Saturday, May 31, 2008

The First Day of VieVinum

It seems rather non sequitur, but I’m now in Vienna. It’s been a strange day — first, my friend wound up in hospital (he’ll be fine, but it was a good thing that he got there when he did), and second, it’s become apparent that I am increasingly unlikely to ever see my suitcase again, which was lost by the airlines — multiple times, in fact — between Jerez, Madrid, Paris and Vienna. I suppose it serves me right for checking in my baggage (always a foolish and perilous decision), but it’s mightily perturbing all the same, as that particular piece of luggage contains many things that are extremely valuable to me, not the least of which are my favorite pair of Crockett & Jones handgrade monkstraps.

As a sort of consolation, I tasted a number of phenomenally outstanding wines today at VieVinum, the grand, bi-annual Austrian wine fair. The 2007 vintage is right up my alley — less dramatic and less alcoholic than 2006, and perhaps less consistent, yet the best wines are equally as fine, with the terroir signatures very clearly and keenly expressed. If I had to pick a wine of the day, it might have to be Hirtzberger’s 2007 Riesling Singerriedel, although F.X. Pichler’s 2007 Riesling Kellerberg and Undendlich provided stiff competition, as did Nikolaihof’s 2004 Riesling Steiner Hund. But then, these are all incredibly blue-chip wines — you don’t need me to tell you that they’re great. The collection of the vintage so far for me, however, at least in the Wachau, is Alzinger.

The other collection that struck me today was that of Johannes Hirsch. I’m already a huge fan of Hirsch’s wines — he makes it easy, with great vineyard sites and pure, natural and conscientious winemaking. Not to mention that the prices are very kind for the quality, plus you get wonderfully goofy labels like this Trinkvergnügen. Since 2006, Hirsch has begun converting the estate entirely to biodynamic viticulture, and he couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Even after only two years, he already notices a markedly different character in his vineyards: “The great thing about the biodynamic wines is that they are physiologically ripe earlier, with less alcohol and an extra layer of minerality,” he says.

Everything he poured me today was utterly fantastic. I would happily drink the 2007 Trinkvergnügen #6 as my house wine, and the “village” wines, Kammerner Heiligenstein Grüner Veltliner and Zöbinger Riesling, were both disarmingly fragrant, focused and pure. Gaisberg Riesling was deliciously vivid and refined, and Heiligenstein Riesling perhaps even more so, with both of them clearly and poignantly demonstrating the personalities of their respective sites. The 2007 is as good a Lamm Grüner Veltliner as I’ve ever seen from Hirsch, feeling extremely expressive and soil-driven, and what’s more, it’s only 12.7 percent alcohol. The Heiligenstein, by the way, is only 12.3 percent, and the Gaisberg is 12.2 percent. Do I like biodynamics? Yes!!!


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