SUNDAY DECEMBER 17:
MORE AUSTRIAN WINES
Kamptal estate has been owned by an Austrian monastery and searching for
management, they approached one of their famous winemaking neighbors, Willi Bründlmayer.
He enlisted a friend to manage the estate and soon Michael Moosbrugger found
himself ensconced in the wine-making business, coming from a fancy hotel and
restaurant in Lech am Arlberg.
It's the Zwettl Abbey and it was founded in 1137. The first recorded
references to a Schloss in the town of Gobelsburg was a few years later, in
1178. The Zwettl monks have owned this property since 1740, a vintage
which was well-regarded back in its day we're told. Today the
Monastery owns a huge forest, a fish farm, an agricultural enterprise and
this viticultural domaine. The wines had been made by a fellow
who'd been at the helm of the cellar since 1958. When he was
ready to retire, they needed to find a capable replacement.
What a daunting task this must have been for Michael Moosbrugger!
He came to the winery in the mid-1990s with the task of making good wines
and elevating a struggling little winery to national prominence. Not
only is it one of the most famed wineries in Austria, the Gobelsburger name
is now prominent on wine lists around the world.
- The property consists of 100 hectares of which 35 are devoted to
vineyards. They also have apricot and pear trees, but it's wine which
put their name on the map.
Reflecting on his arrival, Moosbrugger said "It was a time of
renovation and modernization. Many wineries were bringing in stainless
steel tanks to 'bring temperature to the wine.' I thought maybe we
should bring the wine to the temperature and so we purchased these large
wooden tanks which we have on wheels. We can move them around the
cellar to warmer areas when that's needed and cooler temperatures when
- Those big tanks are on rollers as you may be able to see. "It
takes maybe three of us to roll one of those from one part of the cellar to
another." Moosbrugger explained.
The range of wines is impressive. There are numerous Grüners and
Rieslings, but also a Rose, Zweigelt, St. Laurent, Pinot Noir and a spiffy
bubbly that's made of Gruner with small amounts of Pinot Noir and
The wine is called "Gobelsburger" and it's their entry level
bottling. I was simply delighted by the 2011, as usual. It's fresh and
bright, capturing the zesty, almost spicy nature of Grüner Veltliner. Even tasting this alongside Gobelsburg's other,
estate-grown and more costly wines, I still found this to be amazingly
good. Grapefruit, dill, white pepper spice...think of something like Gewürztraminer-meets-Sauvignon.
You simply have to try a bottle.
Don't miss this, especially while the weather is warm. It's got a
screw-cap stopper, too.
Each wine, though, is a lovely expression of grape and terroir at this
cellar. But there are two wines on the upper end of the spectrum
which, if you are in tune with these, will floor you.
Moosbrugger makes what he calls "Tradition" wines.
a relatively small amount of both Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, Michael
says these are made employing 19th Century winemaking
"Modern winemaking is all about the aromatics and preserving
fruit. We care for the wines to bring about a lot of aroma. The
Tradition wines, though, are made with a totally different idea. Each
wine is brought to a significant point of development. Like human
beings, the wines have to 'breathe'. The idea here is to bring oxygen
to the wine, so it might be termed oxidative winemaking. To do this we
employ lots of rackings to allow the wines to breathe and we do this every
three or four months over the 18 to 24 month maturation period."
Well, I'm not much of a fan of wines that are oxidized or the so-called
"orange wines" which get a lot of attention from various
writers. But these are wines which are elegant and wonderfully
complex. I'd go as far as saying they're candidates for the dinner
table when you might more immediately consider something such as a good
I found both versions of Tradition from the 2010 vintage to be
stellar. These are 'serious' wines and intended for good food.
- Michael Moosbrugger, by the way, was honored several years ago as Falstaff magazine
(Austria's top wine publication) "winemaker of the year."
Not surprised...if the guy can make Grüner Veltliner like this little gem and sell it
here for $16.99, he's a magician!
- Currently in stock: 2012 Schloss Gobelsburg GRÜNER VELTLINER
2010 SCHLOSS GOBELSBURG GRÜNER VELTLINER "Tradition" Sale
2010 SCHLOSS GOBELSBURG RIESLING "Tradition" $56.99
In the cellar with some historical bottles and old vintages...
Markowitsch name is well-regarded in Austrian wine circles, there is no
The family traces its roots back to about 1750, or so. The winery was
doing well in the 1980s, but became more 'serious' in the 1990s. The
new cellars, though, were rebuilt in 2001.
There are several wine families with this name and one of the top, if not
the top is that of Gerhard Markowitsch. The winery and vineyards
are located near Vienna in the Carnuntum wine region. This is about a
50 minute ride east of the city in a wonderful little wine village chock
full of wineries!
They own approximately 40 hectares of vineyards and purchase fruit from
perhaps another 50 hectares...Soils, according to wine-meister Gerhard
Markowitsch, are mostly limestone.
This fellow is a believer in the vineyards accounting for the quality of the
wines. He has a very modern cellar with wooden fermentation tanks for
reds and stainless steel for the whites.
- Markowitsch is one who
strives to make "international quality" but retaining the
originality of the Göttlesbrunn terroir. He finds the conveniences of
technology to be tools to be used to "retain" the quality of the
wine which starts, of course, in the vineyard.
- The cellars have a lot of cooperage...and these fancy barrels on
rollers for fermenting red wines and turning them to keep the skins
submerged in the wine...
I was introduced to this family by the famous Burgenland winemaker, the late
Kracher. "You don't know the Markowitsch's?" he cried,
"Then let me introduce you to them!"
I was especially pleased to meet these folks, since my mother's family is of
the same name! My grandparents, though, came to the U.S. when they
were babies, so we don't know precisely where the family started in Europe.
wines I tasted from this property all are in the well-made category.
The whites are nice and a bit light. Gerhard produces Grüner
Veltliner, a good non-oaked Chardonnay, a light Sauvignon Blanc, a stony
"old vines" Grüner and a mildly oaked Chardonnay.
Reds are more interesting...there's a good Carnuntum Cuvee featuring
Zweigelt withb a bit of Pinot Noir and Blaufrankisch.
The straight Blaufrankisch is solid and there's a nice Zweigelt that's
called "Rubin" (Perhaps 40 vintners in the region use the Rubin
name for a locally-grown Zweigelt of full-throttle intensity).
I liked the St. Laurent here, too and it captures a note reminiscent of
We currently have a 2009 Pinot Noir...this wine always arouses the curiosity
of customers who buy their first bottle based on our 'say so.' And
then they return buy a few more because they now have their own "first
palate" tasting impression and know the wine to be good quality and
It's a smooth, medium to medium-light-bodied Pinot. It features the
grape more than the barrel and is a delight served at cool cellar temp...
Currently in stock: 2009 Markowitsch PINOT NOIR $21.99
winery traces its roots back to 1898. In the late 1920s, F. Pichler
began weeding out over-productive Gruner Veltliner vines and propagating
more shy-bearing plants.
In 1971 the estate was taken over by FX Pichler, Franz Xaver. In
1999 FX's son Lucas took over the winemaking, allowing FX to hang out in
the peace and quiet of their Wachau vineyards. Both father and son
are perfectionists and it shows in the wines.
Many people will tell you the F.X. Pichler winery is Austria's top
estate. And we won't argue with that notion, though certainly there
are dozens of really passionate winemakers in that little country.
At a big wine fair a few years ago, I had the pleasure of spending the
better part of a day roaming around the stands of Austrian vintners.
All the top players were there, including F.X. Pichler. I tasted
through the wines and the first was great and they got better from there.
The young lady pouring the wines, a family member, spoke rather good
English. I asked her if she had ever heard the term "cellar
She had not.
I explained this is a syndrome where a winemaker or vintner becomes so
accustomed to his or her own wine, no other tastes as good to he or she.
"Oh, okay. I understand." she said.
I further explained, "But you know, in the case of your winery, it's
quite alright. You should feel your wines are superior because,
well, they are!"
She was quite pleased with the compliments.
There is nothing hugely special about their winemaking.
The wines, in fact, are merely a reflection of the care and attention to detail
paid in the vineyards.
The grapes are picked into bins, sorted, crushed and returned into those bins
for a bit of skin contact. The juice is then settled a bit before they
start the fermentation.
Pichler wines ARE exceptional typically. And fame carries a price,
unfortunately, so F.X. Pichler wines are in demand and priced
accordingly. But we can say the splurge is usually worth it.
Currently we have a 2010 Gruner Veltliner Federspiel from the Loibner
Klostersatz site. This is a flat place in what was once the
Danube River. Sandy soils. It's said this terroir produces a
lovely, light, crisp Gruner and that's what you'll find in their 2010. But what they describe as "light" does not mean the
wine lacks intensity. It is quite aromatic and nicely
flavorful. Dry, of course.
There's a 2010 Gruner of somewhat greater concentration from the Loibner
Loibenberg site...it's a steep, south-facing slope producing even more
'serious' quality Gruner.
In Riesling, we have their 2010 Loibner Oberhauser which is a site located
within the Klostersatz...nicely fruity, dry, aromatic...
And there's a 2010 Loibner Steinertal Riesling...Eastern part of the
Wachau and this site produces a Riesling with great fruit
intensity...almost peach and ripe pear notes.
Here's "the dirt" on FX Pichler!
Currently in stock: 2010 F.X. PICHLER Gruner
Veltliner Federspiel "Loibner Klostersatz" $39.99
- 2010 F.X. PICHLER Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Loibner Loibenberg $59.99
2010 F.X. PICHLER Riesling Smaragd Loibner Oberhauser $49.99
2010 F.X. PICHLER Riesling Smaragd Loibner Steinertal $65.99
ETZ (PRODUCER OF OUR FAVORITE GRUNER
local, Bay Area importer who's from Austria, had the idea of bringing in
some really good quality, price-worthy Gruner Veltliner in order to gain a
place on restaurant wine lists.
He figured he might be able to sell his other, more special wines if he
had an over-achiever which could be offered "by the glass" at an
attractive price for both the dining establishment and the customer.
- We've routinely rejected wines in liter bottles, not so much for the
size of the bottle, but because the plonk most wineries offer as
"economical" everyday wine is of dull quality. Who needs
And the sales reps retort is "Well, it's not bad for its
price." And our response is "Yeah, well, it's not good for
its price, either."
So then one fellow, who brings in some pretty good wines, shows up with
the newest vintage of his "take me to your liter" white wine
and...it's astonishingly good!
It's not bad for the price.
It's great, no matter the price!
- Apparently this importer dabbled in Gruner Veltliner from a region known
for its "good value" wines at modest prices and he had a bit of
success. But then he switched producers, finding the Etz brothers in
a more upscale neighborhood, the Kamptal.
Yikes! Seriously good Gruner which highlights the melon,
grapefruit and white pepper spice...it's a total delight on all counts and
then remember: It's only $13.99 a bottle and there's 33+ ounces
here, not the usual 25! Case discounts, too.
Currently in stock: 2013 FRANZ ETZ GRUNER VELTLINER
- Kracher is the king
of Austrian dessert wines and his reputation amongst winemakers is held in
Alois Jr. took over for Dad in the 1980s and was certain his region would
one day be famous for luxurious sweet wines. The neighbors all thought
Alois had fallen on his head with such a crazy notion, but he had seen the
Neusiedlersee (the large lake near his village of Illmitz) and other small
lakes in the region helped create a lot of fog. These conditions are
ideal for the "noble rot," Botrytis cinerea, to take up residence
on the grapes and concentrate sugar levels.
He made a wide range of wines, but it's the late-harvested wines that
attract the most attention.
Sadly, Alois passed away at an early age in 2008. He was a real
pioneer and a legendary figure in the Austrian wine industry.
The "normal" style of wines are tagged as "Zwischen den
Seen," translating to "between the seas (or lakes)."
These are, generally, lower alcohol wines, somewhat along the lines of
late-harvest German wines.
The other wines are "Nouvelle Vague," or "new
wave." These are more reminiscent of a Sauternes-styled wine,
being higher in alcohol and having seen French oak. Kracher then
labels these wines with a number corresponding to the level of
sweetness that particular wine achieved in a given vintage. The higher
the number, the sooner you'll need to see a dentist. But the
greater number is not a qualitative assessment.
We were amused to hear Kracher speaking about his wines. He was obviously quite passionate. The subject turned to Eiswein and Kracher,
who makes one, seemed to dismiss this as somehow lacking the artistry or
majesty of botrytis-affected wines.
For eiswein, of course, one need to have reasonably healthy fruit remaining
on the vine in the cold of winter. No brainer.
For botrytis affected wines, a grower must manage the fruit, watch the
weather report and be very selective in what grapes are allowed into the
press and what juice is allowed to ferment.
We typically have a few bottles of his wines in the shop. Almost
nobody that is perusing the dessert wine section has even a (nouvelle) vague
clue as to these wines. Since some wine writers tend to gush over
these wines (Kracher has been named "Winemaker of the Year" more
times than Barry Bonds has been named "Most Valuable Player"),
someone periodically brings one of these to the counter in an effort to add
to their credit card debt.
Kracher is also collaborating on a sweet wine project with Jorge Ordoñez,
importer of some delicious Spanish wines. These are being made in
The bottles are all "half bottles."
- Currently in stock:
- There are various 375ml bottles in stock from the 2005 vintage...$49.99
K (California Collaboration)
Martin Nigl in 2014
- WEINGUT MARTIN NIGL
- The Nigl family used to deliver their grapes to the local cooperative. They
started making their owns wines only as recently as 1986. Located in the
Kremstal, the family cultivates a fair bit of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling,
along with a
tiny bit of Zweigelt and Neuberger, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc and
something called Chardonnay.
The estate comprises some 25 hectares and Nigl's wines are considered
amongst the top in Austria. We've tasted a number of vintages and
always find the wines to embody "finesse." Sometimes the
wines are, perhaps, too fine for my tastes or I am viewing them alongside
wines which offer more/bigger/flashier elements and these tend to blind me
to the elegance of Nigl's offerings.
If you're on the same wavelength as Nigl's wines, you're in for a treat,
Nigl is one of
those winemakers who seems to consider his work more as a
"custodian" than as an artist. He understands crop
management and viticulture as his primary work, with winemaking more as
guiding the fruit through vinification and into the bottle. Nigl
prefers to use the wild yeasts for fermenting the juice. No enhancing
the juice with sugar...he farms the grapes properly.
Gravity is used to clarify the wines, as Nigl doesn't "fine"
We have his 2007 Kremser Freiheit Grüner Veltliner in stock. This is
a marvelous wine which seems to have an underlying power, without being
really flashy or too strong. You'll find notes of Grüner spice
and the wine is dry. I found it to be one of the more enchanting
Austrian wines in my most recent survey.
Currently in stock: 2007 NIGL Kremser Freiheit Grüner Veltliner
Velich is making some remarkable Blaufrankisch and his wines are some of
the most "soulful" you can find in Austria.
He embarked on what he calls the "Moric Project" some years
ago, feeling that the Blaufrankisch grape was one that had great
potential to reflect its terroir and vintage.
While it seems to us that many producers in the Burgenland handle
Blaufrankisch a bit like Cabernet or new world Syrah, the Moric wines seem
to reflect a more Burgundian approach to grape growing and winemaking.
Velich is not a fan of making bigger and more powerful wines to appeal to
those who have to have the same kind of wine, whether it's from Napa,
Bordeaux, Italy, South America or Austria.
His vineyards are in Neckenmarkt and Lutzmannsburg...the former
is on the radar of most Burgenland wine drinkers, while the latter is a bit
off-the-beaten path. Lutzmannsburg has volcanic soils, with clay and loam
which Velich credits bringing elegance and finesse, along with a measure of
tannin and acid, allowing for wines with a good life span.
In Neckenmarkt, the vineyards have a higher elevation so retaining good acidity
is easier. The soil types are varied, though, with limestone, clay, loam
and schist, depending upon the particular vineyard site.
As a result, with a dozen sites in Neckenmarkt alone, Velich ferments each
parcel individually to have a better grasp of each vineyard's unique
characteristics. But he's not interested at this stage in making
single vineyard wines, but wines which express the best character of the
By the way, the vineyards he purchased are seriously old and planted at a far
greater density (vines per hectare) than typical Austrian vineyards. This
is another piece of the Moric puzzle and the basis for the success of this
It's clear, when you taste this fellow's wines, that he's got a good grasp of
grape growing and winemaking. The wines have a soulful quality which
reminds us a lot of Burgundy and Barolo. And this seems to be a major
distinguishing element in the Moric wines.
We've brought in a few vintages of his entry level wine.
These are not inexpensive, but the basic bottling has tremendous character with
a reasonable price tag. For us, these have been the best price-to-quality
The current vintage is the 2012...and, as we found with other
vintages, the wine shows handsomely in its youth. This has dark cherry
notes and maybe a hint of blueberry...there's something hinting at Burgundy, but
it's not Pinot Noir...maybe a forest floor sort of character which we enjoy in a
good Burgundy? It's a medium-full red, but not a blockbuster, as it
doesn't taste Californian or Australian, for example.
We feel this is a terrific wine and it merits its price tag.
Currently in stock: 2012 MORIC Burgenland
- The Steiermark is
home to the Neumeister family and their excellent compound in the town of
Here you'll find a lovely wine cellar, but also a terrific, small hotel and
a noteworthy dining establishment which showcases the Neumeister wines.
- We've been fans of Neumeister's Sauvignon Blanc wines. This region
excels with the Sauvignon grape.
- They have 26 hectares of their own, renting another 15. Grandpa
Neumeister got started in 1961 in bottling wine. Dad's first vintage
was 1979. Now young Christophe runs the cellar and is doing a really
- We tasted numerous delicious whites. The Pinot Blanc wines, labeled
as Weissburgunder, were especially good. The 2003 "Klausen"
shows wonderful woodsy, brown spice notes. I also found an
outstanding Sauvignon Blanc designated "Klausen." This offers
herbal tones and a bit of citrus, along with a hint of pepper spice.
A 2003 Pinot Gris, called Grauburgunder "Saziani" was
exceptional. It has nice woodsy spices, too. A Roter Traminer
from the 2004 vintage was very fine. They also do a nice job with
We have their famous Moarfeitl Sauvignon in stock. This is an
intense, deep Sauvignon with nice citrus and herb tones.
The 2003 Klassik Sauvignon is a fresh, crisp, mildly citrusy, dry
white. Very fine.
Currently in stock: 2001 Sauvignon Blanc "Moarfeitl"
2003 Sauvignon Blanc "Klassik" Sold Out
dinner with Rachel & Christoph at Neubauer.
ON TO THE NEXT PAGE &
BACK TO THE PREVIOUS PAGE