Emmanuel Tresmontant - 2011-08-02
The Kamptal, to the northwest of Vienna, is a mountainous region that produces some of the country’s finest Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. These crystalline, delicately crafted white wines that improve with age are good competition for even the most renowned of Burgundy Chardonnays. We meet with two exceptional local winemakers: Willi Bründlmayer and Michael Moosbrugger.
Vienna, in its glory, all too often monopolises the attention of those who travel to Austria. Yet just one hour’s drive away there is an abundance of fabulous areas to explore! Take for example the small town of Langenlois, a jewel of Baroque architecture, surrounded by mountains, forests and vineyards, situated just 70km from the capital. Throughout the year Austrians and Germans come to “get their fill” of wines and make the most of it by staying 2 or 3 nights in a guesthouse or at the Hotel Loisium run by New Yorker Steven Holl, an ultramodern architectural meteor that has landed in the midst of the vineyards.
A Nature Reserve and an Exceptional Location
"50 million years ago,” Willi Bründlmayer tells us, “the mountains here were 8,000 meters high, just like the Annapurna range is now. But with erosion, they’ve been worn down to expose the bedrock that’s the essential support for our vineyards. Here all the minerality the vines need is tapped directly from the soils which are very favorable for our traditional grape varieties, the Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. "
The reputation of the lands surrounding Langenlois dates back to the middle ages and the Austrian government has always been keen to preserve such heritage, in this case by creating a nature reserve surrounding the river Kamp, where the fauna and flora can thrive. The Kamptal winegrowers also enjoy state subsidies if they convert to organic farming methods. However Willi Bründlmayer, with the largest estate in Austria (80 hectares) didn’t wait to get this aid before disposing of herbicides and using wild garlic to fertilise his vineyards.
A great, yet little known grape variety
In Austria, Grüner Veltliner is the national grape variety par excellence! In the Wachau region the Grüner Veltliner grown in the terraces above the Danube impress with their minerality, rectitude and liveliness. In Langelois, they are rounder, plumper and more sensual.
Willi Bründlmayer’s varieties have gained an international reputation. Whilsthis Riesling is austere and concentrated, the Grüner Veltliner is spicier and more expressive. Willi has his own cooperage and matures his wines in barrels of Austrian acacia wood, which is more neutral than French oak. His seven Grüner Veltliner grown on different plots are distinguished by their delicacy, freshness and their aromas of peach and tropical fruit. The prize, however, goes to the Kamptal Reserve Lamm wine (one of the greatest white wine vineyards in the world), obtained from his oldest vines, over 60 years of age.
His Trockenbeerenauslese are sweet wines of a rare elegance with only 7.5% alcohol content. They’re full of freshness and are easy to drink: nectars that go down well with an apricot tart or apple strudel!
The Schloss Gobelsburg Castle
The ghost of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux apparently still haunts the vaulted cellars of this former monastery. Since 1996 it has been run by Michael Moosbrugger, voted "Austria’s best winemaker" in 2000. Surrounding the castle are 37 hectares of vines which plunge their roots into the prestigious soils of Heiligenstein and Geisberg.
Moosbrugger’s old Grüner Veltliner vineyards are not to be missed as they clearly reflect the myriad nuances of Langenlois’ soils and climates. Aged for 8 months in Austrian oak barrels, they have surprising levels of minerality, elegance and aromatic richness. The Schloss Gobelsburg "Renner" 1er Cru, is the Castle’s standard bearer owing its vitality to the soil’s volcanic residues. Note that it matches particularly well with all kinds of Asian and spicy dishes. I also recommend Moosbrugger’s Eiswein made from grapes harvested below 10 ° C in December. This nectar is replete with aromas of fresh apricot and candied fruit.
Like his friend Willi Bründlmayer, Moosbrugger strives to his make wines as naturally as possible by using low levels of sulphur. In Austria this is an important detail because sulphur is routinely used to prevent malolactic fermentation (with the aim of maintaining high levels of acidity in the wine.) The custom has been to drink the wine very young, just weeks after bottling, when the sulphur in the wine hasn’t had time to dilute. This can provoke a rather unpleasant burning sensation in the throat and on the palette. However with Michael and Willi’s wines there’s no such risk: their wines are silky smooth!
Tel: +43 (0) 2734 2172 0
Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg
Tel: +43 (0) 2734 2422
You can purchase these wines at Clark Foyster, the UK Specialist importers for Austrian wine.