Weingut Schröck und Söhne
The label says Ruster Vertrauter Aus – at least the domestic label – which means your close friend from Rust. This was the first white wine I tasted with the gang in April, and it immediately struck me as both different, and remarkably good. Heidi’s wine was usually a shape-shifter, drifting along a given vintage’s current, and I approved of her hands-off mentality.
It's not that this wine is mainstream. It still tastes like Schröck Pinot Blanc (mussel-shells and gravel and a furtive breath of quince, as if it channeled her Furmint in some allusive way) yet now the outlines are crisper and the minerality is more focused. It isn’t hedonic, it doesn’t carry the roasted-corn sweetness of a Prieler Pinot Blanc, yet it’s also more specifically useful for freshwater fish with an herb-y sauce, and the wine is as starchy as the basmati rice served alongside.
An overtone of ginger completes the picture, and the suavely juicy finish is most appetizing. It’s like you put a brighter bulb in your light fixture.
48 hours later some of the scree gives way to more of the quince, almost as though this is the best-behaved sibling of the Furmint(s) and the Harslevelü. Apropos of which, I’ve found the word that totally fries the auto-correct’s brain – Harslevelü.
I love this variety, just as I do Chenin and Altesse, and I get especially giddy with the modern types, cold ferments and stainless steel and all that. They’re just delightful wines.
The oxidative types can be even more beautiful, but they’re hard to bring off. In the past, Heidi sometimes “lapsed” into simple aldehydic oxidation with this wine, maybe two or three years in a decade. This vintage seems to present each delicious element of the oxidative style without any of the dubious ones. It has a little phenolic scratchiness at the end, but up until then it’s an impressive statement for the variety in its quince-and-ginger iteration. (Furmint also can show quinine, rosewater and chamomile, which this one doesn’t seem to.)
It's dry, with 13.5% alc, and a case could be made that 13% (and the teeny bit of sweetness that would have remained) would have been even more appealing. I don’t mean to be coy – I’d make that argument. But that seems churlish in light of the Timut-pepper and eucalyptus and brisk gingery outlines. Still, it’s an umami-driven wine, that doesn’t enter your palate as much as you enter and breathe its atmosphere.
2021 Furmint ++
(When I was at the estate in April, both vintages were available; I don’t know if they still are.)
Boy does this smell good. If you were teaching a wine class and your topic was “What’s All The Fuss About Furmint?” you could just let your class take a sniff and then you could grin and dismiss the class until next week.
This is close to perfect Furmint. The palate has all the jazz, in every key, and it offers the rare texture they call “waxy,” plus it plumbs the depths of every tertiary element the variety can offer, yet without a scintilla of decadence. The deliberate and haunting finish carries flavors of great white tea, and even the brothiness of certain Chablis.
Tasting this, you can glean the intent behind the ’22, in which the vintage didn’t cooperate. If the ’21 heralds a new era for Schröck Furmint, all I can say is watch out.
It’s also a kind of consolation prize for the (many) ‘21s that hiss and snap in the “everyday” categories, because it’s exactly those properties that give this wine its astonishing beauty, its clarity of its perfumed oneiric soul. You’ll look far and wide to find anything in the “Chenin family” (to which Furmint belongs) that’s anywhere near as outstanding as this And the scents in the empty glass! It’s like a lyric poem of the faraway.
2022 “More Is More” Glug-glug-glug!
LITER bottle – “Only for the wild and thirsty ones,” says the label. It’s effectively their Gemischter Satz, a bit of this-and-that, but not co-planted. And the wine is HUGELY APPEALING.
There’s the forthright snap of Welschriesling and (am I imagining this?) some of the redcurrant savor of Sauvignon Blanc, and it just reeks of freshness and joy. Turns out I was imagining the Sauv-Blanc part, as Heidi tells me that Welshriesling at a certain level of not-quite-ripeness can show “Ggassy and hayflower aromas.” This is a wine anyone can glug, even if you happen not to share my colorful tastes.
I never take a wine like this for granted. They taste like they’d be easy to make, but they aren’t. You can be misled by their seeming simplicity. The longer I drink wine – and good god, it’s 45 years now – the more I marvel at wines that want you to drink them, that seem as if they are thirsty for you.
Okay, fine; we know the genre; we disrespect the genre, I argue, but we’re familiar with it. The news here is, Heidi-and-Sons have re-cast this wine as a gluggable Liter and it works because something told them it would, and now we have a really magnetic new friend to make our wine glasses laugh, until we empty them in a thirsty flash.
2022 Muskateller +
Okay….Heidi Muscat. In the past it was like a complicated lover; one weekend would be amazing and the next one would be weird and you were twisted in confusing erotic knots and just when you were ready to dump all the drama the next weekend was amazing again. Not that I would know; I read it in a magazine.
What do we look for in this wine? We look for Muscat in the form of a peacock. More baroque than the brisk streamlined styles of Lower Austria, not as sappy as the (superb) Styrian Muscats, true to the variety but all doodied up, dressed for an audience with the duchess. The risk is, the wine is too “corny,” too much abundance and treacle, but the concomitant risk is the wine is too scrupulous and gray and too full of itself to play dress-up once in a while.
It’s a fine line to walk, and this wine walks it like it was born to walk it. It’s not only the best Muscat Schröck has ever made; it is a paradigm of what Muscat from Burgenland can be. Of course there are many others equally beautiful in myriad ways, but this wine has the flesh-density of the region without yielding even the tiniest bit of varietal expressiveness. It’s infinitely sexy without being “seductive” and it has focus without clamoring for you to worship its focus.
It is, in short, a fine adult Muscat, self-possessed and tasty. It maintained its curvaceous posture over the days until the bottle was – tragically – empty.
“Wild at heart,” says the label. We’ll see about that!
It’s a fetching aroma even for Zweigelt, which excels at fetching aromas, in this case feinting toward its Blaufränkisch parent. You sniff it; you want to drink it.
But Heidi’s reds always smelled lovely. Today, they also taste lovely, and the secret seems to have been tannin management. These days the tannin is woven into a generous and general vinosity, and even her spiciest reds are elegant now. And this is one delicious glass of wine.
This is most evident from the Riedel “Chianti Classico” stem, which makes up in creaminess what (little) it loses in articulation. The Jancis reverses the text; the wine is rather more self-serious now. Either way, it’s a bit too fine to really glug but it also doesn’t pretend to any loftier purpose than to speak wonderfully in the crushed-violet voice of the variety.
It's one of those Zweigelts that could plausibly be a Syrah without affectations. You will certainly think of potpourri and many manners of black berries. You might also have made a blind guess of Languedoc or even Chianti. But however you apprehend it, this is a wine that warms your soul yet doesn’t seek to seduce. So braise a lamb shank and settle into a wine that’s friendship in a glass.
2021 Junge Löwen
It means young lions, and it’s a cuvée of Blaufränkisch and St Laurent. And these lions are properly feral; the typical reduction of SL is, let’s say, apparent. The screw cap closure complicates the issue – but the SL reduction tends to be fleeting, so we’ll watch what happens.
I don’t know the proportions, but for my palate it’s a St Laurent with maybe a scoosh of Blaufränkisch to give it some acidity and backbone. So much for my palate! It’s actually 85% BF and 15% SL, which is rather a clamorous minority. It’s another tasty wine, in the somewhat rude and funky SL way, but believe me, this is far less annoying than (too) many natural wines with pretenses to “purity.”
Its wrap-around embrace is suppressed in the Riedel. Whatever you’d use for Burgundy is the glass to use here. The Jancis shows a tactile structure I didn’t think was there. Still, the wine wobbles unsteadily between its gamey funk and its stewy warmth. Personally I’m willing to allow for the “flaw” in order to obtain the earthy richness of SL, but youmight feel otherwise, and it’s pretty obdurate over the days.
But! On day-5 I splashed the remaining wine (about half the bottle) into a carafe and left it out for a few hours, and the reduction vanished, leaving behind a seriously lovely being we drank greedily. That’s neither here nor there to the consumer, who can’t be asked to open a wine five days in advance and then decant it. But it shows how the wine could be and how it must have been to the family when they vinified it.
2022 Blaufränkisch +
“Aus der alten Ried Kulm” appears in small print. There’s some regulatory metaphysics in play, it would seem, because this used to simply be “Blaufränkisch Ried Kulm” and we understood it was a very old vineyard (well over 50) planted by (I think) Heidi’s great-grandmother.
I loved this wine in 2018-19 in which it split the difference between the variety’s typical articulation and the region’s overriding warmth. But I need you to know I adore Blaufränkisch in principle.
I co-presented with my dear friend Debbie Zachareas on one occasion, where this wine was paired with a Graillot Crozes, and it was telling. Depending on your orientation, either the BF was “rather light” or the Rhône wine was “pretty sludgy.” (Or you’d be like me, and love them both.) This vintage of this wine has a plausible cognate in a northern Medoc Cru Bourgeois, appearing to be civil to the point of excessive modesty until you start to appreciate its embedded nuances.
It's a draw-you-in sort of wine, quintessentially European. It isn’t passionate and it has no desire to overwhelm you, preferring to leave you with whatever whelm you carried in. I admire such wines on principle and I enjoy them sensually. And this one pleases me in many ways.
Blaufränkisch can be arch, and if you don’t like really peppery wines you might think it crude. It can also be superbly mineral and replete with shadings and gradations – it’s the red wine for Riesling lovers, as I often say. We have black cherry and redcurrant, graceful tannin and physiological “sweetness,” and we also have a thing I call “rainy forest” and above all we have an acme of finesse, and a discretion that only seems like modesty but which is really a fundamental considerateness.
It fills me with gratitude. Then something else arrives, a firmness and spice and a delicate white pepper, until you really have to wonder how a wine can be at once so tactful and so expressive. It isn’t humble; it is civil. And it is the kind of wine I very much would not want to live without.
Open 24 hours, and tasted only from the Jancis glass, the tannin has moved forward – from this glass. The nuances are also more vivid. Again, this day and this glass have me thinking the wine is more fun to study and less fun to drink. When I do drink it – which believe me I will – it’ll be Riedel all the way.
2022 Tour de Rosé
2021 Tour de Rosé ++
Another name-change (it used to be rosé “Biscaya”) and they’re being a little cagey about what-all’s in it. Fair enough; I’ll just say it’s the “usual suspects” plus Merlot plus a bunch of varieties that may or may not dare speak their names. Many varieties…..
In my portfolio there were two Rosés I adored: this one and Prieler’s, and they were diametrically opposed in style. Schröck’s was (and is) the epitome of Dionysian funk, and this ’22 is a wonderful edition of it.
You could glug it but maybe don’t. You’d lose its batshit wildness, which you’d also squander if you served it below 58º. The ’22 is like a liqueur of wild Sockeye salmon. It has a disco-pink color and is liable to get into trouble.
The ’21 is considerably paler. And it is a very different (and crazily engaging) type of wine. Why if I didn’t know better I’d swear there was some Petit Verdot and Teroldego in it…..and I am trying to remember when I’ve ever tasted such a fabulous rosé. If you still have any, you have a masterpiece.
I’m a little lost for words. The rather “scrupulous” character of ’21 does this wine nothing but good, and while I adore the fleshpot ’22 I’m in a thrall to the class and angularity and nuance and the vibrating harmonies of this ’21.
You could serve it a smidge cooler – say around 55º - but really, it would be a shame to treat it as you would “a rosé” when it has so much more to say.
In principle I’d hate to envision the estate choosing to cool down their riot of rosé, yet I look at this vintage and wonder – could they maintain the basic MDMA-in-a-glass of their rosés and also focus the outlines and saltiness and corners? If not, by all means keep on rocking and stand by to lavish affection on the cooler years. But boy, what if…..
THE SWEET WINES:
I begin with two confessions. I am less and less enamored of sweet wines as I get older. And I tend to be somewhat cool toward sweet wines from warmer climates.
But I must add another confession. “Tasting” these wines is hard for me. After a group of dry reds and whites, the sweetness of this new range arrives abruptly, and falsifies my palate. When I drink the wines as they’re intended to be enjoyed – after dinner – they’re tasty and I like them just fine. I’ll leave my notes as I wrote them but I need you to know how much I liked the wines when I was simply drinking them.
By “sweet” I mean wines that lead with residual sugar. A Mosel Kabinett with 30g/l of sugar and 9g/l acidity is not a “sweet” wine. If you don’t already know this, then damn it – know it.
There are four wines in all. And I’m using a Spiegelau glass called (by them) Digestiv, which is an excellent tasting glass for this sort of wine.
“In the sense of sexy” says the fine print. It’s Welschriesling and Sauvignon Blanc. It smells very pretty, rather like a Nahe or Rheingau wine from the aughts, when most of the wine with RS had excesses of RS. Still, this is an inviting fragrance.
On the palate I find the fundamental tension – a kind of DMZ – with alcohol on one side and sugar on the other. It’s better in the Jancis glass, and it’s a good wine, but for me the problem is; it needs to be sweeter to mitigate a certain coarseness of contour, and yet in that case it would be too sweet. In the interim we can appreciate the meyer lemon and candied ginger and lemon grass.
The ’21 was Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay, but this tends to change year to year, botrytis being the capricious being it is.
Though this is much sweeter now, it is also paradoxically much more savory. It’s always been a fine value for a wine so concentrated.
It’s easily as salty as it is sweet. How one would “use” it I’m not sure; it isn’t a meditative wine, and though it seems to crave food – what food? That said, it strikes me as better integrated than the Spätlese; it makes more sense.
2021 Ruster Ausbruch +
“On The Wings Of Dawn,” its former name, appears in small print now. It is entirely Welschriesling.
Ausbruch gives me a sense of destiny understood and realized. It has a baroque sort of marmalade quality that proudly identifies a family of wines from a place in its climate.
In this case it unites a fine clean botrytis to a high-acid grape in a high-acid vintage, and gives us a true dessert wine with a salty savor that leans toward the hedonic and away from the mystic. Nothing the matter with that! Sometimes those Meister-Eckhart wines are less welcome than the crème-brulée wines.
Irrespective of my subjective coolness toward the genre, what’s lovely here is the balance, the sense of a purpose realized, and most of all the poise and grace underlying a wine so rich. The wine is fundamental to Heidi in a way that makes the Beerenauslese feel “formed.” But I have to repeat – this dinky set of judgments do not matter in the larger scheme of things.
Just enjoy the seamlessness and the peach and passion fruit and tangelo richness and leave my carpings off to the side.
(Solera TBA, nine vintages)
I received a little thimble-full of a wine I assume was still in-progress. It’s been bottled in the interim under the name Anthology, and contains nine vintages between 2014-2022.
I recall a great wine from 2002 – and it was indeed great, even for a fussbudget like me. I’m loath to comment on cask samples, but what I can tell you is – look out!
It’s the closest a Schröck wine has come to the grandest of Tokays, and a ++ future may be too conservative.