Weingut Schröck und Söhne

(The artist formerly known as” Heidi Schröck Weinbäuerin”, which changed its official name with the arrival of her twin sons, and the impact they are already having.)

Heidi’s soulful domain is a challenge to write about, only because it’s hard to separate the wines from my affection and regard for her. Yet she depends on my doing exactly that. Briefly, the whites have the “horizontal” shapes of warm-climate white wines, and this element is underscored by her wish to let them determine their own destinies. I’ve never known Heidi to “form” a wine, and with her sons now  alongside her, it’s lovely to see this hasn’t changed. A few feints in the “natural wine” direction caused me some concern, but these wines were always natural in the most holistic sense.

They sent me mostly 2019s, plus the two 20s that were bottled early. I liked the ‘19s and loved the 20s, and will be eager to taste the rest of that vintage. For now:

2019 Blaufränkisch Ried Kulm                                                              +

This is a classic Blaufränkisch that is also a gorgeous one – and this happens rarely. It has all the mint and mineral and pepper and oozing red berry the variety gives at its best, but also the sumptuousness that makes me think of Erich Sattler’s wines. It’s a Blaufränkisch that seduces with its intelligence on full display, tremendously inviting for a wine that is often (and incorrectly) seen as cerebral.

It’s lovely, as expected, from the Riedel Chianti Classico glass, which was made for a wine like this, but it is ludicrously excellent from the Jancis, which is starting to make me wonder if there’s a red wine that isn’t elevated by this wickedly good stem. The Riedel emphasizes the tobacco note; it’s more avuncular, more analogue, while the Jancis does its absurdly-perfect-articulation thing, bringing out a wisteria-like floral note that’s usually incipient and aloof in the variety.

One final thing to say (though I will retaste over the next couple days) – this is the third consecutive vintage I’ve felt this wine to be compelling, and one of two things has to be true. Either I have been misjudging Heidi’s reds, at least this one, to a point of near-shame, or she has improved them recently. Heidi is such a dear that I’m sure she’ll relieve me of my burden of infamy, and in truth I’d pretty much bailed in her reds, which struck me as fetchingly fragrant but excessively tannic. Not this one!

In fact this is due to small but decisive changes made by Georg Schröck, influenced by his time in New Zealand; more whole-clusters, less punching down, among other things. I hope the importer will take a new look at the reds – the look I should have taken.

The final curious note is, as the wine sat in the Riedel it started to take on a flavor I’ve found in her Rosé, which in fact is usually about 30% Blaufränkisch.  Nose of a tickhound, that’s me.

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2019 Weißburgunder

Grown on limestone, gneiss and mica-schist, this is a classic Heidi shape-shifter over the years, each vintage applying its stamp and the wine is never predictable.

The alpha-and-omega points tend to be, markedly oyster-shell mineral and corn-like crunch, like a chip made with masa harina, versus a creamier, almost tapioca-pudding element – and all points in between. Residual sugar fluctuated also, though the wine is always legally Trocken.

There’s a firm mineral texture that’s nearly brash, and which is echoed on the chewy phenolic finish. Between those things is a rich wine, ample but not fleshy, with what I surmise is acacia-cask “sweetness” and with a touch of oxidation also. Though it prefers the larger glass, which elevated its atmospheric burnished roasted-corn and meadow-flower facets.

It will also like a milder temp than I’m giving it. I took it out of the fridge 30 minutes ago but when I retaste I’ll take it from the cellar (currently 61.5º) and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Texture seems important to this wine.

A DAY LATER and a lot less chilled, oxygen has actually tamped down the fruit – as sometimes happens – and not mitigated the phenolic finish. I like different pieces of the wine, but overall it indicates a certain strife. AT LAST ON DAY-3, at cellar temp the wine is revealing itself. This of course is all well and good, but how many of you will open it three days in advance and baby the temp till you get it just right?  The fruit and saltiness are really attractive now, though there’s nothing to be done about the gritty finish. I just brought home the first Copper River sockeye of the season, and we’ll see how this goes with it.

It went okay with the fish – the Grauburgunder was better – but it went really well with the sides, white jasmine rice and haricots verts. (The first wild salmon of the season deserves a mild backdrop.) All in all the wine is pleasing if handled carefully.

2019 Furmint                                                                                      +

I love the variety and also the idea of the variety. Late to ripen, “difficult” in affect, almost extinct in Austria until Heidi and nine other growers revived it in the eighties. The wines, too, are mysterious. You can make them modern (cold fermentation in steel with cultured yeast) which gives a rather plausible result and tasty useful wines that don’t honor the varietal quirks. Heidi’s never done that.

She’s done almost everything else, though. There have been Halbtrockens, and emphatically leesy wines, and sometimes “contemporary” wines but more often wines of vapor and inference, where you wonder if what they say is more important than how they taste.

The estate is more inclined to early picking; this wine has 7 g/l acidity, which is high for Burgenland, and which renders the wee little 3 g/l of residual sugar all but invisible. Invisible, but very helpful.

This one is in the distantly-heard-music family. It’s “classical” in its way – a few recent vintages have slipped into weirdness – and it’s companionable, like a friend who doesn’t demand you “keep up” your end of the conversation. Who lets you dream and muse. Indeed the wine feels like half a dream itself. It’s full of associations but they’re all 18th-century associations, and you think “This is how things must have smelled” but you don’t know what things they are, or might have been.

With Furmint you talk about quince, quinine, rosewater, linden blossom, like Chenin without the beeswax. At times there’s a not displeasing ashen kind of note, the fire that ran its course in your fireplace. In your 18th-century room. With the furniture, the smells of dinner cooking, the residue of the perfumes the “ladies” wore. The basket of quinces ripening on the table.

There’s an easy poise here, but it isn’t an easy wine. That is, it doesn’t do the job you expect wine to do. It has a story in it, but not the kind of story one can narrate. It appears as a resonance, as liquid imagination, but it won’t explain itself. It asks you to do half the imagining yourself.

What do you make of a wine like this? It’s not a rhetorical question. Perhaps you make calm, or perhaps you make peace, or affection, or you make all the thousands of words you do not need to say, they dissolve into a word-mist that encircles the world, and that comes to you when you know there are words, but don’t know what they are.

I find I am thinking of Wim Wender’s sad angels, who arrived invisibly to touch the shoulders of people in distress, and made them feel better. When a wine can be consoling – can possibly be consoling – let’s not fritter it away with a “tasting note.”

Such an inferential wine would seem to want to stretch itself out over days and days, but I found this was best consumed the day it was opened. You will disagree to the extent you enjoy some of the flavors of Loire Chenins from the “trendy” growers.

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2019 Grauburgunder                                                                       

Heidi’s baroque baby. Thankfully “only” 13.5% alc in 2019. It has also been her deliberately oaky wine, though not due to a zillion percent new barriques but rather an extended and leesy sojourn in old barrels. When it falters it tips itself over from its own weight, but when it works – and boy does it work here – it tells an ancient tale about Pinot Gris, and wonderfully it also tells a tale about white jasmine rice!

I find the wine wickedly good. Oddly it prefers the smaller glass; you’d think the rondeur of this vinous manatee would crave a big ol’ balloon, but my basic Spiegelau white gives it focus and contour. It does thrust the woodiness at you, but this isn’t any more woody than those white Riojas we love (well, a few of us anyway), and these kinds of wines reveal themselves in the fullness of time. Indeed, over the days the oak receded and was replaced with a sweet leesiness combined with a positive oxidation. It’s buttery, not like diacetyl but like ghee. Meanwhile we can have unsophisticated pleasure in this lovely atavism.

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2020 Muskateller                                                                               +

(#nofilter  #purearoma) (alc 12.5%)

This completely kicks ass. I can’t remember a better vintage from Heidi (and now her sons); a snarling feral Muscat that whips you like a domme.

No one will understand this except for the tea-heads out there who’ve read my Darjeeling stuff, but when a 2nd-flush is really good – like Tea Boutique’s 2020 Goomtea – it feels drenched with a muscat grape flavor – hence the term “Muscatel” to describe them. And this wine crosses the border between wine and tea in a ridiculously compelling way. If you’re not licking your chops and hissing when you get this into your mouth, check your pulse and call an ambulance.

Georg did full malo, as “Otherwise we couldn’t have bottled it unfiltered,” and there’s also very little sulfur. Amazingly the wine tastes like neither of those things. It tastes like simple bliss. Isn’t it lovely that wines as evanescent as the Furmint and as adamantly corporeal as this Muscat can exist in the same winery?

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2020 Tour de Rosé                                                                          +

The old name Biscaya was disallowed by “the authorities” because “Biscaya” is a place, and the unwary consumer could be misled into thinking the wine is from that place. The wine, famously, was a blend of a lot of varieties, many of them “experimental,” and the wine was often my favorite rosé, beautifully rude and happily ludicrous. After a 2019 that was curiously demure, this one’s back being a rhubarb-bomb in an infusion with wild-gathered herbs even the botanists don’t know.

Not to flog this old horse gratuitously, but I really hope this is what most natural wines taste like, gorgeously pure and feral, unbendingly wild but not flawed. For all this wine’s manic gush of impolite fruits and berries, there’s resin and iron in its finish, and while it doesn’t have quite the length of the very best of its progenitors, it’s a wine for the raunchiest picnic you didn’t know you could have. It tastes like it could cure snakebite.

THE SWEET WINES:

 

By way of introduction, I have the devil of a time tasting young extremely sweet wines. I’ve let my frustration bleed into the notes at times. That wasn’t fair; it was just my anger that I wasn’t up to the task.

Heidi has on her labels lithographs of the foods she thinks will go well with the wine.  She sent me three wines.

They sent me mostly 2019s, plus the two 20s that were bottled early. I liked the ‘19s and loved the 20s, and will be eager to taste the rest of that vintage. For now:

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2019 Furmint Auslese

(In small print up the side of the label, “Ried Vogelsang”)

It has a lovely rich fragrance, hardly surprising, like a corn bisque with diced Parma ham, astride the more common associations, overripe stone fruits, musk melon, as well as the less common association of super-fresh sweet Hungarian paprika. And maple syrup.

Though this is by no means “fat,” it is more voluptuous than the sleeker German type. It isn’t reasonable to compare the two at the expense of one of them, but I promised you I wouldn’t hide my subjectivities. I do agree with Heidi that there are many savory-dish applications for this wine, and that it is more practical than meditative.

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2019 Furmint Beerenauslese

More of an essence now, and for all its richness it feels cooler and better balanced than its lighter sibling. It is the most ravishing kind of Furmint. Regular drinkers of sweet Tokaj will have better ways than I do to discern where this fits into the matrix. Without that context, I can observe that a fine coolness and lift is helping all that concentrated fruit to float a few inches off the ground. I like its length, I like its poise, and find it a stylish and delicate sweet wine despite its richness.

These were both picked on the early side, and required the usual insane labor – “Twelve pickers in two days for 340 liters of juice,” said Heidi. Nor do either of them have much botrytis; they are in fact like the old German Edelbeerenauslese, made from golden dessicated grapes.

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2018 Ruster Ausbruch “On The Wings Of Dawn”                         +

(A cuvée of Welschriesling, Weissburgunder, and Sauvignon Blanc)

Right away, the burnt-orange note that distinguished Ausbruch from BA – at least here. It’s an antique note analogous to the “mood” of the Grauburgunder. They are brother and sister; he is the baritone and she is the alto, and her song is quite lilting here, with greater echo and more savor than the above BA.