This Article Contains
Leo & Katarina Alzinger
Riesling & Grüner Veltliner in the Wachau that express the essence of their ancient steep, terraced vineyards. These are wines with very little in the way of fruit flavors and instead showcase purity, clarity and minerality.
- Defined as very cold winters, hot, short, fairly rainy summers, with long, cool, dry autumns.
- Now: winters are usually not as cold, summers are much hotter, drought is a serious problem 4 or the last 5 years, autumns start later and are often much wetter than they used to be.
- Wachau is cooled by air coming down from the forest and along the Danube valley from the west. But warmth comes in from hot eastern gusts, which start to lose their power as they head down the valley.
- The Danube also acts as an HVAC, keeping temperatures along its bank more steady than elsewhere, with reflection from the river helping ripen fruit more.
- There is a big diurnal shift (difference between day and night temperatures) starting in the fall. This extends the growing season and gives Austrian wines their signature balance of freshness and ripeness, opulence and grace.
- Cool climate wines are high in acid, low in alcohol, light in body, and often show a lot of mineral flavors rather than fruit.
- Usually white wines are made, but some light reds, like Pinot Noir can also ripen well.
- Warmer vintages: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2015 produce wines with lower acidity, higher alcohols, and richer fruit flavors.
- Cooler vintages: 2021, 2013, 2010, 2008 produce what are now considered “classic” cool-climate wines.
11.5 ha of mostly old vines on choice parcels
- Loibenberg: South facing and one of the warmest sites in the Wachau, deep loess on the lower terraces, and stony, shallow, baron soils on the top terraces.
- Steinertal: Very stony, shallow Gneiss soils, with some loess on the lower terraces. Cooler microclimate, very high acid, almost austere wines.
- Liebenberg: Amphibolite and mica-schist
- Grüner Veltliner:
- A true Austrian treasure. Grüner is rarely planted outside of its home country, but is revered the world over.
- Mainly grown in the Lower Austrian region (Niederösterreich) with some vines in northernmost Burgenland, it holds 30% of the country’s vineyard area.
- Grüner is dynamic making it known for easily quaffable fresh and fruity wines. But, it just as easily becomes Austria’s most famous long-lived, mineral-laden beauties and some delicious sekt (wine made with bubbles).
- Wines from Grüner Veltliner have continuously taken top marks in blind tastings against Chardonnay from Burgundy and California, displaying a richness and concentration sans the oak barrels its competitors rely on.
- Its flavors range from stone fruit, fresh pear, lemon, green herbs, arugula, and spicy white or black pepper. The best versions can age for decades and develop complex notes of honey, toast, chutney and wax.
- The King of White Grapes
- You’ll find it on the peaks of high, rocky, steep vineyards in the Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal.
- What they lack in vineyard area, these wines make up for in pure, clear, undeniable quality.
- The best examples show the beauty that can come from a perfect marriage: these wines bring the acidity of the Mosel, matched with the density of Alsacian Grand Crus, but are always dry and ready to age for decades.
- They often benefit from 5-10 years of bottle age, but your patience is greatly rewarded with a kaleidoscope of flavors and textures.
- Fruits span the rainbow depending on the site, style and vintage, from green melon, lime and herbs, yellow peaches and lemons, orange zest and marmalade, pink grapefruit, even a touch of cherry on occasion. But the real beauty lies in the non-fruit notes. Especially with age, you can get stony minerality, petrol, honey, toast, salt, marzipan and so much more.
- 1,200 hours’ work for every hectare
- Green space between vines for biodiversity
- Later harvest, although low sugar ripeness
- Crush whole clusters
- Short maceration before pressing
- 24 hour sedimentation
- Age on lees till the following spring
- Mature in large, old wooden casks
Leo Alzinger is not just one of the great Wachau producers, he's one of the world's best producers of white wines. Vintage after vintage, Alzinger’s wines have the magical zip that gives his wines a sense of life — and remind us why the Wachau really is Austria's best region.
Alzinger's style is one of perfect balance. His methods preserve the cut of natural acidity and keep alcohol in check. Some winemakers achieve this by picking fruit early, before the increased sugar levels overpower its ratio, a technique that forces a grower to choose between the fully developed flavors that come with longer hang times, and the loss of freshness overripe fruit can bring.
But Alzinger has found another way. He doesn’t harvest early; in fact, he often harvests later than his neighbors. It's partly his terroir – much of it is on steep terraced vineyards, at high elevation and with strong air currents, and sites that don't necessarily get full sun, all day long. It's partly his old vines, which naturally control vigor and the accumulation of too much sugar too quickly. And it's partly his experience farming these precious vines in these storied sites since childhood.
Or maybe it’s his winemaking. With his perfectly ripe fruit he isn’t afraid of a little skin contact. He crushes whole bunches of fruit and allows for a short maceration which picks up extra flavor and structural elements from the skins. Post fermentation he employs big, neutral Stockinger barrels offering a peaceful place to rest and harmonize for an exquisite mouthfeel.
Transparent, sanguine, calm.
Alzinger, Grüner Veltliner Loibenberg Federspiel, 2022 $41.99 $36.95
"This is tighter grained than the Muhlpoint in its structure, but then also more broad in terms of its texture and fruit component. It doesn’t have the fruit component of the Durnstein, but it is richer and riper. It has the Loibenberg character, direction of tobacco leaves and herbs, quite an elegant wine. 1,100 bottles for the US." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Alzinger, Grüner Veltliner Loibenberg Smaragd, 2022 $64.99 $57.19
Alzinger, Grüner Veltliner Loibenberg Smaragd, 2022 (1.5L) $129.99 $114.39
Alzinger, Grüner Veltliner Loibenberg Smaragd, 2022 (3L) $330.00 $290.40
"★★ This has the deep loess aroma of this site, it is classic and again, quite open for this period of the year. This has more of that Tobacco leaf character and it – in total 35 ha, most of the colleagues are planting GV in the amphitheater section where most of the loess has blown in. this is a delicious wine, in this kind of high acid year there is more elegance and doesn’t have the viscosity that you find sometimes in warmer years." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Alzinger, Grüner Veltliner Mühlpoint Federspiel, 2022 $35.99 $31.67
"★ This has a more spicy character than Hochstrasser, but has a really beautiful fruit character. This is more understated than the 2021 vintage. Very nice edition of this wine and a medium weight." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Alzinger, Grüner Veltliner Mühlpoint Smaragd, 2022 $48.99 $43.11
"★★ It has a lovely aroma, it is excellent, these are balanced, harmonious, and open already. I am really interested in the way that these wines are immediately showing the kind of open character for the most part. Riper, but not a rich state. 2020 of this wine felt richer and denser. This is always the earliest to show, but this is incredibly open." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Alzinger, Grüner Veltliner Steinertal Smaragd, 2022 $73.99 $65.11
Alzinger, Grüner Veltliner Steinertal Smaragd, 2022 (1.5L) $163.99 $144.31
Alzinger, Grüner Veltliner Steinertal Smaragd, 2022 (3L) $400.00 $352.00
"★★★ Smells already cooler and with more of a mineral touch, this doesn’t have the overt floral or ripe fruited character of the Loibenberg. This has a wonderful seamless and detailed character, the texture that moves to Riesling, it has such a beautiful character here. The fruit is shimmering and transparent, ripe. 21 is not more plush, but more concentrated in structure and has higher alc. This is always the coolest, most Riesling-like of the GVs." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Alzinger, Riesling Dürnstein Federspiel, 2022 $35.99 $31.67
"★★(★) Classic Riesling aroma, in the mouth, white tea, just-ripe peach, mouth water and fresh and beautiful and clear. This is again, really open, much more than the 21 was at this time last year. This has a cooling character on the palate, it is bringing so much freshness to the wine and finishing very dry and yet not austere. It is not generous, but very lively, snappy. This is fantastic. – hedging only because it might not be long enough at the moment but will change with time." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Alzinger, Riesling Höhereck Smaragd, 2022 $64.99 $57.19
"This has a riper fruit, deeper and denser. Similar to Steinertal, poor soils, 40csm then rock. Steinerthal has a lower avg temp conditions, so leaner, but Hoereck has more opulence of fruit. Riper and more overt than Steintal this is excellent and again the fruit is very snappy – there is a crisp characteristic to the fruit that keeps it from being overfilled, but more a fruit with a hard, just-ripe character. A little more red fruit than white or green. More detailed and very open." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Alzinger, Riesling Hollerin Smaragd, 2022 $59.99 $52.79
"As always, Hollerin is the more fruit driven wine of the single vineyards on the opposite side of the Kellerberg terraces. This has the kind of fruit component of the Durnstein, but with a riper kind of level, this is broader and riper, with a bit of the Loibenberg structure, but a lighter fruit touch here and excellent freshness. Here you have ripe apricot, some floral, apple blossom components, spring flowers and the sweetness of flowers rather than the true sweetness of fruit. This is an excellent vintage of this wine." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Alzinger, Riesling Loibenberg Smaragd, 2022 $64.99 $57.19
Alzinger, Riesling Loibenberg Smaragd, 2022 (1.5L) $133.99 $117.91
Alzinger, Riesling Loibenberg Smaragd, 2022 (3L) $330.00 $290.40
"This is still from Rauneck – half steinertal. The fruit character of Loibenberg is always taking the front half of the wine and is fruit driven in a way that Steinertal is much more mineral driven. This is like a fresh bouquet of wildflowers in a bowl of ripe white peaches. There kind of herbal character here is providing left to the wine and is just an accent, a background. The fruit is very bright and intact, feels like it was pulled right from the tree. Meditative and quiet to begin, soaring and intense in the finish." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Alzinger, Riesling Steinertal Smaragd, 2022 $81.99 $72.15
Alzinger, Riesling Steinertal Smaragd, 2022 (1.5L) $169.99 $149.59
Alzinger, Riesling Steinertal Smaragd, 2022 (3L) $400.00 $352.00
"This is the most closed in terms of aroma, not showing the kind of overt character that Loibenberg is showing, this is really the mineral side of the wine. This is not austere, but it has that same character that the Heiligenstein AR had at Brundlmayer – the fruit is going to take some time to be released from the grip of the mineral fence that has been built, like a stone wall." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines