smoky and charred.

I love the irrepressible gaiety of the wine. It won’t stop time with its complexity, but it keeps you hale and generous company. Not surprisingly the Jancis glass reveals an intricacy that the other glasses only implied.

Two days later I switched to the round ‘white wine” glass from Spiegelau, alongside MacNeil’s Creamy & Silky. I want to see if I can score me some rondeur

Well, not exactly. These glasses actually emphasized the ferrous spiciness, and while the MacNeil started out doing its charm-of-sweet-fruit thing, it too resolved into a marvelously biting char of grilled vegetables, especially eggplant. The wine also has a well-embedded CO2 I didn’t notice upon opening. The wine is excellent, only please don’t use it in your wine class syllabus to represent Grüner Veltliner or you’ll spend the next fifteen minutes explaining how it “isn’t typical.”


2019 Ried Kittmannsberg Grüner Veltliner Erste Lage         +

The label says the soil is “loamy silt with a high content of clay,” while the standard reference adds that this is “derived from extensive layers of loess.” A special microclimate enables a markedly long hang time, and November harvests are not unusual. It is the anti-Hiedler Hiedler wine, which signals that the Hiedler identity actually includes this rogue variable.

If GV is self-consciously “serious” and even mighty, this is the wine to demonstrate it. And the contained power of this ’19 is awfully persuasive.

I always referred to “neo-classical structure with Delphic columns and strong classical lines,” and sorry for quoting myself but I can’t say it any better. I can say fire-roasted corn, butter-sautéed Morels, jasmine rice and that’s all fairly true. But truer, perhaps, is to talk about a certain sternness, almost but not quite a scowl, like those famous busts of Beethoven, and that harken to certain big Chablis or even Corton Charlemagnes. It is close to magnificent from the Jancis glass.

It’s also one of those very few wines where the color doesn’t matter. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know. White, red, sure, whatever. And of all the wines tasted so far today, this is the one that feels most like a giddy ticking bomb, patiently aching to explode.

We shared a glass with dinner last night, a nice Autumn roast with halves of Kuri squash in the oven alongside the protein. The wine is sweeter with food and more adamantly peppery by itself, as if they’d thrown a fistful of Piment d’espelette into the juice. Personally I prefer this to the Schenkenbichl but professionally I see them as equally fine.


2019 Maximum Grüner Veltliner

Two years on the lees in acacia cask. 14% alc. Stupid-heavy-bottle, notwithstanding the “certified sustainable” appearing on the back label. Connect the dots, boys.

Acacia is more porous and also more neutral than oak, but after two years you’ll gain a certain sweetness, from the lees and the mirco-oxidation. That, and a creaminess of texture, are the goals here. And those goals are always realized, and people less persnickety about alcohol will have a ton of warm, clotted fun.

For me this is always a wine that either freaks me out or leaves me cold, depending on that 14% line. I love the breezier vintages, yet I also adored the 2017. And clearly this wine is asking for a lot of air, which I will give it. Today, on first encounter, it isn’t the alcohol that bothers me as much as an opacity I can’t seem to swim through. Only from the Jancis am I seeing that hot guava custard, that heirloom potato velouté that announces this wine at its most typical – yet Jancis also exposes the alcohol most starkly.

My little Spiegelau is all a portrait of pea shoots and ylang-ylang and pine resin, nor does it offer that grotesque overripe aroma I anticipate from “the 14%ers.” It’s a good showing, up to the slightly coarse finish – but I have never had a white wine of 14% (or higher) alc that finished gracefully or elegantly. Does it exist? I learn from being wrong, so enlighten me!

Two days later from the MacNeil glass it’s behaving like a rogue white Burgundy. It’s impressive in several ways, but will never be my “kind” of wine. The Hiedlers will not be surprised, as they know me, ruefully, all too well.


2016 Familien Reserve (Grüner Veltliner)                                   +

5 years in acacia on the lees, heavy bottle (alas) but among my absolute favorite wine labels of all time.

I have three different glasses going, and they all speak with one voice: The fur’s about to fly now.

When we write about “oak” it’s usually to decry its vulgarity. But that leaves a linguistic (and sensory) lacuna where perhaps we need a word. I mean, a codified word; I use “woodsy” but it’s vague, and I’ve written about the “breath of cask” as opposed to the “reek of barrique,” and that is maybe more helpful. I’m thinking about it now because of course this wine is scented of wood, yet it’s a fine aroma, assimilated and absorbed into the larger vinosity instead of that fake-eyelashes plastered-on feeling you get from so many oaky wines.

You can cast your mind toward Nikolaihof now – I have their 2016 GV Smaragd in the cellar, and adore it – but Hiedler’s wine is brighter and less aldehydic. Not “better,” just different.

I loved the ‘16s at Hiedler, as I always love their wines in cool years. And this wine is antique and atmospheric. If you love baseball (as I do) you’ll appreciate that this wine moves at baseball-time; it proceeds deliberately and gives you time to deliberate. The Schenkenbichl was the party wine, where you arrive with your stockpile of quips and witticisms and it works and everyone thinks you’re the cat’s ass. On the way home you’re spent, somehow, and you need someone to talk with, quietly, in the quiet hours when the possums are sifting their ways through the leaves.

I have no idea whether Hiedlers intend this as a vino di meditazione,  but that’s what it is – at least in the unshowy 2016. It has the woodsy sweetness like chanterelles, coolly inviting, a fallen tree trunk laden with iridescent moss, sitting next to a silvery stream.

It’s the day that is the real first-day-of-Fall day, 60s, dry, breezy, crazily vivid sky, and I can open the blinds and let the afternoon light in and wait for the golden hour, and I’m thick into the new Jonathan Franzen book and nothing would be more perfect than to sack out on the couch and look at the healing light and read my book and drink down the rest of this bottle. I won’t, though, because I need to taste the wine again over the next few days, and I’m cool with that, not sad; I’ll make a pot of oolong tea instead. That will be fine. 

The real point is, please understand what this wine has to give you, and what it asks in return. It delivers reverie and repose. It asks you to accept those gifts. Otherwise it goes to waste, as do our lives.

We had a half-glass with dinner but it was the wrong wine for the moment. I’m tasting it again on day-3 from the big round glasses, and am well pleased. The smaller Spiegelau is especially helpful; it sprawls a bit in the MacNeil. Finally what’s loveliest here is the poise between the vintage’s silvery sylvan nature and the earthy dreamy years-in-cask thing.


2018 Maximum Weissburgunder                                                     +

Two years on the lees in acacia.

In the before-days, when the top wines didn’t have sixteen million percents of alcohol-by-volume, this was the Pinot Blanc I thought might be the best in the world.

Then everything got hot, and most vintages of this wine spilled over to 14% and above, and I didn’t like them and Ludwig Hiedler didn’t like that I didn’t like them and so we agreed to disagree, thanks to our basic affection for each other.

So I was pleased to see this bottle in the sample case. And the wine is just beautiful.

A salient question could be, is this wine a “great Pinot Blanc,” or does it actually have little to do with mere varietality? I see very little here to suggest a family membership into PB. I rather see an excellent white wine in the cask-and-lees idiom, in the golden-ripe idiom, a wine that ages shockingly well (and very long) and never really betrays a varietal ID. I have the sense that Ziereisens aim for something like this, a kind of toasted brioche or challa that suggests sweetness but has no sugar, that sends an evocative sun-on-spring-meadows sweetness to you without pausing at this-or-that flower. It’s a hugely attractive wine, easy to snuggle up to. It offers much of what the GV Maximum aspired to, but may not have attained.

Yet it’s a 2018. For all its enticements it doesn’t really linger, though even its fleeting beauty is wonderful. I’m just glad to see the return of my old friend, with its sweet bay-scallop and its umami Parmesan and its undercurrent of green vegetality (which comes forward with age, though not disagreeably).


2020 Langenloiser Riesling Urgestein                                         +

<whew>….this is perfect “starter” Riesling. I’m inferring it’s the wine formerly known as Loiser Berg and then known as Urgestein and now known as a village-wine, you know, for clarity’s sake. The wine, though, is ridiculous. It’s so frisky and sprightly you can’t fathom the amount of detail it contains. You could write that sentence backwards; there’s so much intricate detail you can’t fathom how dance-y it is.

You need to freeze-frame it to capture all of its notes. There’s the classic primary rock notes, pepper, ore, rock-dust, cardamom, balsam fir, and then there’s iris and quetsch and hyssop – a lotta jazz in this “little” wine. All of this leads to a vivid finish of sea spray and fresh-gathered mussels. The entire wine is permeated with exotic smokiness. The wine is jumping on a trampoline of giddy vitality, flinging little fists-full of essences at you as you stand there delighted and laughing.

I waited two days to taste it again. If anything it has improved. The fragrance is even more riotously complex, the finish even longer and more intricate, and the whole thing screams Austria, with those wild iris and shoot-smoke elements. I can’t imagine better quality from the “everyday” Riesling – certainly it’s the best Hiedler’s ever made – and while I don’t have “SRPs” to share, the wine has to be a stupid-ridiculous value.


2019 Ried Steinhaus Riesling                                                         +

Often my subjective favorite among Hiedler’s Rieslings. Just one of those things. It’s high-elevation steep terraces on gneiss, amphibolite (which gives the caraway-seed aroma recalling the more “subtle” Sauvignon Blancs), with subsoils of feldspar and quartz. It’s going to be insanely good in 2020, but this ’19 does not exactly suck.

After a fleeting reduction, it becomes a wine in two acts. It starts by seeming warmly bland, as some ‘19s can be, and then midway along it seizes up into the most thrillingly blatant minerality, while off to the side there’s an Alishan-oolong sweetness, shade and conifer and flowers not yet known to botany. It resolves into a floral-peppery note (like Timut or Tasmanian), but to say it “resolves” implies a settledness, a resolution – whereas actually the wine remains jabbery and sweetly argumentative all the way to the finish.

Apropos sweet arguments, if you’re teaching a class on Riesling, and you use this wine, you get to ask the students, among whom there will be a few skeptics about the whole “mineral” thing, if this wine doesn’t taste “minerally” then what other word would you use? In effect you can gaze into the ur of the metaphor, and wonder about the curiously persuasive basis for this signal image.

On re-tasting (again, 48 hours later) I have to say that time isn’t beneficial to this wine, reducing its coherence and indicating a certain strife among its components. At least at first. With five minutes in the glass(es) it reverts to the wine I remember, and remember loving. So, two parallel truths. A third will be how the wine does at the table. Right now I’m glad to see the return of my old pal Steinhaus, with its wild fennel-seeds strewn on hot rocks, like no other Riesling I know.


2019 Ried Gaisberg Riesling                                                            ++

Erste Lage, full name “Kammerner Gaisberg.”

The Cru makes itself known, as does the cork-finishing, as does the scent of sweet lees. But this is a tremendously exotic Gaisberg, a vivid way into what can sometimes be an inscrutable Riesling.

You can scroll back through the tasting reports and see my notes for Gobelsburg’s and Hirsch’s 2019 Rieslings from this site, looking for commonality. What can we say about these Rieslings?

They are cool. Even when they’re at their most impassioned they are never slovenly. They are slender of form, and abidingly fresh. They are not sloppy. They color within the lines, they drive correctly in the proper lane, their handwriting is legible; they can sing and they have perfect pitch.

They are altos and sopranos.

They’re fragrant, of white flowers and white fruits and melons and little wild blueberries. They’re silky and crystalline, and in some hands they can seem remote, you want to say a penny for your thoughts to them, and at their apex they can be heart-rendingly ethereal and haunting. Hiedler’s Gaisberg, even though it is relatively scrutable, is still a creature of the sky.

But Hiedler’s is a giving nature, and his wines – their wines now as dad works with his two sons –  aren’t capable of coquetry or withholding. This wine is a riot from the Jancis glass; it makes me think of a Loibenberg Smaragd from Alzinger or Knoll. But you can see I am grasping. There’s a paradox I perceive but can’t penetrate. This wine enacts a dramatically expressive refinement that also takes a furtive tingling glance toward the erotic.

A wine of such beauty enacts a kind of dissolving, as if it could melt away its bones and summon them back whenever it wanted. It is recumbent in your hands; it doesn’t so much hug you as drape itself over you, sweetly and formlessly, and suddenly you are mindful of the things you care most deeply about. Wine can be beautiful in many ways, but a wine like this is the opposite of magnificent. It encases you within a fluid peace. It’s a sensation I’ve often felt at Dönnhoff, and today I’m sitting in my kitchen and feeling it here.


2019 Ried Heiligenstein Riesling                                                     +

Full name Zöbinger Heiligenstein Erste Lage

We begin with some funk and TDN. It melts away in about 45 seconds, but it likes a wider glass.

It is also the most minerally profound Riesling Hiedler has made in the 27 years I have tasted the wines in detail. Mind you, I liked the voodoo-wicca stuff they did when Ludwig Sr. indulged his affection for botrytis in modest proportions. Those were fun variations on the Heiligenstein theme – but this is another order.

See? It seems corpulent and fiery after the more “divine” Gaisberg, and this is partly deceptive. Gaisberg is an ectomorph and Heiligenstein an endomporph. Looking at it through synesthesia, Gaisberg is ultraviolet, blues and such, while Heiligenstein is russets and oranges and tans.  It’s the wine of an Indian summer day in late Autumn, weirdly warm and the foliage humming colorfully.

This is exciting Riesling, generous and complex and visible. And there is also a sense that it isn’t saliently Riesling as much as it’s a particular statement of Heiligenstein. Hiedler had by his own admission a small holding in the vineyard, and not in the top part, so he can’t select as (say) Bründlmayer or Gobelsburg can, and this may be why his Gaisberg is a little more beautiful. And yet! 

Curiously this wine prefers the narrower glass, which seems to clarify its structure and highlight its minerality. I also tasted it after Gaisberg, and it should have been reversed. The wines are equivalent in quality, though for me, not exactly equal. There’s more showmanship in Heiligenstein and more purity in Gaisberg. Heiligenstein is a graveyard of dragons; Gaisberg is a graveyard of angels and brides.


2019 Riesling Maximum                                                             ++

An old-vines selection from various vineyards, and here we leave the grape as far behind as possible. This is an Yquem of dry Riesling! This is not entirely fanciful; it’s as much Semillon as Riesling, in its overripe fig and pintade stock and squash bisque and overall unctuousness. Lees and cask play their roles also, and the result is a gorgeous polyglot of Rousanne and Gros Manseng and Viognier (and Semillon) who have come to party with Riesling, such that they glom into a euphoric soup where you can’t isolate them any more.

Except that in the final analysis, and wonderfully, you can. As the wine sits in the glass and as you watch its progress over your palate, the limey spine of Riesling makes itself visible, you didn’t see it coming because you were up to your throat in succulence and blinded by the hedonic incandescence. But there it is. Riesling! Chirping with its little bird voice, out from under all the savor and sauce, all the malt-sweetness of the smidge of botrytis we can glean, and the allure it brings with it.

I like it best from the smaller glass; it’s more Riesling-y. I like the snappy green spine it pours into the langoustine lushness and I like how it seems to win the race against the demi-glace richness.

I have spent two and a half hours now, tasting five Rieslings, and even by my turtle-like standards, this is slow. But the wines pulled me in, and I still wonder if I have done them any sort of justice. One doesn’t approach Hiedler thinking “Today I shall encounter a splendid flight of grandiose Rieslings,” and yet….one does.

Many years ago Ludwig Hiedler (Sr.) made a remark I’m sure he’s regretted ever since, not least because I kept rubbing it in his face. “I’m not really a man of Riesling,” he said, and I knew what he meant. He was more somatically and sensually attuned to Pinot Blanc and GrüVe, they were his native idioms, and his key was their keys. Except that again and again, his Rieslings were outstanding. What to make of this?

Now we have Ludwig (Jr) “making” the wines, and the young man is stirring about the edges, a little more attuned to the particularities of Riesling than perhaps his dad was, a little less tolerant of botrytis, a little less patient with corpulence. He is still a Hiedler and these aren’t wholesale changes, but if I can quote myself (in a rare instance of a perfect image), young Hiedler’s pizza has a little less cheese on it. It’s still cheesy but it isn’t gooey. 

And based on the evidence of the last 3-4 vintages, I think we must include Hiedler in the group of Riesling growers to whom attention must be paid. Because what I’m seeing here today is an order of magnitude greater than the (very good!) GVs and Pinot Blanc I tasted yesterday. Time will tell, as it tends to do.

But here, time affirms the first impression. Maybe it’s the vintage, but honestly I don’t think so. The GV and Pinot Blanc are excellent, and the Riesling is transporting, sublime.



2021 Grüner Veltliner Löss                       +       and   glug-glu-glug!

Screwcap. Don’t you adore the scent of fresh young Veltliner? I do. And this wine has it, and I want to slug it down like a big dog. Each of the four times I pulled off the cap the air around my face was filled with the most euphoric aroma wine could ever offer.


This is simply ideal and superb everyday young GV. It has the Hiedler signature of roasted corn or masa harina flour, sorrel, and an herbal compound butter napped over fresh green beans. In some ways it’s unfair to consign it to the glug-category because it has actual nuance and interplay of flavors (grain, mineral, nut oil), yet despite that you just want to wrap it in the biggest hug you can muster. It is the best vintage of this wine in at least 30 years.


KUDOS! And the dawn of a hypothesis; maybe the high-acid ‘21s are better suited to estates whose salient feature is a creamy umami, whereas the grower who already makes highly pointed wine may have tipped over into asperity? I wish I had more ‘21s to taste from here.


2021 Grüner Veltliner Ried Thal

2020 Grüner Veltliner Ried Thal

Screwcapped. And here’s a back-label for you: in the family’s hands since 1856 – up to 80 year old vines – grown on limestone-rich loess and sand – seven months aging on its fine lees.


Trying to avoid repeating information from last year’s report, but this ‘21 Thal has attitude, as if it were co-fermented with Szechuan peppercorns. The fragrance is uproarious. The palate entry is almost comically salty, like that black lava-salt, and it’s so peppery you wouldn’t be shocked if it numbed your palate. In contrast to the sedateness of the Löss, this one is a thrasher.


Yet for all its energy it’s fundamentally more slight and less encompassing than its simple sibling, compared to which it seems almost superficially “intense.” That said I do enjoy its clamor and even its clunkiness, and wonder if a compensating depth will emerge. Maybe it’s one of those wines that wakes up shrieking.


Well, I sipped some while dinner was cooking, and I’m “tasting” it again now 48 hours later. If this were a rock guitarist it’d be a shredder; a lot of notes but too much treble and not enough melody. Its affect is impressive and I can imagine good tasters who’d enjoy the show. For me the fun wears off too fast because there’s not enough beneath it.


Bearing in mind the extra year of bottle age, the ’20 is still a calmer wine. It’s all middle here, as opposed to the banshee attack of the ’21, and most tasters would find it less impressive. However, I am not “most tasters,” for good or ill, and I think this is a better wine. There is more actual material here, albeit of a more retiring nature. You need to reach in to find its beating heart. The ’21 slaps you around.


I’m making an admittedly subjective aesthetic judgment here, but I appreciate this wine’s repose and subtlety. It flirts with the ’20 gnarliness on the finish, but this is also where the wine’s complexity is most expressive. The minerality makes you feel those old vines.


Two days later my impression is unchanged. “20 tends to finish ungraciously, as this one does, but everything leading up to it is admirable. The wine’s stretching its limbs, but it remains a creature of texture and inference.


2020 Grüner Veltliner Ried Schenkenbichl

Cork finished (diamant) – grown on amphibolite and gneiss, a year on the lees in acacia casks. It has the Premier-Cru bottle.


It has the “important” GV aroma. That’s a compliment. It has the toasted caraway seed fragrance amphibolite wines often seem to have. It has a thing I call “scorched herbs,” but even if you didn’t scorch them you’re talking about mizuna and arugula and savory and boxwood. There’s also a somewhat coarse sort of mintiness in play. What usually blazes brightly here is seen through a scrim of high cloud in this vintage.


It’s a curious wine, one with a sensational set of aromas and then with a turbulent and rather incoherent palate. It prefers the smaller (Spiegelau) glass. It’s making me question my judgment, honestly, because I wonder how so many fine pieces can play so awkwardly with one another – and I have to (at least) consider that the error is mine. For all I imagine myself a Colossus-Of-Palate, I’m just one dinky little taster after all. And yet….


And yet it is a perplexity in this vintage, however dinky I may be. The flavors litter the floor like a jigsaw puzzle someone threw down. Among them you can see pieces of the things you usually love about Schenkenbichl, stuttering in fragments and forgetting the point.


2020 Grüner Veltliner Ried Kittmannsberg                                      +

Screwcapped, surprisingly. Grown on chalky clay and loess-loam, 12 months on the fine lees in acacia casks. Premier Cru bottle. (13.5% alc) I also included a third stem into the mix – the Spiegelau round glass I use for the “Chardonnay type.”


This is clearly and obviously excellent, as KIttmannsberg usually is. It’s GV in the vein of a museum (or “mvsevm”) entrance, with neo-classical columns and an aura of High Solemnity. The proper word is impressive and the last word you’d use is “fun.” 


Yet there’s a satisfying unity here, a superb-ness you can’t deny, regal and resplendent. And yet for all its aura of eternity there’s also something tender and silvery about it. It’s a thoughtful wine, and it makes you thoughtful in turn. It has volume, but doesn’t clamor. It is firm, but not haughty. It’s toasty, but not overtly woodsy. It’s focused but not pixilated; it leads with a firm warmth.


It is a beautiful un-seductive wine of the kind that is thoroughly good. If it tried being “great” its reach would exceed its grasp. As it is, I’m completely happy and satisfied.


2020 Grüner Veltliner Ried Käferberg                                             +

Cork finished (diamant), grown on urgestein, clay/marl and loess, eighteen months on its fine lees in acacia casks, 13% alc. Premier Cru bottle.


This is Hiedler’s first vintage from this fine terroir, known best to me as a source for Bründlmayer’s most “Burgundian” GV. And this has a huge Meursault-like aroma, and is the first wine to show a scent from the cask. It is clearly a match made in heaven, Hiedler’s special accents with the site’s particular capacities, and the first impression is W-O-W. 


Hard to fathom it’s a ’20, it’s so roasty and demi-glace-like. You feel like dried porcini was included in the fermenting juice. Is it too oaky? Not for most drinkers, and not really for me. It has left the strict variety behind, but it’s an awfully satisfying wine.


Okay, let’s get a little crazy. I’m picturing a savory French toast made from brioche, and instead of butter there’s goose fat and instead of bacon there’s porcini, and obviously there’s no syrup, but there is a nap, a surmise, of a veal stock made with a whole-wheat roux. (I said I was crazy….) And yes, it would be much simpler to say “It tastes like White Burgundy, in essence.”


It’s telling, though, to observe its development with four days opened, in contrast to the Kittmannsberg. That wine has steadily improved, while this one – by any sensible reckoning the “better” wine – has lost a bit of fruit, letting the wood come forward, possibly too much so. Still, it’s a big graceful wine, as large yet limby as a giraffe. I’d be happy to drink it, and they can be proud to have made it.


2018 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc                                                        ++

Cork finished (diamant) – stupid heavy bottle – grown on a cool hillside on “harsh” Urgestein, fermented in small and large oak, bottled after two winters on its fine lees in cask. 13% alc.


I always liked Hiedler’s Sauv-Bl, and sometimes offered it when it overcame my sensible mercantile objection – as so many excellent wines did, and ought to have – but this is a first for me, a “reserve” quality that seems to draw some inspiration (direct or indirect) from Von Winning or from the Styrians.


The aroma is much less woody than I expected, and in fact it is a sensationally good expression of SB, in the bacony charcuterie vein we see so rarely, so often overcome by vegetality or tropical fruit. On the palate it is a rich and deeply vinous SB, recalling many of the Grand Crus of Styria, the full-mouthed ones like the top wines of Sabathi or Polz or Gross.


You know, it isn’t easy for SB to surmount its less appealing tendencies yet remain varietally true, and with wines like this there’s always the risk that vinification will trample variety, so when you have a superbly rich and deep wine that still tastes like Sauvignon Blanc – not the “Silex” type but the juice-bomb type – you have to marvel. This gorgeous wine is a remarkable achievement, profoundly a Hiedler wine, and a monument to the expressive possibilities of the variety.


I don’t know what it costs or whether the American importer made it available, but it’s one of those wines that improves the world.


2021 Riesling Langenloiser Urgestein

Screwcap. This is the artist formerly known as just “Urgestein” which in turn was the artist formerly-formerly known as “Loiser Berg,” and I suppose the wine has changed less than the labeling regs.


In any case this smells pretty effing good. Herbs, citrics, conifer, like eating a really good salad while sitting under your Christmas tree. The palate has highly keen penetration, and the quality a bygone generation of wine writers might have called “cut,” like newly sharpened scissors. It shows eucalyptus from the Jancis glass, and shows acidity from both.


But it isn’t bludgeoned by acidity; rather, it’s an embedded sizzle of sharpness that is certainly quite brisk but not caustic. And the saltiness is really wonderful here. This and the “basic” GV are delivering twice what you’ll pay for.


The vintage seems to be a litmus test for one’s tolerance for acidity – not to mention the condition of one’s tooth enamel – and as such it could be seen as custom-cut for the Riesling lover. Of whom I am one, though one with my taste in transition. Put it this way: The Jancis glass gave much more detail and sharper relief, but the wine was juicier and more becoming in the simple little Spiegelau, and that’s how I’d rather drink it.


The developing umami is all sweet pea, pea-shoot, pea-vine, pea-pods, and the herbs you’d steep in the butter you’ll pour over them little sweethearts. The empty glass smells like woodruff and sweet fern. And you won’t have enough words to describe the complexity of the finish. A wee tease of gooseberry attests to the ’21 acidity.


In the world of affordable weeknight-drinking Riesling, is there anything more original than this?


2020 Ried Steinhaus Riesling                                                           ++

Screwcap. Premier-Cru bottle, grown on gneiss, amphibolite and quartz, 10 months on its fine lees (but no mention of cask, so I infer stainless steel).


Always my personal favorite, irrespective of “professional appraisal.”  And this wine is totally superb. In light of the mixed-message ‘20s from GV, it’s reassuring to find this wine so expressive, hale and truly, in its angular and witty way, gorgeous. 


It is as always the Riesling with all the herbs and spices (especially those in the anise family) you could possibly conjure, and with none of the fruits except for a finishing breath of apricot. The balance is seamless, the animation is delightful, and the flavors are unlike any Riesling I know.


I don’t care if it is “great,” though a decent case could be made that it is. It is the wine of the Turkish anise-seeds and garden verbena and the improbable apricot, and to me it is one of the most wonderful wines on earth. And I don’t remember a better vintage. I will risk damage to my 69 year old arthritic knees when I get down and beg Hiedlers to sell me some for the cellar. I need me some Steinhaus for mein haus.


2020 Riesling Ried Kogelberg                                                             ++

Cork. Premier Cru bottle, grown on mica-schist, 12.5% alc; the site belongs to Zöbing, whereas the Steinhaus belongs to Langenlois. 10 months on the fine lees, I surmise in steel.


Higher register of aromas, more mints. The palate is a master class in texture, which is to say it is thrillingly and complicatedly delicious! Less jagged than the Steinhaus, it arrives with a burst of juice and  then disperses into rivulets of mineral and herb and green tea. The first finish is lovely, stony. Then it sinks down into its geological time-travel. Kogelberg also seems to offer one of the panoply of elements we see in Heiligenstein, whereas Steinhaus has its own DNA.


It’s not a question of assertion; both wines are more or less equally assertive. This one is numinous with ease, the inner stillness of a harmony not easily won. Yet it is also so filigree it’s as if a spider were walking the flavors over your palate.


There’s a bit more evident acidity here, and both wines appear to benefit from a few invisible grams of RS. It has a little less stamina than the Steinhaus, which won’t matter if you don’t keep them open for days on end.  But to reach this quality before the two Great-Ones? Is this a new era for Hiedler Riesling?


2020 Riesling Ried Gaisberg                                                           +

Cork. Premier Cru bottle, grown on gneiss, “marmor” and loess, with 10 months on the fine lees, I infer in steel.


I confess I’m surprised by the overt expressiveness here, having thought the vintage was “interior” and inferential. This shows a classic, even blatant site-aroma, and the palate arrives with a whomp of mints.


At least at first, this has the affects of the Grand Cru without the seamless nature of its ostensibly lesser companions. Fragrances are intensely floral and tropical (especially soursop). Often this has been Hiedler’s best Riesling. Here, for all its grand attributes – of which there are many, and which are duly impressive – it is a bit too eager to assert itself.


Or you could just relax into all the clunky fun. There’s plenty of swashbuckling heroism here, and I was spoiled by the sublimity of the last two wines, and am uncharitable towards this guy’s many (and emphatic) pleasures. Sure the voice is just a little too clamorous, but it has plenty to say.


With a second look, it’s atypically emphatic for the (normally) reserved and interior Gaisberg. “Feverish spice and saltiness” would not be a phrase you’d normally see in a Gaisberg tasting note. I really hope you know, by now, that I’m in a minority of tasters who shrink from the obvious. Yet what is obvious to me might be expressive to someone else.


2020 Ried Heiligenstein Riesling                                                   ++

Cork. Premier Cru bottle (though many are thinking this should and will become the first official Grand Cru for Austrian Riesling)


You know Heiligenstein; I don’t have to explicate it any more. 


The fragrance is stunning, noble, fabulously inscrutable yet buzzingly generous. And the palate has all the insane jazz of the vineyard, with the particular brown-butter of Hiedler.


It isn’t easy to say why this wine works so superbly, in contrast to its neighbor. It has command, but so does Gaisberg. What this has is serenity. It is the leader whom others will follow because it is generous of heart and capacious of vision. But yes, that’s me being “literary.” (Plus I’ve been watching Outlander lately….)


But I won’t apologize, because I have written at least twenty five times about Heiligenstein, what makes it great, what concatenation of improbable ingredients go into a flavor you can’t actually fathom. Honestly I don’t feel like dredging it all up (yet) again. If you’re here, you probably know this vineyard. If for some reason you don’t, and you like Riesling, believe me when I tell you that this is one of the five best sites for Riesling in Europe, which means the world.


Thus what is salient is to consider what Hiedler brings to this happy party. Theirs are not among the “cream” of the holdings, by their own account. So it becomes a matter of personality, of uniqueness. In that light, this astounding vineyard gives Rieslings wherein disparate elements are reconciled in the most beautiful conceivable way. You can reduce it to discrete flavors, as I have done many times, joining a chorus of commentators who can be struck mute when faced with such complexity, but who try nonetheless to give voice to this inexpressible thing.


We can get into flavors – get stuck there, I’d say – but it doesn’t address the matter at hand. Heiligenstein is paradox. Part of it is strict and “northern” and part of it is sensual, indulgent and “southern.”  A third part pertains to neither of these, and goes directly to the ether (many vintages of Gobelsburg) while another part is unaware of any of this because it’s never poked its head above the surface of the ground (Bründlmayer’s Alte Reben), but in essence these wines do not, in the most transcendent possible way, make a lick of sense. With most great wines you taste them and think “This shouldn’t be possible” or “It makes no sense how this can even be,”  and so okay, we know that. It’s happening here too.


Hiedler’s Heiligenstein, when it’s as superb as this one is (i.e., untrammeled by annoying botrytis), plays in the octave just below middle-C, warm, almost purring, a mischief of spices on the peripheries, but not reaching upward toward the ethereal. That’s there regardless. Hiedler expresses the cuisine of Heiligenstein. They are wines of sheer sensual loveliness, and what makes them so is their polyphonic complexity, and yet they are bound to their purpose to slake hunger and encourage fellowship. You could say that Hiedler’s are the extroverts of Heiligenstein. But whatever you say, and however long you join me in playing this little game, at the end all you can be is grateful – my god, this exists in the world!



2022 Grüner Veltliner Löss                                                                 +

Named for its soil, this is the estate-GV. It has, it must be said, a perfect varietal fragrance.

A surmise of spritz as it enters the palate, this remarkable wine splits the difference between drinkyness and refinement. That glug-ability looks like a feature of the ’22 vintage in Austria, and I welcome it with similarly open arms. 

It has “ideas” in the Jancis glass, in which it veers toward over- articulation, but boy does it love the little Spiegelau. (This remained true after a couple days.) It’s a prototypical loess GV, all the wet-cereal and legume and puff-pastry and cardamom and sorrel and matja. The palate is spiffy, even sprightly, and full of ruddy good humor.

Maybe ten years ago this wine was usually neither here nor there, always good (or “good enough”) but seldom compelling. Today it’s the most improved wine in the Hiedler fold, and you couldn’t ask for a better wine at its level.

Perhaps a variety makes its strongest case with its smallest wines. Because I’m tasting every single reason why Grüner Veltliner is a superb variety right here, in this modest little glass of delight.


2022 Grüner Veltliner Ried Thal                                                       +

Old vines (up to 80 years) on limestony loss and quartz-laden sand. This is the fire-roasted pepper and Piment d’Espelette side of GV, a wine I feared was too fierce in 2021, but which is singing again here.

This is seriously good stuff. As the mid-level between the everyday Löss and the big Crus to come, Thal is both accessible and proud, and the last vintage I liked this much was all the way back in 2016. You have every bit of freshness and vim you’d ever desire, along with serious rock and roll chops. The gnarly whomp of spiciness is an itchy, urgent pleasure. But as you dance to the grunge you may notice the lyrics are actually really smart. Yet for all that, there’s a classy kind of gracefulness here, a calm sweetness atop all the affect. It’s a lovely GV that tastes like it was made in a cauldron. Amazingly, it is a little less abiding on the finish than its kid brother above, but so what?


There’s also a way in which it’s a mouthful-of-AUSTRIA, regardless of variety or any other marker. I don’t know what sort of “status” the ’22 vintage has, or whether it has been consigned one, but I do know that 2021 was often considered “great” and that this wine is better in ’22. Make of it…what you will.


2021 Grüner Veltliner Ried Schenkenbichl (1er Lage)                ++

“Amphibolite & Gneiss, acacia casks, on the lees for 10 months.” This (in English) from the Hong Kong importer’s back label. (A shout-out to my readers in Hong Kong! You are three cool guys.)

I think the ’20 vintage was a stumble, because this is superb in the way that Schenkenbichl is at its best. “Peppery” doesn’t suffice to describe it; I have seven different black peppercorns in my pantry and this tastes like a big old smash-up of all of them. It also tastes like a post-graduate seminar in minerality. And while it is “anti-varietal,” no other variety could have produced it.

Petrichor, iron, boxwood, savory; high-toned mint and white-pepper finish, those are the overt attributes. The wine insists on a foundational question: What do we call a wine with a huge mass of flavor and no discernible “fruit?”  Nobody likes the mineral word because it is misconstrued – and has, in fairness, often been misused. Does that disdain point to a limitation of language or an attack on imagination?

An adamantly long, spice-riven finish is the last act of this masterly narrative. As it sits in the glass(es) it takes on a mustard-green snap and an invitingly sharp aroma, like fresh gathered arugula. There’s also a char and smokiness like burning vine shoots after pruning. Finally a note of fennel-seed – but “finally” may hardly be final at all, as this is an ever-unfolding wine.

The vintage carries it in a Nigl direction; I’ve had vintages of his Herzstück von Kirchenberg GV that behaved like this wine does. In some ways ’21 is an “anti-Hiedler” vintage, because it’s so skeletal and so implosive. The benefit is to see a family’s wines speaking a different dialect, as long as one accepts the atypical – which I do!  Finally, the wine asks for (and rewards) concentration, and it’d be a shame to have too much noise around it.


2021 Grüner Veltliner Ried Kittmannsberg 1er Lage                     ++

This, as I have (too?) often said, is GV in the form of the Parthenon. You don’t have to travel to Athens!

A little shy at first, especially after the Schenkenbichl. I have time to coax it.

And oh, this is a formidable wine. I don’t recall a better vintage. It’s GV portraying Corton-Charlemagne, both in style, idiom, and force. It also bears a fleeting resemblance to Gobelsburg’s Ried Lamm, highest of high praise. It’s like a slice of toast from a superb loaf of sourdough, with a sweet farmy butter.

The power here is implosive, inferential, less explicit then the previous wine, more a question of umami. It’s like the breast meat from a great farm chicken.

You know, it isn’t easy tasting a range of wines all of which are excellent. (Yeah right, poor me.) An occasional dud wine clarifies the mind and resets the critical/descriptive apparatus. An unbroken sequence of beautiful wines like these can make you numb, or send you into a trance, or simply make you lazy. What is left to say?

It is a large but not massive wine, with its feel planted so firmly upon the earth that no wind could blow it over. Within that solidity are many partly hidden things. One of them is a view of a warm mountain enjoying the evening light, and the curious poignancy you feel as you look at it and something doesn’t feel quite real. There it is; why can’t I make it be real?

In any case, this warm evening mountain of Grüner Veltliner is definitely quite real, and its obscurities arise from an excess of profundity.

(You could decant it, but I don’t, as it feels like cheating to make a wine “show” better.)

Two days later it was more overt – whereas the Schenkenbichl had folded its wings somewhat – and it demonstrates explicitly why this is (in my view) Hiedler’s best GV in most years. It has the sense of might you often find in the Wachau.

If you cast your mind back to the first wine (the Löss) it’s clear that this derives from that in a straight line, whereas the Schenkenbichl is a diversion.


2020 Grüner Veltliner Maximum                                                    +

The best of the best, of course. I can almost forgive the (stupid) heavy bottle, and will content myself by reminding the Hiedlers that they can obtain normal-weight Burgundy bottles – and I hope they do.

This wine tended to be overly alcoholic and annoyingly botrytisey, but the new regime has preserved what was great about it while removing the impediments to loving those things. The questions, as always, are two: How far can one go with GV? And, do we like what happens when we get there?

Don’t misread me; this is superb wine, and its overt opulence is wrapped inextricably with the Hiedler essence. It’s an experience of collagen and the gorgeous gooeyness of long-braised meat and home made stock you reduced for three days. Does it assume its own genre and leave the actual variety behind? Amazingly, it does not. This is quite definitely Grüner Veltliner, rendered in an idiom which isn’t – perhaps - categorically advisable.

Again, the wine is amazing! It gains many things compared to the 1er Lage wines, and it also loses many things. Detail, specificity, imprint of character….but it gives you more intensity, more enveloping richness, and it does so without tilting over into “generic big-wine” anonymity. It’s fabulously spicy and juicy, and its intensity is never overstated. I offer no contrary view here; I merely seek to ask what does such a wine mean

Perhaps its meaning lives in its name – Maximum. It’s as far as we can take it. We don’t know what we’ll find! These places are unmapped.

I added the round-bowled high-stemmed Spiegelau to the stemware here, the glass I’d use for white Burgundy. It makes the wine quite seductive aromatically but overly heady on the palate. You’d think the little “basic white” Spiegelau would be over-awed by such a wine, but it does just fine. (Is that glass ever wrong? Not in my experience.) The Jancis, to my surprise, works best.

Two days later I added the MacNeil Creamy & Silky to the party. On paper this wine is made for that glass. The aromas are almost lurid, in a fun way, and the glass works beautifully, splitting the difference between flesh and detail. The Jancis glass gives back a measure of voluptuousness, but offers the most heightened focus in return, and this wine rejoices from the insistence that it is Grüner Veltliner, after all.


2022 Weissburgunder Langenloiser Kalksand                                 +

Hiedler has long been a master of Pinot Blanc. This wine (I think) used to be called “Spiegel” after its vineyard site, but now it’s the village-wine. As a merchant I rarely offered it, not because it wasn’t good, but because it was in the dead-zone commercially, neither the cheapest nor the “best,” and thus without an audience – or so it was assumed.

In any case this has an utterly lovely fragrance, varietal, saline, masa harina, ginger, richer and earthier than is often expected from Pinot Blanc. The palate follows, with the clement character of ’22, that warm drinky-ness I’ve known from no other Austrian vintage. Put it this way; if you walked into an upscale seafood restaurant and this was the aroma in the dining room, you’d be salivating to get dinner started.

It has an aspect of a big pile of lobster and another aspect of toasted brioche, and it’s one of those wines you just drink the hell out of, regardless of how many “points” it got here or there.

But cellar-temp please. You’ll lose its sociable warmth otherwise.

Tasting again two days later, I have an enticing thought. There’s way in which you actually can’t fathom what variety this is on first sniff. It isn’t obviously Pinot Blanc, or any iteration of PB with which you’re familiar. Nor is it Chardonnay. My mind would whipsaw among Marsanne, Gros Manseng, and Humagne Blanche if I had to guess. And yet – grown on limestony loess and sand, and aged on its lees for six months in (what I assume is) steel, it’s like a song you thought you knew, sung now by an artist who reveals things you’d never have guessed the song could contain.

Thought you “knew” Pinot Blanc? Think again, Ace.


2020 Weissburgunder Maximum                                                     +

(Heavy bottles seem unavoidable for wines with a point to make, alas…)

The oldest PB vines in the Kamptal, planted in 1955, so two years younger than I am. When I first tasted this cuvée back decades ago, I had never had a Pinot Blanc nearly this good, and that ’93 remains a beacon of greatness.

It’s done in “wooden casks” with no mention of acacia this time. And you know? It’s incredibly bloody hard to make a wine that’s woody but not “oaky.” In the Jancis glass – where all questions are settled! – it shows as much fire-roasted corn as it does wood per se. On the palate, though, it wants to pin the wine’s shoulders to the mat.

The round-bowled Spiegelau is a very good glass now, showcasing the wine’s “sweet” side and subduing its “woody” side – but what’s the through-line here? I sense the aim is to take Pinot Blanc as far as it can go, supported but not dominated by oak, and if that is indeed the goal, the salient question is – how much varietality remains?


The answer, for me, is – enough. Maybe not “more than enough” and certainly not to dismiss the question as irrelevant. Any given drinker’s answer could be different than mine. And even more noteworthy – for all this wine seems to warrant a capacious glass, the one it likes best is – here we go again – the little basic Spiegelau. That’s the glass that pushes the fruit forward, and if we lose a teensy bit of “richness” we get a ton of fruit back in return.

But a wine this big likes a chance to stretch its limbs, and two days later I find a more equitable dance among fruit, wood and power. The MacNeil Creamy & Silky glass says “You want to know how much fun this wine can be? Step up!” While the Jancis is just fine, it’s maybe a little too prim. The little Spiegelau rocks our worlds – the wine’s and mine. (I bought those damned glasses for $49.95 the half-dozen, and they’re the best glasses I’ve ever used.)


2022 Riesling Langenloiser Urgestein                                             +

As I’ve said before, this estate-riesling has gone by many names over the years – most interestingly the single-site Loiser Berg – but now it’s a village-wine. It has always been amazingly original, singular, and full of character, in every sort of vintage. A taster who enjoys stringing associations together would have a field day with this wine, and persons with only a dim (and probably inaccurate) view of Riesling would protest that they never tasted a Riesling like this one.

What does the clement personality of ’22 bring to the party? It offers a purring rendition of the usual complications! The wine’s like a Noah’s Ark of every species of flavor of which Riesling is capable, along with many you never tasted before, or never tasted together in a single wine.

How so?

It has a minty-herbal side; think of the mint family, including tarragon and wintergreen.

It has a tartly savory side; think of lemon grass and bee balm.

It has a fervently spicy side; think of whatever spices you can think of.

It has a root vegetable side – beets.

It has a nightshade side; red peppers.

It has a mineral snap from the primary rock in which it grew.

Finally it has an early herbal “sweetness” and snap; think watercress and sorrel.

Finally, there are certain Darjeeling 2nd-Flush teas called “clonals” that have overt flavors of plum or “drupes,” and we find those here.

That’s clearly a heaving ton of nuance for a “little” wine to be packing. Considering its nature is to be light and buoyant, it seems to over deliver. It cannot show the resonances and esoteric complexities of the (upcoming) Crus – nor does it ask those prices. For what it does ask, I doubt a drinker with the capacity to be fascinated could gain more “WTF!” for less money. This occult wine deserves a cult following.


2021 Riesling Ried Steinhaus 1er Lage

Our favorite wines aren’t always those we judge to be loftier, and a clear-minded reviewer will often find her favorites below the summits. As I do this Riesling, my personal favorite wine of Hiedler’s.

It’s a cool site, gneiss, amphibolite and quartz. The wines are cousins to Von Winning’s Paradiesgarten, the tension of elevation, the feint in the green Sauvignon-y direction, the absurd liveliness.

Never more absurdly lively than in this vintage, where it flirts with being too much of a good thing. It’s bracing, not too far from steely, and only its mid-palate substance rescues it from going over the top. Saying that, it’s a ’21 that didn’t reconcile its acids, and which feels constricted. At least directly from the freshly opened bottle (screw-capped); it’s possible the wine will calm down over the days. If it does I’ll tell you, naturally, but this wine feels as though it slipped loose and got stuck in the snow.

I hope to eat those words.

The next day it had unfurled somewhat, and was agreeably salty and juicy. It remains a little goose-fleshy, but it’s exactly that tightness that makes it stand out in warmer years. Obviously I wish to love it – it’s my favorite, as I wrote – but the austere finish won’t let me. Which is fine! That’s why there are vintages, and this one just so happens not to suit this wine. It was toe-curlingly fine in ’20 and I’ll wager it’ll kick ass again in ’22. 


2021 Riesling Ried Gaisberg 1er Lage                                        ++

There’s quite a bit of color, and for Gaisberg, an almost sultry aroma. Minerality arrives with air. As does a thing I like about Gaisberg, but for which my subjective phrase is hardly enticing: Stinky white flowers.

(I wonder, don’t you, about the private shorthand wine reviewers/tasters must use, the ones they don’t let us see. Sometimes they’ll speak them out loud, if you’re together tasting and everyone’s relaxed. I’ve never known it to go farther. It should!)

Maybe the white flower thing was a temporary ester (or some sulfur burp) because in about two minutes this turns into a mineral masterwork.

Gaisberg is often spectral, as if its flavors were placed in your hands by a ghost dressed as a bride. Part of that is present here, but there’s also a quantum concentration of mineral, catapulted upward by a slingshot of acidity. The wine is so amazing it borders on the implausible.

The grip and the mere impact on the physical palate are impossible to resist. Yet there a higher octave of flavor that wisps up into the air like the vapors from frozen nitrogen. It’s a concatenation of lemons and freesia; it alludes to basmati; it alludes, hauntingly, to white peaches and to blueberries, part of an incipience of sweetness that turns it from prose into music.

It’s introverted but passionate, classical but not stodgy, and it is in every way wonderful. It almost isn’t “Riesling” any more. It’s just Gaisberg; I know it from Gobelsburg and Hirsch, and this site is quite particular, spectral and subtle; it whispers its strange tongue and you feel an opiate tingle – What is this wine doing to me? It smells a little like Champagne, this cool high chiming, this cryptic bliss. It is a very rare wine, that delivers as many poignant questions as this one does.


2021 Riesling Ried Heiligenstein 1er Lage                                        

One of the few greatest Riesling vineyards in the world, as you know very well by now.

One of the experiences of drinking great wine is am immediate feeling, “There’s no way this can possibly be.” You’re equal to the beauty, just barely, but when you reach the paradox a part of you gives way. Something is bigger than you. You’re not in control of the vehicle.

(WHAT DO I BRING? I know that Heiligenstein can be great, and often is. I know the ways it can be great. I know that Hiedler doesn’t have much land here. I know that Hiedler tends to make wine on the exotic side.)

(WHAT DO I RECEIVE? Amazement at the heated clarity of the pitted-fruit aromas. Even greater amazement at the vehement clarity of the panoply of green aromas. A certain disquiet at the adamant acidity. A hesitation at the rather coarse insistence of the wine following the seamless mysteriousness of the Gaisberg.)

The ’21 vintage enacts a contained extravagance here. There are ways – the usual ways – that Heiligenstein is (even) better than Gaisberg, yet I’m responding more emotionally to Gaisberg this time. Yet again, this wine has a distance to travel, and its flavor-luggage is a bit disorderly today. Heiligenstein can be overt, even turbulent, and I sense it is perturbed by the ’21 vintage’s attitudes. Its rampant, salty day will come, but even after 24 hours it hasn’t come yet. I register much of what I love about these wines, but disarranged, misaligned, over-assertive and tart.

Honestly, after 45 years of tasting seriously, I can’t possibly assume I know what will happen. I think the wine is basically ill-fitted structurally, but shit, I could easily be wrong and the wine finds its harmony and blossoms in a few years. If I had to guess, I’d be dubious. 


2020 Riesling Maximum                                                              

One notes the moderate 13% alc, and one is encouraged….

At first it’s mostly a cask-y fragrance. It evolves more quickly in the Jancis glass, displaying the rest of its ample jazz.

Look, I don’t know exactly where I’m going here, but you’re welcome to come along as I find my way. The wine seems at first to be subterranean. After the light-footed Gaisberg it is relatively leaden. The sheer succulence of the overripe (even bruised) apricot aromas is striking. It’s like the ’20 Kogelberg Riesling, if that wine had taken psilocybin. 

As often happens, time in the glass lets the more interior elements walk forward, and this is a wine whose first impression is certainly misleading. Not only does a swollen interior strength appear, but the contours of “Riesling” become more evident. Above the seismic rumble of intensity, there are forests growing.

Aged in both wood and steel, I question the balance of those components, and I go both ways; part of me says what the hell, why not all cask, and another part says “steel would have delivered more Riesling,”  and I wasn’t there and am unable to actually know. The Spiegelau glass, on day-2, is a rampant riot of Riesling, though on the palate it’s still crouching behind a wall of intensity. Some of the end-palate grit of ’20 is discernible also.

It’s entirely more scrupulous and cerebral from the Jancis, and out of sorts in the MacNeil. I’ve been able to ease myself into the world of the Maximum with the GV and Pinot Blanc, but somehow this wine in this vintage on this day is ill at ease. 

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