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Weingut Hiedler: Langenlois, Kamptal

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.

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