September 4, 2017
MORE AUSTRIAN DELIGHTS
- A visit to the modest town of Deutschkreuz was rewarded with an hour, or
so, of time with a remarkably talented vintner in Silvia Heinrich.
Her family traces its roots back to the mid-1700s, but it was Silvia's
grandfather who planted a lot of the various vineyards she cultivates
Her parents ran the modest winery until 2002 when ownership transferred
into her capable hands. They have about 36 hectares of vineyards,
along with using 4 hectares owned by their cellar man, Mario.
Most of the production is Blaufränkisch as this is, after all, Blaufränkischland!
Her grandparents planted numerous vineyards when they got married, shortly
after World War II.
As a result, Silvia has the luxury of producing wines from 50-70 year old vines!
The "Goldberg" vineyard site is one highly prized by Silvia.
Aside from the rabbits, notice the little cabin atop the highest part of this
hill. Before the war, a nice little villa was situated there, but
destroyed by Russian soldiers. Today she's been allowed to construct a
small edifice and it's a nice little retreat to sip a glass of Blaufränkisch
during the summer when the vines more intensely carpet the hill.
The rows planted by her grandparents were quite far apart, so her father had
the idea of planting a 'second' row closer to each of the original plantings.
This part of Austria has numerous windmills.
Back at the winery, the Heinrich cellars are immaculate and well-organized.
A few of the more 'fancy' bottlings are matured in small oak, though Silvia
is refining her idea of the right level of wood and reducing the exposure to new
barrels by a small margin.
There are larger wooden casks for maturing various red wines, too.
But Silvia has traveled a bit and so she's also interested in
dabbling around with Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir (50 year old Pinot
vines!), Zweigelt and there's even a small patch of Nebbiolo as she spent some
time in Piemonte with a family that specializes in Barbera (I suspect they
didn't want her to plant Barbera...she might make one that's superior to
When you taste the range of wines Ms. Heinrich produces, you'd come to the
conclusion that Blaufränkisch is a rather "noble" red grape, easily
on par with varieties such as Tempranillo and Sangiovese, for example. Her
wines easily are comparable with many Cabernet Sauvignons, too, for that matter,
although the Blaufränkisch grape probably shows greater versatility in terms of
producing seriously good wine with little or no oak...Cabernet seems to often
achieve greater notoriety when it's in new cooperage.
We currently have her 2009 "Goldberg" Blaufränkisch
in the shop. This is an exceptional bottle of wine and it comes from
vineyards planted the year Silvia's grandparents were married, 1947.
The wine displays beautiful dark fruit notes, with blackberry and dark plum
notes. There's a woodsy quality to the wine, too, but the oak nicely
seasons the wine. The texture of this on the palate is a delight. It
pairs well with roasted chicken or red meats, though the tannin level is modest,
Currently in stock: 2009 HEINRICH BLAUFRÄNKISCH
- This estate has
become highly regarded for its wines. The family has long been in the
Burgenland near the Neuseidler See, but for many years they were part of a
grower's cooperative winery. Then in the mid-1980s, the farm was being
run by Josef Umathum.
in the early 2000s we knew this estate as a good source of soulful Zweigelt
and Blaufrankisch. His wines routinely stood apart from
others and we found the wine to have a really interesting fragrance and a
deep, compelling flavor.
A few years ago we tasted a number of wines and didn't find them to be as
interesting as they had been. So they dropped off our radar. He
was fooling around with Pinot Noir, if I recall correctly...perfectly okay
red wine, but not as good as the Blaufrankisch!
Recently a new importer picked up the Umathum wines and we just tasted a
remarkably fine bottle which is a delight. It's even more amazing in
that this guy, a red wine specialist, is dabbling with some white
grapes. Well, nearly "white" grapes.
Umathum grows two types of Traminer...one is the Gelber or
"yellow" Traminer. This is a rather aromatic grape and it's
now said to be probably the same variety as the French variety from the Jura
called Savagnin. And Umathum has a "red" Traminer...there's
a clone of Traminer, you see, which when it gets ripe, has reddish-colored
The 2011 Traminer is sensational! The color is light yellow and the
fragrance is beautiful, with aromas of rose petals, ripe honeydew melon and
a pear-like note. It tastes fairly dry...if it has any residual sugar,
it's got to be close to 4 or 5 grams per liter.
This is a delicious partner for Asian-styled foods.
There's a nice, traditional underground wine cellar which, as you can
see, has a high level of humidity.
- At ground level, Umathum has a beautiful barrique cellar...
Josef shows off a bottle of wine which could possibly land him in
jail. It was made with the nearly-extinct grape called Lindenblättrigen
and Umathum's mistake was printing the name of that "unapproved"
variety on the label. So now, bottles of this wine have the grape
name blotted out and there's a sticker on the bottle explaining why (and
naming the agricultural minister and winery "police" official
who sought justice in this criminal matter).
- Umathum could be jailed for 15 days.
We offered to send him a pizza if he's behind bars and he said that's
okay, but to please bring some wine, too.
It seems the grape was not listed in the government's official roster of
grape varieties and so, under Austria's strict labeling laws, it cannot
appear on the label, nor can the appellation or vintage!
So, this wine is strictly verboten!
We have a 2016 Rose which reminds me of the marvelous pink wines
made by Robert Mondavi in the early 1970s...Mondavi's was made from the Gamay
grape. Umathum's is made of three Austrian grapes: Blaufrankisch,
Zweigelt and St. Laurent. If you would have said our best-selling Rose
this year would be from Austria, I'd have said you're crazy...but this past year
we found great success with this wine as people who never would have thought to
buy 6 or 12 at a time!
The wine is medium-bodied, dry, redolent of fresh strawberries and is a delight.
The 2011 Blaufrankisch comes from gravelly soils which have a lot of iron.
Umathum says the vintage was very good in terms of quality. We like the
mildly spicy notes--there's a red fruit element here with a faintly peppery
character. Maybe it's got a touch of underbrush, along the lines of a
Most people do not think of Austria as a prime place for Sauvignon Blanc.
But the Steiermark region in the south produces world class Sauvignons (and they
can be expensive, ranging from $25-$60 a bottle). Umathum makes a bit of
Burgenland Sauvignon and it's aromatic and redolent of gooseberries and
"green" things. We find it to be dry and there's no oak
here. Very fine. And it's a most pleasant surprise.
Currently in stock: 2011 UMATHUM Roter & Gelber TRAMINER
2016 UMATUM ROSE $18.99
2011 UMATHUM BLAUFRANKISCH $21.99
2015 UMATHUM SAUVIGNON BLANC $17.99
town of Andau was actually Hungarian until the 1920s when it became part
of Austria's Burgenland. It's situated near the border and it was
somewhat the subject of a James Michener book called "The Bridge at
Michener wrote about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the mass exodus
of people across the border at Andau.
Today it's a small town of a couple of thousand people. About 300
are members of this co-operative cellar and they've spent a ton of money
over the past decade, or so, to modernize the winery and improve wine
They've also enlisted the help and advice of a prominent, local vintner to
elevate wine quality. As a result, Josef Umathum is a periodic
visitor to this place (about a 15 minute drive from his home base in
We tasted a couple of simple red wines from Andau and we liked their
Blaufrankisch, but were enchanted by their Zweigelt! It's a young,
berryish red wine with no oak, and a nicely spicy quality. It's only
13% alcohol, a relief from so many California wines which tip the scales
around 14.5% or 15%!
A remarkably good sweet wine is currently in stock. It's made from
the aromatic Scheurebe grape and was picked at Beerenauslese levels of
sugar. The wine has just enough acidity to keep it from being
ponderous and it's a delicious wine right upon release. There's a
honeyed note along with the fruity, citrusy tones.
And with Sauternes going for $30-$60 for a similar quality half-bottle,
this is a deal.
Currently in stock: 2010 ANDAU Zweigelt Sale
2015 ANDAU Scheurebe Beerenauslese Sale $19.99 (375ml)
modest estate is situated in Austria's Wagram region, a bit north and west
Owner and winemaker Bernhard Ott has been attracting attention to his
vineyards and wines for some years. In 2008 he was named as
"Winemaker of the Year" by the Falstaff magazine, Austria's top
His is regarded as a Gruner Veltliner meister, but perhaps even
more: a Gruner fanatic!
Ott's wines, though, are not for everybody.
He is farming biodynamically and we find his wines to be more along the
lines of "terroir" bottlings than typical varietal
offerings. And this is the wine Ott wants to make. He strives
to capture the character of the vineyard site in his wines.
There's a 2009 Gruner Veltliner and this wine is a bit different from the
other bottlings of this variety we have in the shop. It's certainly
a more "terroir" driven wine, rather than a wine capturing the
fruit elements of Gruner Veltliner. If you can imagine a wine made
of Gruner, but with the stoniness you might find in a somewhat flinty
Chablis, then you'll have an idea of what to expect here. It's quite
dry and the minerality is more prominent than the character of the grape.
Currently in stock: OTT 2009 GRUNER VELTLINER
Schmelz is the kellermeister and owner of this wonderful little winery in
the Wachau town of Joching. This town (and some of its
neighbors) is home to many of the very best Wachau producers.
Competition is fierce and this probably accounts for the rather high level
of quality, even at the more modest wine estates.
Johann is the fifth generation of Schmelz's and the sixth, Thomas
Schmelz, is already quite active in the vineyards and winery.
Johann's first vintage was 1988 and today they have about 10 hectares of
estate vineyards. They also buy fruit from several growers.
They are amongst the "elite" producers in the Wachau, being on
the expert's list of the best vintners.
Johann and Thomas, with the wonderful expanse of the Wachau behind them.
Thomas shows off their soil, a major factor in the quality of their
They plant Riesling in the more sandy areas and Grüner Veltliner is
situated in "loess," a somewhat fine, powdery soil.
Their vineyards are well cared for.
Nice elevation, too, providing good drainage for the vines. Behind
the town in the distance and just before the mountains is the Danube
They have a lot of stainless steel and refrigerated tanks to ferment the
juice of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner at low temperatures. This
isn't much of a "secret," but it does account for the remarkable
freshness in their white wines.
- We first discovered their wines when their importer brought by some
fabulous Grüner Veltliner. The "basic" Schmelz wine
displays a wonderfully intense grapefruit and white pepper spice we love
in this variety. This has the Steinwand designation, a vineyard site
in the Joching area.
We picked up some Riesling "Stein am
Rain". This is a wonderful site for Riesling as the
"stein" contributes a stony, minerally character to the floral
Riesling. The wine, of course, is rather dry and perfect with all
sorts of seafoods or white meats. It's great with asparagus wrapped
with smoked ham or Prosciutto, for example...delicious wine!
I had heard Mrs. Monika Schmelz is quite a good cook and I happened to
visit around lunch time. This was most fortuitous as Monika was busy
preparing a meal.
Johann got busy and opened some wine and Monika served up a delightful,
The main plate featured some sort of cutlet with the most marvelous knödels!
Monika's sauce was outstanding...really great "soul
food." Interestingly the Grüner Veltliner is flavorful
enough to match up quite handsomely with the food.
Schmelz does have a nice little "weinstube." It's not open
consistently throughout the year, but click on this link and you'll arrive
at a page which may have their current schedule.
Currently in stock: 2007 Schmelz GRUNER VELTLINER
2004 SCHMELZ RIESLING Sold Out
WEINGUT WALTER GLATZER
Carnuntum region is a hop, skip and a jump east of Vienna. If you can
figure exactly how to get out of the city of Vienna, you're about a 20 minute
ride to Göttlesbrunn where you'll find several interesting wineries.
One of the most famed is that of Walter Glatzer. He owns about 16 hectares
of vineyards there, producing about 10,000 cases of wine annually.
We've frequently been attracted to Glatzer's wines, sometimes finding a white
wine or two to be to our taste. Other times it's a red.
I was invited to a major Austrian Bacchanalia in June of 2004 and we had a
couple of Glatzer wines which were absolutely delicious!
The wine which attracts the most attention for this estate is a red blend called
"Gotinsprun," an ancient version of his hometown of Göttlesbrunn. No matter how you say it, this wine is
We currently have the 2000 vintage Gotinsprun in the shop, a wine that's
predominantly Blaufränkisch, Cabernet, Merlot and Zweigelt. A more recent
rendition (not here yet) features a bit of Syrah, too!
The Glatzer wines tend to be reasonably priced. And people flock to his
cellar door because of this price/value ratio...
But Gotinsprun is not inexpensive. Though I suppose if you compare it to a
similar quality Super-Tuscan or chi-chi Australian Shiraz, you'd find this
The wine certainly features oak. But it's not just a carpenter's
delight. There are interesting vineyard and fruit components here as
well. I find this drinkable now, but then I find most good, balanced wines
to be interesting in their youth.
I tasted a fantastically good St. Laurent from Glatzer. The 2003 is a
rather warm vintage, so the grapes had little difficulty in achieving an
optimum level of sugar. This variety is sometimes likened to Pinot
Noir, but I can't say this wine is particularly Burgundian in style.
It's more like an exuberantly berryish, faintly floral, nicely oaked
Zinfandel except it doesn't have the prune or raisined notes of many
Zins. Youthful and drinkable now....delicious.
Currently in stock: 2000 Gotinsprun Sold Out
2003 St. Laurent "Altenberg" Sold Out
Weninger family actually owns a couple of wineries within close proximity,
but one of them is across the border in Hungary!
Located in the famous (or increasingly famous) wine village of Horitschon,
Weninger cultivates numerous hectares in the middle of Blaufränkischland.
Their vineyards are impressively maintained and the vines are cropped to
maximize the quality.
Franz Weninger runs the winery in partnership with his wife Martina.
We stopped to inspect some young vines near the town of Ritzing where
Weninger has planted Pinot Noir.
"This should be a good site for the Pinot." he explains.
"The elevation is good, the soil is chalky, the climate is more
moderate than at our home vineyards a few kilometers away and we've
planted good clones of Pinot Noir." Their vineyards are
organically-farmed, by the way, though they don't make a fuss over
this. It's simply the "right thing to do."
Franz took over the family estate in 1982, making fairly standard red
wines and offering them for sale in bulk or in liter bottles or
jugs. His 1983 Blaufränkisch attracted a lot of attention, a
"taste" of what was to come.
In 1992 Weninger began a collaborative effort with famed Hungarian
winemaker Attila Gere. And in the late 1990s, he founded another
winery across the Hungarian border and his son takes care of the
winemaking and vineyards there.
Capturing the "Winemaker of The Year" award from a national wine
publication in 1995 hasn't seemed to go to Weninger's head. He's
very serious and passionate about making soulful wines.
The cellars feature both stainless steel and new, but "old
fashioned" wooden fermentation tanks.
There's a cellar full of new and recently-acquired small, French oak
barrels, but Weninger does have a "traditional" small cellar
with large casks such as the one pictured above.
The line-up is impressive at Weninger and they maintain a rather modern,
somewhat austere tasting room. The architecture is rather modern for
both the winery and offices.
Though he's not famous for white wine, Weninger does make a rather good,
light, typical Sauvignon Blanc.
Their importer gave up the ghost a while ago and we have not seen the
wines in a few years....
Currently in stock: 2001 Blaufränkisch Sold
2003 Blaufränkisch Sold Out