16 Mar 2012

Not enough time (Niederosterreich, Austria - Day Four)

It is difficult enough trying to find time to visit each region and spend enough of it to really get to know the producers, varieties and styles. There are so many regions in Europe alone that I am having to compromise in missing so that I can spend enough time in other regions. Further difficulties have come up recently as I have been attempting to get a working-holiday visa for Germany so that I can join such producers as Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in the Mosel and Gunderloch in the Rheinhessen. It's also important for me to be able to travel in Europe for the remainder of the year. This has meant I have had to return to my local Aliens Authority office in Neuss where a friend lives three times, the most recent time driving back for nine hours to provide fingerprints and my signature. I'm also not so happy with my car so I'm trying to find a mechanic who can have a look at it, but it's not so easy. Thus I had to cut my Austrian journey short and I didn't get to visit Burgenland as I planned.

The "Rotes Tor" (Red Door) entrance to the vineyards above Hirtzberger
Yet another one of the producers I met at Prowein was Franz Hirtzberger, and like others I was reluctant to taste their wines out of context without first visiting the region and winery. Spitz is at the opposite end of the Wachau region from Krems, and the Hirtzberger family have been involved with wine here for five generations. Owining parcels of fruit in some of the highest quality vineyards above Spitz, the winery produces some of the best white wines in Austria. The vineyards are some of the steepest in the region, and are heavily influenced by the distinct micro-climate of the valley in which they are located. As this is the coolest part of the Wachau the best fruit tends to come from the steepest south-west facing slopes, as they receive more sunlight and therefore ripen better. Unfortunately Franz was not at the winery for our appointment, and his wife was left to look after their son whilst we tasted some of the 2011 wines, so I didn't get to see the winery. I did drive up into the vineyards after the tasting to come to terms with the Rotes Tor (seen above), and the vineyards below it.

Franz Hirtzberger
The winery produces wines in the three Codex Wachau categories of Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd. More than most of the wineries I visited in Niederosterreich, between the quality levels there was a very discernible difference with the Hirtzberger wines. The Rotes Tor Federspiel Gruner Veltliner 2011 had a deep berried spice nose, very subtle but with bright flinty minerality. The Rotes Tor Smaragd Gruner Veltliner 2011 had much more texture and volume, and was rich in a stone fruit earthy style. The Axpoint was significantly more closed than the others, and showed more pear fruit and opulence, and more integrated alcohol than the Rotes Tor. The Steinterrassen Federspiel Riesling 2011was suffering from bottle shock having only been bottled a few weeks before, and so was a little closed and reductive on the nose. There were some nice floral citrus notes, and was very tight and fresh on the palate. To finish with the Hochrain Smaragd Riesling 2011 had a lovely cherry blossom sherbet concentration on the nose, and on the palate had good weight and balance with a stone fruit delicacy.

Freshly pruned vines in the Franz Hirtzberger vineyards
Click here to see more photos from Day Four in Niederosterreich, Austria.

No comments:

Post a Comment