Austrian Wines

New Year 2001/02


A visit to Vienna for the New Year's Eve Kaiserball at the Hofburg Palace  gave the opportunity for some visits to some interesting producers.

 image of he new year's eve Kaiserball at the Hofburg palate

(Click here for more pictures of the ball)



Schloss Gobelsburg

An evening visit on 29th December 2001 to Schloss Gobelsburg at Langenlois in the Kamptal was a great start.  We enjoyed a tasting of Gobelsburg and Bründlmayer wines over a splendid dinner.  

You can reach the Gobelsburg website by following this link.  The Schloss in its current form dates back to the early 18th century, though the history of the estate goes back several hundred years before that.  Since 1740, Schloss Gobelsburg has been owned by the Cistercian monks of the Stift Zwettel, from whom Michael and Eva Moosbrugger lease the Schloss and vineyards, in collaboration with Willi Bründlmayer.

Michael Moosbrugger has a low intervention policy and to avoid disturbance by pumping, he has developed an unusual system for moving wine around his cellars - some of the barrels are on wheels.  This also means that to help remove tartaric acid, they can just wheel the barrels outside when it's cold!  The majority of the vineyards are planted with Riesling or Grüner Veltliner, with a bit of Pinot Noir and also some Blauburgunder, Merlot, Zweigelt and St Laurent.  The main vineyards are the Zöbinger Heiligenstein, the Kammerner Gaisberg, Kammerner Lamm (aka Ried Lamm), Kammerner Grub (aka Ried Grub), Kammerner Renner and the Gobelsburger Steinsetz.

The Gaisberg and Heiligenstein are south facing, steeply terraced vineyards, facing the plain and the confluence of the rivers Kamp and Danube.

The original name for the "Heiligenstein"  meant "hell's rock", though the current form of the name means "rock of saints", either reflecting  the venerable wines originating here or the monks' ownership...  The earlier meaning/form of the name may be more appropriate as it is a a cone of rock which has emerged through the surrounding area and it gets particularly hot in summer, as the the top soil consists of weathered crystalline rock, volcanic and desert sands that store the heat.  The soils also provide a fine mixture of minerals to the vines. The Heiligenstein is Gobelsburg's best vineyard and is planted mainly with Riesling, and the increasing acreage of Pinot Noir.

The terroir of the Gaisberg, which is all planted with Riesling, is Gfoehl gneiss with vertical mica-schist structures. The soil is rougher and poorer than on the Heiligenstein and the resulting wines a little less minerally. 

The other vineyards are predominantly planted with Grüner Veltliner:

After a tour of the cellars, where we were able to "admire" the barrels on wheels and see some of the dust encrusted ancient bottles that the monks still store there, we tried the Gobelsburg Brut Reserve fizz in the Moosbrugger's relatively newly established vinothek.

Schloss Gobelsburg Brut Reserve
A "traditional" method sparkler made from 70% Gruner Veltliner, 15% Riesling and 15% Pinot Noir.  After six months of cask storage, it undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle and then rests for two to three years on the lees, which contribute a creamy texture.  It is hand riddled and disgorged without freezing. 

Full flavoured. Quite upfront. Very firm mousse. Clean, quite big and full flavoured without too much acid. Very good length. Very impressive indeed.


The Moosbruggers' incipient vinothek and the remains of our "champagne" reception © AJ Stevenson

After the Brut Reserve we repaired to the Schloss itself and the former monks' refectory where we very much enjoyed a dinner of pumpkin soup, drizzled with pumpkin seed oil, followed by fabulous roast goose (about half a goose each!) and cherry strudel made with cherries grown in Gobelsburg's own orchards.  Over dinner we tasted the following wines in pairs as indicated:

Gobelsburg Ried Steinsetz Grüner Veltliner 2000 12.5%
Fermented in steel and bottled quickly.  Light, fragrant nose. Clean, fresh attack. Lots of piney fruit. Fairly simple. Light and refreshing. 

Bründlmayer, Ried Vogelsang, Langenloiser Berg, Grüner Veltliner 2000 12%
More complex nose. Slightly fuller. Distinctly less fruit, but more complex 
Eva Moosbrugger pours and entertains us © AJ Stevenson
Gobelsburg Ried Grub, Grüner Veltliner 2000 14%
Full, slightly rich nose. Clean attack. Fills a lot - very full and quite fat. Possibly just a little disappointing in that it doesn't live up to the expectation raised by the nose and attack. Fermented in steel and matured in large oak barrels for 5-6 months. Really needs to be kept a few years. Fair bit of residual sugar on the finish. 
Unfortunately the bottles of the Bründlmayer Ried Käferberg, Grüner Veltliner 2000 that were supposed to be paired with the Gobelsburger Ried Grub were below par and not served.
Gobelsburg Ried Lamm, Grüner Veltliner 2000
Like the Ried Grub, matured in large oak casks for 5-6 months.  Slightly fragrant nose, if a bit flat. Good depth and character. Clean & fresh. Fills well and becomes rich and round. Very clean throughout with character. Rather good. 
Bründlmayer, Ried Lamm, Grüner Veltliner 2000
Much fuller nose than the Gobelsburg Lamm. Big fat legs. Less fragrant, but a much more serious impression. Very impressive attack. Rich and full though perhaps just a little plasticky especially towards the finish. 
Gobelsburg Ried Gaisberg, Riesling 2000 12.5%
Fermented and matured in steel only.  Most unusual nose for a Riesling (unfortunately I've not written down what made it unusual ). Lovely attack. Doesn't fill much, but a gorgeous medium weight Riesling with a nice light acidity. 
Bründlmayer, Ried Steinmassl, Riesling 2000
Very flat nose (but served rather warm). Lower acidity, slightly fuller, but lacks the elegance of the Gobelsburger Gaisberg. 
Gobelsburg Ried Heiligenstein, Riesling 2000
Full rich nose, rather lacking in fruit. Rather splendid attack. Rich and full. Some acid which comes through on finish. Good, and perhaps not showing at its best.
Bründlmayer Ried Heiligenstein, Riesling 2000
Pleasant and fragrant. Clean, fairly fresh and light-ish. Pales beside the Gobelsburg. 
Gobelsburg Riesling Alte Reben 2000 (Geisberg)
Some uncertainty as to the age of the "old vines", except that the monks, from whom Schloss Gobelsburg is now leased, know they were there in around 1958. Rather nice, more clearly Riesling nose. Fairly full attack. Clean, but full and rather rich. Slightly muddy on finish. 
Bründlmayer Riesling Alte Reben 2000 (Heiligenstein)
Very rich nose. Full on attack, then actually appears to reduce a little in the mouth as a bit of acid kicks in. Good. Quite heavy and rich. 
Gobelsburg Pinot Noir 1996 (from magnum) (Heiligenstein)
Lovely earthy, mushroomy Pinot Noir nose with soft cherry fruit in the background. Good attack. Smooth and remarkably rich and satisfying. Quite earthy on palate. Nice length. 
Bründlmayer Cuvée Cecile, Pinot Noir 1999
Much more closed nose. More forward fruit on palate. Appears much simpler than the Gobelsburg, though that does have a few years' advantage. 
Gobelsburg Trockenbeerenauslese 1998 Ried Heiligenstein
Lovely honeyed nose. Excellent, bright attack. Rich and intense. Sweet but not at all cloying. Very nice acidity. We had the last bottles of this that the Schloss had available (other, presumably, than in the Moosbruggers' private vinothek). 
Gobelsburg Zöbinger Heiligenstein Beerenauslese 1998
Again a lovely nose. Bit less intense than the TBA (naturally!). Remarkably fresh and fruity, with plenty of pleasing acidity. 


Will Opitz

Willi Opitz (on the left) explains how his CD of grapes fermenting paid for the tractor behind him

An entertaining afternoon of the 30th December 2001 was spent in Illmitz on the Neusiedlersee with the only ever so slightly mad, supreme self-publicist and extremely engaging Willi Opitz.

Willi Opitz is a man of huge energy, ethusiasm and marketing skill, who strives to innovate.  And for the most part he is successful.  He doesn't do things the easy way and a spirit of adventure is definitely required of visitors and those tasting his wines.  All the wines are made in relatively small quantities: he has just 8 hectares of vines, comprising Bouvier, Scheurebe, Zweigelt, Welschriesling, Sämling 88, St.Laurent, Muskat Ottonel and Pinot Noir.  He does make some remarkably palatable dry tables wines and an attractive fizz, but his real strength is in dessert wines.  The range encompasses Late Harvest, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines, Eiswein and Schilfwein, where the grapes are dried on mats of reed taken from the nearby Neusiedlersee.  Schilfwein required a change to Austrian winemaking law!  Dessert wines are not just made from white grapes: the signature wine (literally so: bottles are individually autographed!), Opitz One, is a trockenbeerenauslese made from the singularly Austrian red grape, Zweigelt.  Grappas, perhaps from an Eiswein are produced, and there is now even a sherry-like wine, Homok.  There is even a Kid's Wine - grape juice!

The location, on the shores of the huge steppe lake, the Neusiedlersee, stretching from Austria in Hungary, is a key element in the formation of Willi's dessert wines.  The lake is very shallow (were it not for the mud, it would be possible to wade across), and creates the ideal conditions for noble rot (botrytis cinerea) to form on grapes.

One of the most curious products - and probably the most curious product of any winery anywhere in the world is his CD The Sound of Wine, on which you can hear the sounds of different grape varieties fermenting in his winery.  It seems flippant and bizarre, but from the proceeds, Willi Opitz has bought at least one tractor.


Willi demonstrates what's happened to a grape after being left to dry © AJ Stevenson

Willi with his gizmo again © AJ Stevenson

Willi's shed (yes it is as open to all comers as that!) © AJ Stevenson

We started in the winery with a glass of pink fizz, before moving onto a number of wines produced by the jug-full from the surrounding barrels.

Willi Opitz Rosé Madame (sold under the label Fizzy Willy in the UK)
A not unattractive fizz made from equal proportions of three Austrian red grapes: Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and St Laurent. Delicate salmon pink and a delicate fruity, strawberry nose. Soft, gentle and lots of fruit. I'd swear there was some pinot noir in this, but Willi was adamant not - he puts the Pinot Noir character down to the St Laurent grape. 

Willi Opitz Barrel sample - Welschriesling Qualitätswein 2001
Finished fermenting (thankfully!) and will be bottled mid January 2002. Harvested early September. Very fresh nose with hints of grapefruit. Lots of fruit on attack. Intensely dry. No doubt it will be sold under some clever name! 

Willi Opitz Barrel sample - Silver Lake Spätleses 2001
One of the wines sold under the Maclaren Formula One racing label. 50:50 Pinot Gris:Pinot Blanc. The sample was drawn from stainless steel cask - the wine has yet to go into (used) barrique for a year. Bizarre orange peel nose. Full and already remarkably rich. Clean, lush and really very good. 

Willi Opitz Barrel sample - Zweigelt 2001
Straight from the steel. Deep plummy nose. Quite luscious attack. Bags of fruit and plenty of light tannins. Clean and fresh. Would that all barrel samples were like this! 

Willi Opitz Barrel sample - St Laurent 2001
Fabulous nose. Vaguely pinot noir like, with earthy mushroomy scents. Fairly impressive and bodes well. 

Barrels in the Opitz winery clearly marked with their contents or their ultimate destination

Moving indoors, we had an Opitz food and wine matching ... umm ... experience.

Willi Opitz McLaren Pole Position Bouvier 2001 10.5% €5.80
Ah, that well known grape, the bouvier :-) Picked on 17th August. A fresh, fruity nose. Very dry and flinty though lacking in acidity. Very clean, fresh and light with a hint of spice. Attractive.   Served with Liptauer Bread - i.e. a dark bread spread with Liptauer cheese, a classic cheese paste from the Austro-Hungarian empire, made with cream cheese, anchovies, capers, onion, caraway and paprika.

Willi Opitz Muskat Ottonel 2000 €8.70
Gorgeous muscat nose. Bright attack. Fresh and dry with remarkably lots of acid. Greatly enhanced by the superior "fish-paste sandwiches" served with it. 

Willi Opitz Silver Lake 2000 €13.70
An equal blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Slightly subdued pinot gris nose. Fairly full - and fills enormously on the palate. Very rich and just off-dry.  Served with some very unexceptional green olives.

Willi Opitz "Rotschenkel" Zweigelt Reserve 2000 €13.70
Very soft, fruity nose. Very pleasant attack. Soft, but after a while a fair amount of tannins kick in. Full, but a little simple.  Served with "Grandmother's pork" - boiled pork and dumpling.  Lovely.

Willi Opitz Welschriesling Eiswein 1998  €23.60
Picked 29th September. Glorious melon and rose nose. Clean and fresh. Lots of acid, but in check. Very clean with intense melon flavours on the palate. Served very appropriately with honeydew melon.

Willi Opitz Opitz One 1997 €30.20
Sold and labelled as Mr President in the USA following some encounter between Willi and Bill Clinton. Elsewhere, it has only a back label, the front "label" being handwritten, signed and thumb-printed by Willi Opitz.  So much for the marketing!  The wine itself is a red Trockenbeerenauslese made from Zweigelt and subjected to the schilfmandel process. Rusty, brickish colour. Lovely, slightly raisined nose. Very clean, very pure and intense. Remarkable. Quite remarkable. The combination with Danish Blue cheese was positively enlightening. 

Willi Opitz Goldackerl Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese 1998 €26.20
An unctuous gold. Fabulous nose - quite scented. Very intense and slightly toffee'd. Very impressive. This was served with vanilla ice-cream with pumpkin seed oil poured over. The ice-cream with the oil was a revelation, but the wine was better without it. 


The following wines were tasted in London on 19th May 2005:

2004 St Laurent
Still in tank.  A gorgeous vibrant mauve colour.  Lovely soft cherry fruit on the nose.  Very soft and fruity on the palate with nice structure and balance.  Interesting spice towards the finish, and soft tannins on the finish.  Very Good Indeed.   8

2003 Pinot Noir
A good, youngish colour.  A great, fruity pinot noir nose with good earthy notes.  Quite full on the attack with fairly delicate, pure pinot noir fruit on the palate.  Clean, but a bit simple.  Very Good. 6+

2004 Merlot
A vibrant young purple.  Clean nose, but rather unfruity.  Pointless and boring.  OK.   3


Weingut Christ

Vienna is the only capital city in Europe which has important vineyards within its city limits: around 620 hectares in fact.  Soils vary enormously from one site to the next and even within the same vineyard, and the quality of the wines produced can also be very variable.  Some producers are well respected, but most of the wine grown in Vienna is fairly low quality, designed to be drunk in quantity at the Heurige, or wine bars, in the outskirts of Vienna: there are about 30 of them, plus many more in more outlying areas and the Thermen region.

The bars serve Heurige wines from 11 November onwards. Heurige wines are new wines from the same year and are served for a period of 300 days, after which the wine is no longer regarded as a Heuriger.  

Weingut Christ's main vineyards are on the gently sloping south-facing Bisamberg Hill, on the north-eastern boundary of the Vienna.  Apparently, the Bisamberg is the most easterly mountain of the Alps.  And it is where most of Vienna's vines grow.  A wide range of grape varieties are planted, though as you can see GrüV dominates:

Rainer Christ, winemaker of Weingut Christ in Vienna tells us about the unseasonably warm weather © AJ Stevenson

Grapes for white wine

Grapes for red wine

The winery is based in Jedlersdorf and was completely refurbished in 1995.  Now all very modern and hygienic with temperature control.  For the winemaking, stainless steel, large casks and oak barriques are all used.


Weingut Christ  2001 Grüner Veltliner Bisamberg
A typical Viennese Heurige wine, made for immediate consumption. It has a very attractive nose - light and spicy with a hint of apple. Very light and very fresh on the palate, with lots of fruit. Fairly simple, but quite attractive. Good.

Weingut Christ 2001 Gelber Muskateller trocken
Rather subdued muscat nose. Full on attack. Fairly rich and round, yet also clean and fresh.  Again fairly simple.  Good.

Weingut Christ 2000 Grüner Veltliner "Bruch"
A rather closed nose, but fairly rich. Clean and crisp on the attack. It then fills very well on the palate. Fairly rich. Excellent length with a nice spiciness after. Remarkable length.  Very Good. 

Weingut Christ 2000 Weissburgunder "Der Vollmondwein" trocken
Christ's Pinot blanc comes from a relatively high part of the Bisamberg, specifically the Ried Falkenberg.  
Quite a "pale" nose - seems slightly oaked. Hefty legs. Fairly full attack. Good body. Full, clean and quite impressive.  Very Good Indeed.
The information sheet says that around 25% of the wine was vinified in French oak

Weingut Christ 2000 Blauer Zweigelt
When I tasted this, it had been in bottle only about a month, after 10 months in used barrique and a further 2 months in large barrels. The grapes had come from two separate vineyards, one with 15 year old Zweigelt vines, the other with 40 year old vines. 
It has a soft, cherry nose with a sweetness to it - almost a hint of white chocolate. Very soft, lots of fruit. Fairly simple and perhaps a little young, but no great life ahead of it. (Rainer Christ said he thought it would need drinking within five years at the very most.)  Pleasing, soft tannins on finish.  Very Good.

Weingut Christ 2000 Cuvee Mephisto
A barrel sample of a blend of 70% Zweigelt (from vines over 40 years old), 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Blauburgunder. This has another 12-14 months in 100% new barriques to go yet.
A dark and inky appearance and very big on the nose. Already, this is very full on the attack. On the palate, it's very smooth and is already enormously rich with great depth. Very hefty tannins apparent on finish. Could be moderately interesting when it's ready.  Very Good.

Weingut Christ 1999 Or Liquide
A Beerenauslese made from the distinctly un-Austrian combination of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling in equal proportions.
This has a very complex nose redolent of mango, honey and raisins. Fine attack - quite luscious. Very clean and fresh. The acidity isn't especially high - there's just a hint, but I think it gets away with it. Rather good - has quite a bit of interest to it.  Very Good Indeed.


Other Austrian wines

At the Kaiserball in the Hofburg Palace on 31st December 2001 (and on 1st January 2002) we had the following with the meal and at midnight.  I did not take tasting notes, or even note the vintages:

At other meals, we had the following (again no notes or even vintages!)

And a couple tasted more recently:

1999 Zöbinger Heiligstein Riesling, Schloß Gobelsburg
Greenish gold. Very slight nose with a hint of fragrance - after time the nose develops a waxy lime character. Fresh and clean on attack with notable acidity. Fills well and quite full and rich on palate. Nice clean finish, with the same acid running through. 

1998 "Pinot Cuvée" Ruster Ausbruch, Feiler-Artinger
A luscious copper gold. Intense honeyed nose with raisins and dried figs. Lavish, very sweet attack reminiscent of liquid raisins with raw cane sugar and molten gold (not that I've drunk gold - not other than Goldwasser, that is). Very intense. Very sweet, but with a welcome touch of acid on the finish. Ultimately perhaps rather unidimensional, but it's a jolly hedonistic dimension that it's on. 

1999 Gruner Veltliner Eiswein Schloss Gobelsburg
Medium gold. Unusual nose. Very intense, very elegant. But a bit odd, like scented wet grass with vanilla, lemongrass and lime. Explosive attack. Fresh and intense and almost alarmingly mouthfilling as it develops in the mouth. Very very clean and elegant - there's a fairly powerful acidity keeping it in excellent balance. Finishes with honeyed essence. 





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Last updated: 15 December 2005 12:40