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Weingut Hiedler, 2023

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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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