Friday, February 15, 2013

the voice of Riesling, now mature...

foto: Dorli Muhr
so tonight is Parsifal at the Met—this last work by that old bastard Wagner is somehow less problematic on stage than the majority of his oeuvre… perhaps because it lacks the bloated and hysterical poetry of the Ring, and makes no significant pretense at drama, invoking rather the ritually devotional, filling it out with the various stuffs of legendry stitched reasonably well together. The first several minutes of instrumental music—I have heard a lot, but can think of nothing more sublime that’s ever reached my ears.
My first time was late July 1976, in Wagner’s own hillside temple in Bayreuth. And I had the excellent fortune of arriving in Germany for the first time as the brilliant 1975 vintage was hitting the café tables… And since then have been a devoted partisan of German Riesling, even while I do acknowledge that the boys in Austria and Alsace—and even Down Under in Oz—also make respectable examples. last Easter I was in Vienna, and had the good fortune to experience my second straight Easter Sunday performance of Parsifal in the Staatsoper. I preferred Waltraud Meier from the year before as Kundry, but Kwangchul Youn was spectacular as Gurnemanz, and Wolfgang Bankl—a fine actor, btw—was quite well-staged as a porno-film director in the role of the self-emasculated sorcerer Klingsor.

and afterward? Well, it was 11PM on Easter Sunday in Vienna—not the liveliest of European capitals—where does one go for a late snack? Answer was, the bistro at Palais Coburg—and there we found a bite to eat, along with a bottle of 1975 Rauenthaler Baiken Spätlese from Schloß Eltz. I did raise an eyebrow when the sommelier first decanted the 37-year-old Riesling and then brought out red Burgundy glasses for it—but he seemed to have done this before, so I didn’t bleat.

and what a treat! The wine could not have been in better shape from this vintage that sometimes gets short shrift in between the monsters from 1976 and the grand & eloquent 71ers...  Not only is Baiken among the more photogenic of the Rheingau vineyards, but it also has the reputation of bringing forth rather long-lived wines. The name comes from the word Biegen, which refers to the way that the vineyard arches its back as it flows over the hillside. There’s not much in the way of limestone here, but rather decomposed slate, mica schist and quarzite, blown over with loess.

and the venerable Spätlese, from this legendary but vanished estate—from what had been a difficult period for the storied Rheingau? Bottle in perfect shape. Dark gold in the glass, not nearly gotten to amber, and the secondaries were in full flower, not yet arrived at the forest-floor that someday would come out in the aromatix—and easy on the petrol... the wine possessed a vibrant acidity still; these ’75ers remain lively, and this one played on the palate with a nice breath of passion fruit and a hint of apple—which had certainly been more prominent in its youth—with lovely mineral highlights on the way down. Not so much residual sugar perceptible in the wine... and the background dishes—nothing fancy—served to bring accentuate its texture. A memorable experience.

Friday, February 8, 2013

~ good beginns on the Hungarian side of the fence

—to be sure, something rather promising this way comes...
thanks to my developing relationship with Viennese PR firm Wine&Partners, I recently received the assignment to translate a press-kit into English on behalf of an Austrian entrepreneur, who has in the last dozen years planned and planted some 5 hectares of vineyard on the Hungarian side of the Eisenberg—all with Blaufränkisch; or more properly in the local lingo, Kékfrankos.
Rainer Garger is the man behind the project, with his Hungarian cousin Imre Garger managing the vineyards and Reinhold Krutzler—who needs little introduction—as cellarmaster.
and Herr Garger very kindly sent me a sample bottle of his first release, the 2009 Nador Kékfrankos Reserve, which I lost little time in first carefully examining, then quite happily drinking.
we bear here in mind that all of Burgenland was until shortly after World War I known as Deutsch-Westungarn (Germanophone West Hungary, to put it delicately), and when Burgenland left Hungary and joined Austria, Ödenburg a.k.a Sopron decided to stay, along with Wieselburg (Moson) and Eisenburg (Vas), while Pressburg became Bratislava. So though the name remains, Burgenland lost all four burgs in its birth-pangs...
and there is much about Burgenland that has still little in common with more familiar Austrian neighbourhoods like the Kremstal and Wachau. It's a different culinary culture to be sure, and while there is more Grüner Veltliner planted in Burgenland than anything else, this region that had made its reputation on very fine nobly sweet wines has in the last half-dozen years come up with reds from their three native vines that stand a satisfying comparison to many better bottlings of Burgundy and Piedmont. Reinhold Krutzler and Uwe Schiefer are just a couple growers who’ve been bottling excellent wines in Südburgenland for quite some time now; there had to be untapped potential on the other side of this border that wasn’t always there...

and the wine:
Nador 2009 Reserve started out with a wonderful aromaticity, a whiff of dark chocolate and a bit of anis on top of dried fruit, fried fruit, true-and-tried fruit, mostly of the Weichsel/Zwetschke persuasion—dark cherries and plums... The wood was held nicely in check by Mr Krutzler; it's so easy to overload young vines with it. On the palate the cherries check in once more, rich and deftly textured with much nice spice about it, offering an encouraging mineral touch in the finish. One can imagine the potential for additional depth that will be realised in further vintages when the vines get a little bit older...