Loimer and Alois Lageder

I haven’t been very prolific of late and I can’t say I’ve been particularly busy doing other things… but never mind, I did attend a tasting last week…

Stefanie Lobner, visiting from Loimer in the Kamptal and Urs Vetter, from Alois Lageder in Alto Adige, presented a masterclass together, hosted by importer Red + White, in the Hellenic Museum’s beautiful Henderson Room.

The wines, tasted across six brackets, were as diverse as they were compelling, all from single sites and all grown biodynamically. Even if you maintain a heathy skepticism when it comes to biodynamics you must at least concede to the fact that wines grown with such care are quite often appreciably finer than those grown conventionally. As Lobner explained, perhaps more eloquently, the natural inhibition of yield from vines grown biodynamically has an immediate impact on quality. Furthermore, it’s a healthy practice whichever way you look at it.

Both Lobner and Vetter were incredibly knowledgeable and engaging speakers. The wines are all brilliantly crafted, complex and drink with remarkable finesse.

Fred Loimer began working biodynamically in 2006 and is a founding member of respekt-BIODYN. The 2016 Grüner Veltliner wines from the Loiserberg and Spiegel sites were followed by Rieslings from Seeberg and Steinmassl. All were fine and complex wines with moderate alcohol levels. The 2016 Steinmassl Riesling was my pick of the bunch; succulent golden-toned fruit is balanced by a fine line of acidity, it’s seamless, a sublime wine.

I’ve something of a fetish for Gewürztraminer when it’s made well and the 2015 Alois Lageder Am Sand was jut that: dry, of course, with great varietal character and remarkable elegance. The 2016 Forra Manzoni Bianco, too, was brilliant. Manzoni Bianco is a Riesling and Pinot Blanc crossing created and most widely cultivated in the Veneto. It’s a particularly aromatic grape, textural, but dry extract imparts definition.

Both producers offered outstanding Pinot Noir. Loimer’s hailed from the Anning site of Gumpoldskirchen in the Thermenregion. Lageder’s from the Krafuss site west of Bolzano. Both wines had an attractive sweet tone to the fruit and a refreshing quality. Loimer’s perhaps offered a little more density… whichever you prefer is up to you.

Finally, we tasted Lageder’s 2015 Cornus Lagrein Riserva. Not a variety you see on shelves in Australia very often. There’s an almost red-lolly like character to this wine and a bit of the old farm animal. It’s bright and juicy and yet almost paradoxically firm and savoury. Is it for everyone? No… but I liked it a lot.

Riesling Downunder 2018 (in brief)

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Riesling Downunder 2018 has been and gone! I found plenty of inspiration over the three days that the symposium raged here in Melbourne, but here is a brief rundown…

Sunday’s Riesling Riot, held in the Regent Theatre’s Plaza Ballroom, was open to both consumers and trade and was well attended. The atmosphere was convivial and, thankfully, free of snobbery.

My feeling was that the Pfalz represented its self particularly well, notwithstanding the likes of Robert Weil from the Rheingau and Dönnhoff from the Nahe. VDP president Steffen Christmann presented his own brilliant wines while Reichsrat von Buhl and Ökonomierat Rebholz offered Rieslings of the highest possible quality. Tom Benns from Bürklin-Wolf came with no current release wines but this proved to be a blessing in disguise; both the 2011 Gerümpel P.C. and 2014 Gaisböhl G.C. were stunning.

Marc André Hugel kindly presented both the 2007 and 2008 vintages of the outstanding Schoelhammer Riesling this year. Schoelhammer is a small 0.63 ha parcel within the Schoenenbourg Grand Cru; the wines show incredible complexity and finesse, they are released late and in very small quantities. I first tasted Schoelhammer in 2016 when I finally made the pilgrimage to one of my favourite estates. Also not to be missed from Hugel are the Grossi Laüe* wines. It was great to have Marc André as a visitor to Melbourne once again!

Of course, I am always partial to the wines of the Mosel and whilst Ernst Loosen drew a relentless crowd throughout the day the wines of Heymann-Löwenstein and Ansgar Clüsserath seemed to make a profound impression on punters… naturally.

The very eloquent Mike Bennie presided over two days of masterclasses held at the Arts Centre Melbourne with very special guests. Producers in attendance, together with a contingent of formidable Australians, included the likes of Theresa Breuer, Philipp Wittmann, Cornelius Dönnhoff, Hansjörg Rebholz, Johannes Hasselbach and Vincent Bründlmayer amongst others. Estates such Robert Weil, Heymann-Löwenstein and Egon Müller were very well represented.

With an element of friendly competition and a rotating panel of learned speakers, conversation over the two days ranged from the influence of terroir and winemaking technique to the relevance and future of Riesling in the market. As expected there was a strong bias towards dry Riesling and there was not one dry wine of the 2016 vintage shown that was not exceptional.

From the Mosel, Kathrin Starker of Heymann-Löwenstein spoke with great insight and deftly answered questions from the audience and Veronika Lintner, who represented Egon Müller, was one of the very few to speak so eloquently of residually sweet Mosel wines, dismissing the notion that terroir is most clearly expressed in dry wines. The 2016 Scharzhofberger Spätlese, just quietly, was a special wine indeed.

Given the exceptionally high quality shown across the whole event it’s very hard pick just three standouts… as well as the aforementioned Schoelhammer, these were the wines that stood out for me:

2016 Dönnhoff (Niederhäusen) Hermannshöle GG, Nahe – This wine stole my heart with its  almost Saar-like coolness and tranquility. Aristocratic, crystalline, pure and seemingly infinite.

2009 Koehler-Ruprecht Riesling Kallstadter Saumagen Auslese trocken ‘R’, Pfalz – It’s no secret that I love the wines of Koehler-Ruprecht dearly. The Auslese trocken ‘R’ is a mature release and always a hedonistic wine.

2015 Ökonomierat Rebholz (Birkweiler) Kastanienbusch GG, Pfalz – Lauded by everyone present and for good reason. Ripe and succulent with a firm mineral frame; a masterful balance of fruit and acidity.

*Grossi Laüe is ‘Grand Cru’ in the Alsace dialect.

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Von Hövel Hütte GG

I have just published my first article: The VDP and its Klassifikation (Part 1) in the new Content section of this site. As previously mentioned, I aim to continually expand on the information available here… 

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Very much in keeping with the theme of the aforementioned article, I’d like to make mention of a wine I’d been eager to revisit since my first tasting in November; the 2015 Von Hövel Hütte GG from the Saar. I suspected that I had unfairly judged this wine for it’s unconventional style…

The Oberemmler Hütte is the monopol of Weingut Von Hövel. I believe this sees a few days of skin contact which sets it quite apart in style from the feather-light 2016 Saar Riesling feinherb that I’ve been consuming with enthusiasm lately. I find the aromas of citrus blossom, ginger and black tea very attractive; there’s even the mildest paraffin note. It’s rich in extract, creamy even, but thoroughly well balanced, pithy, tense and long. It’s absolutely delicious. 11% alcohol.

This is ready to drink but you needn’t hurry. Imported into Australia by Heart & Soil and available online through Randall’s.

On a closing note, I would like to politely remind all who have not given consideration to Riesling Downunder 2018 to please do so. Just over two weeks to go!

Weingut Hirsch, Kamptal

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Hirsch is not a producer that I can claim to know an awful lot about… and I’m not a walking repository of information on the Kamptal either (time for a visit). Most of my experience with this region has been limited to the wines of Bründlmayer and Schloss Gobelsburg (as if that were a bad thing)… but the wines of Hirsch made quite an impression on me when I first tried them about a year ago.

Johannes Hirsch, together with his family, produces wine with an unwavering faith in nature; he understands his terroir intimately and works, biodynamically, with utmost respect for his environment. He favours extended contact with fine lees (feinhefe) and the resulting wines pair creaminess (cremigkeit*) with remarkable elegance.

Hirsch produces only white wine, solely from Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, and fruit comes from some of the finest sites in the Niederösterreich; Lamm and Grub in Kammern and Gaisberg and Heiligenstein in Zöbing.

The 2013 Heiligenstein Riesling Reserve** epitomises the style of the estate that I’ve come to understand in my limited experience. It radiates a distinctive warmth; marmalade-like, creamy/honeyed… but tense, brilliant and firm. It is so beautiful and has years ahead of it. I didn’t decant this wine (as Hirsch suggests)… rather, I drank it very slowly. That patience paid off…

The Heiligenstein (36.7 ha in total) put simply, is the result of ancient volcanic activity and about 280 million years of tectonic movement, vegetation, decay and erosion. If someone else can sum it up better in one sentence then be my guest… otherwise, I found this article by Sally Easton MW quite informative. The Website of Weingut Bründlmayer also has some useful information.

*please forgive my occasional use of German adjectives.
**it’s that extra .5% of alcohol.

The wines of Weingut Hirsch are imported into Australia by Enoteca Sydney.

Riesling Downunder 2018

For those of you not already planning on attending, Riesling Downunder 2018 runs from the 2nd to the 7th of February in Melbourne and Sydney. This is the most significant event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Riesling Riot runs on Sunday the 4th here in Melbourne at the Regent Theatre Plaza Ballroom and on Wednesday the 7th in Sydney at the Sydney Town Hall. Tickets to either of the five-hour symposia are very affordable and the list of outstanding producers from around the world is exhaustive.

Head to Riesling Downunder to read more. I hope to see you there.

Riesling Downunder is presented by Frankland Estate, Jim Barry and Pikes. Event partners include CellarHand.

Frohes neues Jahr!

Hello all,

It’s been an intensely busy festive season and time has been short. I do hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and enjoyed many a fine bottle of wine with family and friends.

I will be attempting to broaden the content and information available on the site over the next month or so. The idea is to take it from a ‘here’s what I drank last night’ blog to an actual resource for both wine lovers and those in the trade.

I am leaving my sommelier position at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Melbourne this month and am looking forward to making some positive changes for the future.

Fondest regards,

Phillip

Hofgut Falkenstein

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Living in Melbourne, I’ve seldom had the opportunity to drink the wines of Hofgut Falkenstein. Based in a side-valley in the north of the Saar called the Konzer Tälchen, father and son Erich and Johannes Weber produce a range of light and mostly dry Riesling wines bottled not simply by vineyard, but by cask. They farm about 8 hectares of old vines, a portion of which are ungrafted, and adhere to a strict low-yield policy. In the cellar fermentations occur with ambient yeasts in 1000 litre Mosel Fuder.

Despite specialising in dry wines the Webers still label with a Prädikat (Kabinett trocken, for example) and chaptalisation is out of the question, not merely because it’s not allowed for Prädikatsweine but on principle; the practice is redundant for wines of this style in any case. As a rule, a Kabinett trocken will be lighter than a Spätlese trocken.

The Saar is a special place, there’s no doubt about it. There is a feeling of tranquility about the region that makes the Middle Mosel feel almost metropolitan by comparison. Temperatures in the Saar are on average lower than in the Middle Mosel and the rainfall is higher, as a result the wines here are far racier; must weights are lower and levels of acidity are more pronounced. To some palates the Saar offers the purest and most profound expression of Riesling on the planet.

I drank the following two wines recently and stashed another away for lunch on Christmas Day…

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
Stunning clarity, pure, tense, tropical accented fruit… incredible detail and length. There is a breathtaking lightness, a coolness, about this Auslese and it only tastes at sweet as some Spätlesen, I am mighty impressed.

2016 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese Trocken
The Ober Schäfershaus is a 0.2 ha parcel within the Krettnacher Altenberg that was recently purchased by the Webers. Amongst slate and quartz, you find the basaltic diabas, also found in the Saarburger Rausch. This, more than the Auslese, illustrates what the Webers do best. Flinty and faintly smoky, a whiff of iodine even. Very tense, very elegant. It does benefit from a little air.

The Webers also farm plots in the Niedermenninger Herrenberg, Niedermenninger Sonnenberg and Falkensteiner Hofberg. The wines of Hofgut Falkenstein are imported into Australia by Andrew Guard.