Robert Parker once wrote, “One of the biggest myths in wine today, constructed on half-truths, inaccurate observations and journalistic manipulation, is that the wine market has become so globalized that international companies are producing oceans of monochromatic wines from a limited number of grapes that all taste the same. This radical and profoundly false point of view holds that individuality and artisanal winemaking have been replaced by oceans of vapid wines made with little taste or character. This is appallingly untrue.” If we needed wines to prove Mr. Parker’s point, our selections this month would be great candidates. They are distinctive wines with long histories that reflect their place of origin and their producers’ commitment to quality. While there may be some truth to the homogenization of wine styles and flavors throughout the world, we are fortunate that there is an abundant choice of wines that maintain their identities and allow our organoleptic senses to learn and grow with each new experience.
Austria has a wine-growing heritage stretching back over three millennia. It produces some of the best wines in the world of unparalleled quality, from grape varieties not grown elsewhere. Bordering the Czech Republic and Hungary, a band of vineyards runs down Austria's eastern edge. As a wine-producing country, Austria is divided into 4 wine growing regions: Weinland Österreich comprises the federal states of Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) and Burgenland with a total of 12 wine growing areas, Steirerland with its three Styrian wine regions, and Wien (Vienna), Austria's capital, which comprises 1,730 acres of vineyards. The other states of Austria are collectively referred to as Bergland Österreich (mountain country Austria), where small vineyards are thinly scattered. The vineyards in Austria cover over 121,000 acres that, for the most part, lie in the east and southeast part of the country. White wines unquestionably make up the larger portion of production – cultivated in 70% of the vineyards, with 22 white wine varieties permitted for high-quality wine production. Red wine (13 varieties) has come to represent 30% of the vineyards in recent years. Austria has approximately 20,000 small wine producing estates, many of whose financial existence is based on selling wine directly on the premises. Large (according to an international standard) wine estates consisting of more than 450 acres are rare in Austria. Although Austrians consume 73% of their own production, exports have increased considerably over the past years.
Schlosskellerei Gobelsburg, situated close to the town of Langenlois, is the oldest and best wine producer in the Kamptal region. The Zwettl Monastery was founded in 1074 and in 1171 the Monks of Zwettl were granted their first vineyards: Heiligenstein & Gaisberg–the oldest documented sites in the Kamptal. The Castle Gobelsburg and estate were controlled by as many as 19 different families between 1074 and 1740, and in 1786 absorbed the famous Kammern Winery and vineyards. Two hundred years later Eva and Michael Moosbrugger were granted the winemaking and viticultural contract in 1996. With the help and guidance of Michael’s mentor Willi Bründlmayer, the winery has regained its prestige and is considered to be a leader in quality and innovation. In 2006, Michael was named “Winemaker of the Year” by the Austrian magazine Falstaff, the highest award given to an Austrian winemaker, and in 2009, 2010, and again in 2019, the estate was acknowledged as ‘”One of the Top 100 Wineries of the Year” by Wine & Spirits Magazine.
Schlosskellerei Gobelsburg maintains many parcels in Erste Lagen (1st Growth) vineyards in the Kamptal. Of the 39 hectares under vines around the Kamptal village of Langenlois, Gobelsburg’s premium vineyards are the rocky, terraced Zöbinger Heiligenstein and Grub, mostly for Riesling. In addition, the vineyards of Lamm and Gaisberg are located on the plains, whose sandy and clayey soils are mainly cultivated with Grüner Veltliner. The Grüner Veltliner variety constitutes 50% of the total production, followed by Riesling, St. Laurent, Zweigelt and Pinot noir and Merlot. The work in the vineyard is performed exclusively by hand and the winery continues to utilize organic methods, benefitting from the fact that the monks of Zwettl Monastery began these practices as early as 1958.
The grapes for the Schlosskellerei Gobelsburg 2019 Kamptal Grüner Veltliner come from young vineyards (under 20 years old) on the former Steiner Allerheiligenstiftung, a religious foundation that dates back to 1171. Harvest was done by PLUMPJACK WINES (Fillmore Street) 3201 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94123 415.346.9870 plumpjackwines.com hand with strict selection in small containers. Following a soft pressing, fermentation took place in stainless-steel tanks at low temperatures. This is quintessential, gorgeous, slender, and refreshing Grüner with its fruit-acid tension and spicy aromatics. The characteristic peppery note ("Pfefferl" in Austrian) is accompanied by scents of pear, lemon zest and salty yeast. Its extraordinary freshness and liveliness make it the ideal aperitif wine, but it can work with classic western or eastern European cuisine just as well as with sushi, spicy Mexican or southeast Asian dishes.
Bordeaux, the world's largest wine region, is a vast area of 60 appellations and over 13,000 wineries making approximately 60 million cases annually. If Bordeaux were a country, it would rank 5th in wine production on its own. While most wine drinkers may know of the great appellations within Bordeaux, they may be unfamiliar with the wines from the Côtes de Bordeaux. This hilly appellation, located on the Right Bank, was first formed in 2009 with the union of four regions: Côtes de Blaye, Côtes de Castillon, Côtes de Francs and Côtes de Cadillac. In 2016, Sainte-Foy Bordeaux joined the group. Together, they cover nearly 30,000 acres of vines, and represent 10 percent of the total production of Bordeaux. While each appellation has its own distinct terroir, they do have similarities, particularly their long history, their hilly landscape and their closeness to the Gironde, Garonne, and Dordogne Rivers, which affect their climates.
Sainte-Foy is the smallest and newest of the Côtes de Bordeaux appellations and was originally created in 1937. In 2016, the winemakers of Sainte-Foy elected to become part of the Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. Located on the far eastern edge of the Bordeaux region, Sainte-Foy Bordeaux borders quite close to Bergerac. The vineyards cover 350 hectares within 19 different communes. Situated along the Gironde River, and near the mouth of the Dordogne River, soils here support vibrant Merlots along with a good amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are also planted to myriad of different grapes that are uncommon to most of Bordeaux including Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle, as well as Colombard, Mauzac, Merlot Blanc and Ugni Blanc. There are twenty-three winegrowers and two cooperatives working on primarily limestone and clay soils, and the average estate is about 20 acres. Producers that make red wine, can sell their wine as either Sainte Foy Bordeaux, Cotes de Bordeaux, generic AOC Bordeaux or Bordeaux Superieur.
Located on the hillside overlooking the Valée de Dordogne in the Sainte-Foy sub-region of the Côtes de Bordeaux lies Château Pré la Lande, an estate which has produced wine since 1860. Michel Beaucébegan his wine career as a merchant selling French wines across the globe. After getting married and starting his family, he decided to make a change to a simpler, more authentic life and purchased Château Pré la Lande. After meeting with a consultant to discuss best practices for his property, he made the decision to go organic and was certified in 2007. In 2013, he decided to take it a step further and seek biodynamic certification through Demeter. According to Michel, “It's quite difficult to be biodynamic, that's why many winemakers choose organic, because they can still use quite a lot of organic products for problems. When you are making the wine biodynamically, nothing can be used. When you drink biodynamic, you can be sure that you are only drinking something that comes from the grapes." Château Pré la Lande is not quite 35 acres in size which makes it more manageable to be biodynamic.
Beaucé produces three different cuvées: one has no added sulfites, one is aged in terra cotta tanks, and one is aged primarily in French Oak barrels. His oak barrels are 300 liters as opposed to the traditional 225-liter classic Bordeaux size. He uses mostly French oak but does have four high quality American oak barrels that he has experimented with as well. He blends the wine first and then barrel ages for 12-16 months depending on the vintage. All of the wines spend six months in bottle before they are sold. The wines are vegan as well. If fining is necessary, he uses pea protein.
Château Pré la Lande Cuvée Diane 2015 is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc. The grapes come from vineyards planted on hill tops and sloping hillsides with excellent Southern sun exposure, clay-limestone soils and excellent drainage. Once the grapes are harvested, careful selection of grapes takes place on a sorting table. Cold maceration takes place in concrete and natural resin vats followed by traditional vinification in temperature-controlled tanks. After the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine is aged in the best French forest oak barrels, of which 40% are new, for 18 months.
Château Pré la Lande Cuvée Diane 2015 smells deliciously of concentrated fruit that is framed by noticeable though nicely reserved tannins. Blackberries and spices coat the palate, easing into a lingering finish with plenty of savory, minerally notes. The wine is youthful but develops nicely as it sits in the glass. The Château Pré la Lande Cuvée Diane 2015 pairs very well with the deeply savory dishes such as roast chicken, mushrooms, and parmesan. It is delicious with grilled veal, pork or lamb chops especially with herbs such as thyme, rosemary and oregano.