Weingut Glatzer: Carnuntum

The part of me that laughs helplessly at the silliest moments in Mr. Bean is the part of me that loves the best of Glatzer’s wines,  helplessly.

 

Walter’s had a hard Covid year, but mercifully only for the business. The inconvenient timing of the new Carnuntum “DAC” also played havoc with his harvest organization. But all in all these are good days for this estate. The organic conversion has “Made the wines perhaps more detailed,” he tells me, and he agrees that the 2019 Dornenvogel GV is the best he’s ever made.

I believe that these insanely tasty wines arise from a bedrock honesty and an unpretentious temperament. Walter’s feints toward more “seriousness” in his reds are the normal consequence of simply getting older. You think of what to do with the rest of your diminishing time.

Here’s something I myself want to do. I want never to surrender to hopelessness that Glatzer’s wines (and others like them) are too delicious for those of self-consciously elevated palates. I want to preserve some kind of innocence that we might cherish wines that “merely” taste good, because they affirm our capacity for delight, a happiness that resists mitigation or analysis, that just whispers It turns out it is good to be alive. There’s a time for erudite experiences, but if it has to be every time then it’s not about the wine any more – it’s about you, and the exalted moments you’re so terribly sure you deserve to have.

[This is one of what will be two segments; the 2020s are on their way]

WHITE WINES:

(Control-glass for all whites is the basic Spiegelau, with other stems introduced according to my whims and curiosities. Notes will consolidate any variety of impressions into a single one, unless there’s a strikingly alternate impression from one glass alone.)

2019 Weißburgunder

Aroma leaps into the room as the wine is poured; I haven’t lifted the glass to my nose yet!

If Pinot Blanc has a “corn” element, then this one shows a crunchy corn element, like taco-shell or even tortilla chip. More earth than sea in this curiously stern wine. Some vintages have been diffident, but this one makes me think of Heidi Schröck’s PB in a ripe vintage. Feels riper than its 12.5%; there’s a mustard-green snap some may find sour. There’s also a phenolic kick at the end. One glass shows an oleander note recalling a certain facet of Grüner Veltliner. I’ll follow its development over a few days, but the first impression, while long and adamant, is kind of clunky.

This impression was unchanged over several days.

2019 Göttlesbrunn Weiß

This village-wine is a sponti (the German-language term for ambient-fermented wines) in steel, on the fine lees until June. Enticingly aromatic, hale, in some way fundamentally vinous. This can happen with multi-varietal wines that aren’t mediated by the expression of a single grape, not to mention what we know and expect to taste from a variety we’re familiar with. That said, I don’t think this is a field-blend (a.k.a. Gemischter Satz) so much as an ad-hoc cuvée of wines in excess of what would fit in the tanks. 

It’s a fun thing to drink but a little too earnest to guzzle. Toasty notes converse with nuances of milk-chocolate (typical of spontis); it can’t decide whether it’s plump or muscular; it’s like a GV planted in the Maconnais.

For “wine people” we’re a little unmoored drinking something like this, as it has no specific “agenda” varietally speaking, but for the average drinker this over-delivers, and offers more saline scallop-y richness than does the Pinot Blanc.

2019 Grüner Veltliner                                            glug-glug-glug

I’m aware these are all ‘19s. Like many growers, Glatzer’s depletions slowed down in the pandemic, and like the smart growers he’s using this as an opportunity to give his 2020s the time he’s always wished he could give them. For now (and I’m tasting in late April) these are the current vintage.

I had a few of what I called ur-Veltliners in my portfolio, wines that showed the pure essence of the variety without frills or fanfares. I like frills and fanfares, don’t get me wrong, but now and again one wants to see the naked essence. Glatzer’s rendition is a darling simple wine in ordinary years and a punch-above-its-weight wine in excellent years.

Like this one. When I was done admiring it, I grew so nostalgic for Austria that I nearly wept. Every year, right around now, I was giddily inundated with Veltliner until I wondered why I’d ever accept a day without it. If you’d like to know what GV can be – what it fundamentally is, without the perquisites of Grand Terroirs; even what it is from a region where it is by no means typical, and if you want to know what it might be like to mix lentils with vetiver, or how a wine might  conceivably taste like green beans and mushrooms and extra virgin olive oil, all your questions will be answered. Including one you never thought to ask: how do I know when a wine loves me?

This is how you know.

2019 Grüner Veltliner “Dornenvogel”                                             ++

I’m surprised the “DAC” guys allowed him to continue to use “Dornenvogel” on his label. If you’re new to this, it means “thorn-bird” and refers to avian marauders who like to eat the ripest grapes, so it’s a metaphor, basically.

I’ve known Walter Glatzer for twenty eight years, which means I’ve known his wines for all those years, and as soberly as I am able, I have to tell you – this is his white-wine masterpiece.

Readers of my catalogues may recall how I described my moment of dysphasia when I smelled a recent vintage of this wine, and could only think Mosel-Riesling, because its gorgeous sponti reek brought billions of cell-deep taste memories of young Mosel wine. This was somewhat unsettling. That fragrance, I thought, was ineluctably tied to Mosel, yet here it was, attached to a different grape grown almost 900 kilometers away, and my serenity was not only ruffled; it was the-fuck ruffled. If you know young Mosels, just you wait.

Walter introduced a small amount of whole-clusters into this wine, “as we have enough warmth here, but can always use more finesse and also the added acidity you get with the whole clusters.”

Again, we don’t experience terroir as an interpreter here, but only the graceful yet intense gesture of the variety, all its peppers and mints and resins and herbs, soaked with soul, sponti at its most fetching, and with all the mercies of the physiological “sweetness” of ripe GV.

A small final word. In the next month or two I expect to be tasting Veltliners from the (truly) great terroirs and great growers. Some of them may have received the same two plusses. Are they absolutely equal in quality? Of course not. Theirs is an equivalence that makes sense in the contexts of achievement and of pleasure. I derive a different pleasure from, say, a Gobelsburg Steinsetz than I do from Glatzer’s Dornenvogel. Yet I cannot, and would not even if I (somehow could), weigh the relative pleasures on an absolute scale. It feels inhumane. It feels unreasonable. And it feels untruthful. Because if I look into my heart, all I feel is I am grateful to live in a world where such beauty is possible, and where there are people who work to let it sing, and don’t ask me – seriously, don’t ask me – whether I am “more” grateful for this and “less” grateful for that. I will not engage with such a question.

2019 Sauvignon Blanc Niederösterreich                  glug-glug-glug

What was the “basic” SB has apparently been declassified to the general appellation of “Lower Austria.”

In my merchant days,I’d taste the two he made, and offer the one that worked for me. If the “top” one really stood out, that’s the one I’d offer, and if not, this is the one I’d offer. It varied from year to year.

This one gives me nearly everything I could desire from “everyday” SB. It’s expressive but polite, assertive but not vulgar, classically varietal but not noisy. Again, it’s not an exegesis of terroir, but it’s addictive, thrillingly balanced between substance and freshness, and I had no idea how badly I wanted to fire-roast some orange peppers right now. If SB could ever be described as “smart,” this one can.

2019 Sauvignon Blanc “Weisser Donauschotter”                      +

I think this used be called by its site name “Schüttenberg,” which evidently has been disallowed.

It is a serious, strong wine. It is more intense and roasted than the basic SB. That said, one has to applaud its “mere” 13% alc, or at least I have to applaud it. Something in this superb wine makes me imagine Von Winning’s SB “I” without wood. That’s to say, I think of SB showing all the finesse that may be in its nature, no bubble-gum pandering, no noxious pyrazines, just the beautiful currant-leaf angularity without any funkiness, and with a lovely mid-palate thrust of juiciness, sweet fern and conifer.

It was best in the Jancis glass, and you can always trust a wine that’s best in the Jancis glass. Though I did like the gingery high notes from the basic Spiegelau, while it feinted in a Veltliner direction from the tall Spiegelau stem. My point it, keep it away from the Zalto “Universal,” and you have yourself a wine.

Just a hypothesis here, but I think a case could be made, that my friend Walter Glatzer would be well served by discontinuing Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay – he could use Welschriesling if he needed a “gulper” – and focus on GV and SB, wherein he appears to be improving year to year. However, I’m not his importer; I’m just a long-time friend, and my advice may be disposable. I also am aware that ’19 is not a “normal” vintage. And yet.

Overall, a lot of joy around the tasting table. There is Mozart in my heart.

2020 Niederösterreich Rosé

Fragrance three feet from the glass. I always liked this wine, and never offered it only because I had so many other Rosés and didn’t want to leap onto the every-possible-rosé bandwagon.

This wine thoroughly does-the-job, nor is it merely charming (though it is awfully charming)… because we taste a slim vein of spice and berry, and god knows we love to drink the wine. Call Skurniks for a price; if I know Glatzer it will be quite attractive. And if this happens to be the Rosé you happen upon, all your desires will be fulfilled, at least the wine ones, at least the pink ones.

RED  WINES:

I confess I am hopelessly crushed on Glatzer reds; have been since the very beginning. These are every way red wine can be addictively delicious without needing to affect the raiments of “greatness,” though they’ve been creeping toward those lofty heights of late. I recall many years ago, sitting on the shores of the Gardasee on a mild Spring day, drinking a Schiava of some sort, nothing special, but thinking I could conceive no greater pleasure any wine could offer – only deeper ones.

The control glass for these flights is the Riedel “Chianti Classico,” but the Spiegelau red and the Jancis glass and both of the Karen MacNeil Oneida stems are also near at hand. It’s a cool windy Spring day, with snow-virga swirling through the air, though one cannot really distinguish between those bracing little flakes and the petals of white Spring blossoms blowing off the trees. Nature being frisky….

2017 Pinot Noir

This smells good! That isn’t always the case. Walter seems to need a good vintage for his PN to express itself. In normal years its diffidence is exposed by the greater depth and body of his St. Laurent. But this vintage is properly fruity and assertive, and just a little ungainly; the wood is over-roasted and dries out the texture; it feels somewhat too determined to proclaim itself. A close cognate might be a rustic Côte Chalonnais. However, this impression is based on exacting tasting in which “evaluating” is demanded. To simply drink the wine would be entirely pleasant with the right food and a convivial vibe.

MacNeil’s “Creamy & Silky” glass flatters the wine. Brings out the green-olive note often shown by PN that isn’t completely at home. Accents the fruit and tamps down the oak, and makes for a smoother texture. I think oxygen will decide whether fruit or oak finally prevails; I’ll taste this over the next few days.

Indeed a day later I’m not surprised to see fruit overtake wood in this almost sophisticated wine. “Almost” because there’s still a crusty kind of edge here, as though the grapes were maybe sunburned. The somewhat abrupt finish is another possible clue.

2019 Zweigelt “Carnuntum Cuvée”

Formerly known as “Rebencuvée” which in turn was changed from “Riedencuvée” by the wisdom of the DAC poohbahs. Historically this has been a wine by which you determined whether your palate was ticklish. You could also tell how much you missed Dolcetto the way it used to be, because this wine brought it back, the absurd giddy pleasure in all that gurgling fruit.

This ’19 hails from an “important” vintage, and the wine has more thrust (and more alcohol) than usual. There’s a bit of reduction under the screw-cap, and the wine feints toward its Blaufränkisch parent, darker and more adamantly violet-y than I remember. I don’t fault Glatzer for wanting his basic wine to be less “basic,” but this one seems to straddle two worlds without planting its feet in either of them, though I’m sure that a lot of fruit is being suppressed by that reduction.. I’ll leave the cap off the bottle and go back to it later. Splashing it into a hospitable carafe would be a nice plan. What I sense is the kernel of this wine is a finely textured Syrah-like fruit that would make the wine “serious” but not affected. Just while writing these words it seems to be happening.

A day later all the reduction was gone, and I had screwed that cap back on tight. So what lay below? A silky textured almost studious Zweigelt that is simple but not simplistic, and perfumed of violets and dust.

2018 Zweigelt “Rubin Carnuntum”    glug-glug-glug and    +

A consortium of Carnuntum growers decided to create a mid-weight Zweigelt prototype, under a common name.

This wine always made me crazy in my merchant days. I always adored it and never selected it, based on buyer psychology whereby customers wanted either the top wine or the “value” wine at the bottom, making orphans of the (many wonderful) wines in the middle. I don’t know if my successors are maintaining this decision, but if they are then please consider my advice: demand to special-order this wine, because it is freakin’ gorgeous. It’s the purest essence of Zweigelt, the kind of wine that could stand as the one-and-only reason to cherish this still unheralded variety. It is addictive, it is rewarding, it is hope and courage in a glass. Yes, courage! If you are still available for joy, after all this darkness and dread, then you are declaring to the Gods that you are going to live damn it, and you’re not giving up on happiness.

I won’t burden either myself or you with a list of associations. This wine is a sublimity of Zweigelt, and as perfect a moment as drinker and wine will ever share. The big-boys are coming right up, and I expect I’ll be duly impressed, but right now I want to freeze this moment, the next time I need a salve for my faltering elan vital. 

But drink it the day you open it – not that that will be difficult – because a slight edge of celeriac starts to show after three days open. But who in his right mind would leave this bottle unfinished?

2018 Zweigelt Ried Haidacker  “Erste Lage”                     +

I was delighted to see Glatzer had joined the Traditionsweingüter, which is quite an honor for a vintner thought to produce “nice, everyday” wines (but who does so much more)…..with this wine a dramatic case in point.

This is Zweigelt with “Ideas,” and as such we have to anticipate a certain brooding opacity. That, or we have to decant. If Zweigelt has any gestures toward the profound, here’s one such. It needs ten minutes to shake itself awake, but when it does it’s the classic Zweigelt writ large. Not huge, but large. I have written that Zweigelt tastes like the top notes of Syrah, the flowery parts and the berried parts, that have scampered away from the leather and the animal and the smoke. This gorgeous wine is precisely that.

To me it’s the taste of contentment. If it were a Syrah you’d take a sip and think “What on earth got into this? OMG, that aroma!” There’s a mind-meld that reminds me of excellent Crianza Rioja, though we have more depth and focus here. There’s also an improbable nuance of rose petals to go with the riot of violets. And with all its density it still offers a silky sort of coolness. Goes to show you don’t need to sport an ascot or drive a Jaguar to make a sophisticated wine. It improves over the days, showing a cherry-tobacco note on day-3.

2017 Zweigelt Ried Haidacker  “Erste Lage”             +(+)

This is both bloodier and silkier than the ’18, more Cahors or Madiran or even right-bank Bordeaux than Syrah. I think it’s in a stage, actually; in the wallows. On first glance it’s not as “varietal” as the ’18, but it offers more flavors many tasters will associate with “important red wine.” More for a leg of lamb than for pasta in a red sauce. It’s pheremonal, sweaty, dusty, but with air the variety wriggles free of the generic vinosity, and then we are off to the races.

I’m imagining a table of wine merchants in a Parisian restaurants. Some are French, some are Belgian, and they’ve been tasting all day and need to relax, so they let the sommelier choose their wines. They taste our Glatzer, and they know this world; this is earnest red wine such as would be worthy of accomplished professionals.

But fifteen minutes go by, and one of them shakes his head and asks the others “Am I crazy or is this wine really tasty?” And they summon back the somm and ask her “Where did you say this was from?”

2018 Zweigelt “Dornenvogel”                                                     ++

It’s his best Zweigelt, a mish-mosh of the best fruit from all the vineyards, three weeks on the mash and fourteen months in barriques, only 20% of which are new. If you want to see the enlightenment of modern Austrian red wine, contemplate that fact. Fifteen years ago it was all-oak-all-the-time. No more.

This wine loves to be laid down. It gets slimmer and finer with ten or fifteen years aging. I had raptures drinking a 2007 not long ago.

For all its weight, this is a sophisticated wine, and that is because it is not intense, but rather, its strength is evenly dispersed through fruit and muscle and that evanescent thing we know as “vinosity.” Wine folks will grab notes of tobacco, and I hope they have the patience to experience the fucking riot of florality that emerges with air. These are violet petals steeped in porcini stock, and again, for all the strength exhibited here, the wine is not too tannic, is not boastful; it is the wine of a vintner who’d like you to feel seen and loved.

As I finish up with the fifth of five Zweigelts, I sense the elevation of the frivolous to the level of the sublime. After all, what’s more frivolous than a flower (thank you High Johnson) and what’s more ephemeral than a fruit? But when you raise them to this level of exquisiteness, you gaze upon an element of nature that blushes to be seen. “Oh don’t mind me, I’m just a rose….”  

We need to be grateful. Not only because the wine is delicious, though it is.  But always.

AN INTERMEZZO:

2018 St Laurent “Alte Reben”        glug-glug-glug and     +

(Auto-correct keeps wanting to change this to “late Rueben.”)

This used to be the single-vineyard Altenberg and was the better of two SL from Glatzer. When it (often) worked, it offered a firmness and minerality by no means typical for this variety.

Let me intrude with a rant. St. Laurent is not an “approved” variety for Carnuntum “DAC” a

nd so it’s not allowed to show a site-name. Thus an indication of geographical origin is forbidden in favor of the generic “Alte Reben.” There’s no way this does anyone any fucking good, but I did have the satisfaction of seeing Walter grin from ear to ear when I suggested that wine laws should be created by wine growers and not by feckless bureaucrats. Rant over.

SL is prone to reduction – but not this one! It smells bloody wonderful, and wonderfully bloody. It is in fact the best bacon cheeseburger you have ever had, in the form of wine. It is also the best sautée of fresh wild porcini you have ever had, in the form of wine. And it is St Laurent in a rendition so forgiving as to be indulgent. I am  moaning as I drink it. I’m trying to remember when I’ve ever had a better one. I’m wondering if I have any ground beef around in the freezer. I’m trying to figure out how this bottle doesn’t empty itself in ten damn minutes. I’m thinking how, if you asked me “Is this a 2014 Côte de Nuits red Burgundy?” I could say anything but yes. I’m trying in vein to recall a better red wine value.

And I’m sitting, happily, in my kitchen, tasting at leisure, contemplatively and carefully, feeling so grateful and so lonely. Because there really isn’t a community of fellow wine lovers who have found these wines and loved them. I’m massively glad the wines found me, but we need you too.

 

A fine achievement from Walter Glatzer, to tame this obstreperous variety and reveal all the earthy sweetness of its ornery nature. Drink it the day you open it or a day later, but don’t keep it for days and days.

2018 Blaufränkisch “Göttlesbrunn”             glug-glug-glug and +

I used to think of BF as a kind of also-ran for Glatzer; a good wine but less salient than his Zweigelt. Then a couple years ago there was a compelling trio of BF, culminating in a 2017 (village) Prellenkirchen, that was not only his best BF but one of the loveliest I had ever drank.

To the extent we think of Blaufränkisch – we few who consist of me, Schildknecht, the editors of TRINK, and a bunch of growers and local Austrian jouralists – we think of the best growers in Burgenland. There are a few Great Names – one of whom will be the subject of my next tasting report. But one didn’t think of Carnuntum in general, or Glatzer in particular, as part of that elite.

What Walter seems to be doing is to combine his tendency to place fruit in the front with BF’s tendency to run focused, weedy, peppery and particular. People say that BF is a “specialist’s” wine, because it is relatively high in acidity and it doesn’t go in for jiggling seductiveness. If that it true, then Glatzer’s are the wines by which one enters this world. I think it’s a marvelous world. And this wine is glory-wine! It is more intricate compared to Zweigelt, more skeins and threads of detail, more silk in the notes. We know about weeds and pepper but at this “basic” level Glatzer isn’t playing there. This is a winning, fruit-forward wine yet with detail and diction. You pull a silk scarf from a drawer with a  sachet scented of blackberries and violets. Glug it all you want – I will – and yet it makes you pause and think. And thisostensibly basic wine did nothing but improve; we finished it on the 4th day and it was only getting better.

2018 Blaufränkisch Bärnreiser Erste Lage

The top dog. I had mixed feelings about the warm-vintage 2015, but loved the cooler wines that followed. Let me say it again: I am a piss pot about high alcohol.

It’s a powerhouse, this guy. Can I truly taste the difference between 13.5% and 14%? I don’t know, can I? Fourteen percent tastes ungainly to me, like a loaf of bread in the oven five minutes too long, so that upper crust is burnt and bitter. I am certainly a minority here. Others will find this a ne plus ultra of BF, but I’m tasting too much scorch and not enough flesh.

I’ll follow it over the days and see if I change my mind. (I did follow it, and did not change my mind.)

24 hours later the wine shows a blast of mint, Tasmanian black pepper and BF weediness. It intense, “big,” but doesn’t smell alcoholic. There’s a ton of lavish berried varietal jazz. I still think that, for me, it’s a wine to taste-and-admire rather than to drink and love, but only a knave would come here looking for delicacy.

2017 Blaufränkisch Bärnreiser Erste Lage

Far more aromatic, and specifically BF aromas. This is recognizably a big-ass Blaufränkisch, and if one appreciates a certain heat, this will satisfy the taste for intensity. This is pepper and berries to a point I find severe, albeit there is much to admire here. The meta-message of this note is “don’t mind Terry; he is obviously too fussy.”

 

And yet it can’t be wise to ignore the ways this wine succeeds in being “important” without being ungainly. This stands easily alongside the top-dogs of Mittelburgenland BF (a list that includes some lofty names…)

2017 “Gotinsprun”

This is in effect the “super-Tuscan” consisting of all the ostensibly best-stuff, and it shows the characteristics typical of the genre. Rusks, leather, tobacco, all the non-fruit elements of “important” red wine. Nor do I seek to trivialize importance. This wine wears its alcohol best among all the “big” boys, and it succeeds in its aims. I can’t really know what such a wine is unless it’s 15-20 years old. I am not adequate to the task of sussing them out of the gate, and so I retreat behind an affect of indifference to these mastodons. In this case it’s a sort of objectively cool respect, rather than an active desire. 

Give me a gloomy evening spitting snow, with the fireplace going and a few lamb shanks braising in red wine and porcini stock, and a wine like this would be consoling. But I still couldn’t drink more than a small glass.