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Weingut Hiedler, Kamptal


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!

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