A SMALL PROTOCOL NOTE FOR THE FIRST SETZER SAMPLING: We’re into the 2nd half of May now, and my cellar is no longer at the ideal temperature for pulling bottles and drinking. These bottles were put in the fridge and removed about 20 minutes before I tasted them, so they start out rather too cold and they warm in the glass. Obviously temperature really matters, so I’ll tell you how it affects the wines from opening to warming.
The wines were also tasted on TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS, TWO MONTHS APART, with the second tranche tasted near the beginning of August.
2020 Grüner Veltliner LITER BOTTLE
(12% Alc) and does this little dickens smell good! Have I forgotten how charming young GV can be? Though it reads “cool” it has aromas or toasted grain, lentil, oat bread, maiitake, but it’s a sleek fellow that contains all them nuances. This aroma makes me indecently happy.
The palate, less so. It flirts with phenolic astringency, and while it’s silly to expect big things from a simple Liter wine, I’d be happier if it were less snippy. Still, such wines aren’t intended for “study” and food will tame the kitten-teeth, as does a warmer temperature. With ten minutes out of the bottle a mitigating juiciness emerges, but this remains on the crisp side of “crisp” and is adamantly dry.
A day later (and from the MacNeil “fresh and crisp” glass), it’s just as riotously aromatic and also a little less tetchy, but it remains bracingly pointed, so if that’s your jam, rock on.
On day-3 it has retreated ever so slightly. Less frisky, more sedate. Fennel frond enters the picture. I want to call this wine “trustworthy,” and I hope you know what I mean.
2020 Grüner Veltliner “Ausstich” glug-glug-glug
(12% alc, “Weinviertel DAC”) The fragrance is a roastier version of the Liter, and this is – perfectly – one of those mid-weight wines that comes along and Does The Job. Beware the baseball analogies please, but this isn’t a .300 hitter with power; it’s a utility player with bat-control who plays the game professionally and reliably, hits the runner over, can lay down a bunt, always makes the plays, gets a lot of well-times slap-hits. For non baseball geeks, a wine like this makes a vivid case showing what wine is for. At least when we’re not preening over it.
I sometimes soak cordyceps and use the liquid to cook rice or Israeli cous-cous. (You can get them from Far West Fungi, and they’re a pantry staple Chez Piper/Theise.) From the tall round Spiegelau this wine has that sweet-wheaty cordycep loveliness; it’s also a seamless mélange of spice, textural juice, sharp greens (sorrel especially) and the curious abiding helpfulness of medium-weight GV at its gluggable best.
Yes, that’s me: I live to hype the prototype.
2020 Roter Veltliner “Symphoniker”
(11.5% alc) This is haricot verts drizzled with walnut oil. If you don’t know the variety I explicated it in my catalogues (easily accessible on this site) and/or you could google it. The salient issue is, it is a rare type that ends up having a small group of growers who champion it. The wines express an element of GV – the fresh cremini-mushroom side – while being less cressy and with less animated acidity.
Setzer makes two, this one and a single-vineyard one he didn’t send. This is the house-wine of the Wiener Symphoniker orchestra but they had to remove “Wiener” from the label lest the unwary consumer assume the wine hailed from Vienna.
The wine is correct, small but not mingy, innocuous but not slight. I need to reclaim the word “forgettable” for wines like this one. Too often we use it to indicate “Gotta get the hell away from that thing,” whereas it can also describe a wine that doesn’t insist on being remembered. It’s perfectly good, and we move along.
I did a naughty thing. I had two of the 2020 Bründlmayer Rieslings open, the lighter ones with 12.5% alc , and I thought it would be “interesting” (or perhaps wicked) to open this and compare it to them. The same 12.5% alc. About fifteen miles separate them, as the crow flies. Different soils of course, and much different elevations (Setzer being higher).
Compared to Bründlmayer’s “Kamptal Terassen” one immediately notices the stone fruit aroma here, especially apricot but also Anjou pear. On the palate the wine is vivid but not quite “generous.” And yet there are more notes in the chord here; salt bounces off of succulence, herbs bounce off of tree-fruits, and we have an aroma of very fine Matja, and corn, and ginger.
Obviously this isn’t a “competition,” and I love both growers but not in the same way, which is as it should be. I want to see if the contrast is telling, and I think that it is. Here we have more activity but we also have more assertiveness, missing the sense of effortless serenity the Bründlmayer shows. But that’s fine! Setzer’s can be proud of this frisky, contrapuntal, charming Riesling.