This Article Contains
The best expressions of the great sites of Kamptal through the lens of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. They reflect Johannes’s energy and vitality, each one better than the last..
- 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.
- Kamptal is cooled by air coming down from the north, especially the valley’s and surrounding forest. But warmth comes in the form of hot eastern gusts, helping to ripen the grapes and keep disease at bay.
- 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.
31 ha in Zoibing and Kammern. ⅔’s of holdings are Erste Lagen (Grand Cru)
- Heiligenstein: Most famous site in Kamptal and one of the great vineyards of Austria. This terraced hill is an outcropping of 270 million year old unique formation of red sandstone and conglomerate with volcanic permian rocks. Superb Riesling is to be found here. Some plots are up to 60 years old.
- Lamm: Kammerman Village. Southeast of the Heiligenstein vineyard is the Ried Lamm. The deep loess-loam formation is interspersed with volcanic rock with a distinctive silt component. Grüner Veltliner finds ideal conditions on these deep, south-facing loess-loam terraces, to produce a particularly complex and expressive wine.
- Gaisberg: Zoibing. The easternmost end of the Gföhler Gneiss plate that runs under the Kamptal, soils are made up of slatey para-gneiss, mica-schist, and amphibolite (metamorphic rocks formed from intense heat and pressure), marble, and loess. Because of its steep southerly aspect and exposure to the eastern warming Pannonian winds, it was historically somewhere Rieling would consistently ripen. Today the wines are warm, fruity and pretty.
- 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.
- A founding member of Respekt Biodyn, a producer-led certifying group.
- Its basis is a holistic approach to biodynamics for German-speaking wines
- Johannes’s father started organic farming in the 1970s
- Utilizes “soft pruning” a method from Alto Adige that limits the amount of tissue exposed to disease
- Water Buffalo and goats from a famous cheese maker graze the pastures
- Yields between 35-40 hl/ha in the single vineyard wines (relatively love)
- Grapes are sorted in the vineyard
- No botrytis is used
- Pressed shortly after picking
- No crushing
- Whole cluster pressing, very long cycle
- Fermentations with ambient yeast
- No temperature control
- “One of the plagues of modern wine is uniformity. Cooling is one of the worst things you can do, in this regard.” says ‘Hannes
- Regional and village wines are fermented and aged in stainless steel
- Erte Lage wine are in a mix of stainless steel and large oak, depending on the vintage
- Warm vintages will see more stainless steel
- Lees aging until the next spring, but nothing by recipe
- Time in bottle is key
- Usually released two years after harvest
One reason that Weingut Hirsch's wines are so good is that Johannes Hirsch did a lot of things first. He was one of the first in Austria to dump Chardonnay and all his red vines to focus solely on Kamptal's great varieties of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. He was one of the first to farm biodynamically (and his father to farm organically). He was first to switch all closures to Stelvin. So he's had a longer time to perfect this style of hyper-artisanal winemaking than virtually anyone else in Austria.
There were hiccups along the way. Not everyone loved the Rieslings from the late aughts that ended up with some residual sugar. But it turns out that this was just what nature wanted to do in those vintages. And since then, Hirsch (and nature) have made nothing but classical, dry, elegant Grüners and Rieslings. He has avoided the trend towards higher octane Austrian wines that we have seen elsewhere. With lower alcohol levels, Hirsch shows the pure, crystalline essence of Austrian Grüners and Rieslings.
Along with Jurtschitsch, these are the best wines in Kamptal and with Bernhard Ott the best in Austria. I never miss an opportunity to buy these or drink them myself.
They age beautifully, getting better and more expressive year after year. There is a seamless, complete package in every bottle. Grape varieties are of no consequence, merely a vehicle to demonstrate the specificity of different terroirs.
Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Hirschvergnügen, 2022 $27.99 $24.63
"This is super clear, good kind of pepperiness and excellent balance between the kind of fruit character and this bright kind of spiciness. Snappy, but not overly green." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Kammern Gaisberg 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 $59.99 $52.79
Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Kammern Gaisberg 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 (1.5L) $131.99 $116.15
“Crystalline rock. Screwcap. Green, herbal aromas of spring lily pads and morning moss, chamomile and freshly cut grass. The palate is bright and supple, with a creamy concentration and sprightly acidity. Lemon and orange. Lingering minerality and spice with a delicate, textured grip. As with all the Hirsch wines, the balance and inner, centring calm lend a mesmerizing quiet. Nuanced complexity, without even the hint of a flex. 17.5+ pts” — Paula Sidore, JancisRobinson.com
Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Kammern Kamptal DAC, 2021 $30.99 $27.27
"This is great, so excellent depth and verve, great movement for a Village wine. Textbook Kamptal GV with excellent snap and acidity." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Lamm 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 $74.99 $65.9
Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Lamm 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 (1.5L) $164.99 $145.19
“Loess, Permian sandstone. Screwcap. Quiet, nascent notes of apple and lemon. Sleek, concentrated palate with steady momentum and refined texture. Nothing jarring, merely the momentum of the incoming tide, gaining in strength and power. The alcohol is beautifully balanced, with a fine and filigreed fruitiness. Lingering saline finish. Dry and beautifully deep. 17.5++ pts” — Paula Sidore, JancisRobinson.com
Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Renner 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 $59.99 $52.79
Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Renner 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 (1.5L) $131.99 $116.15
“Loess, crystalline rocks. Screwcap. Ripe fruit, orange and quince, tremendous spice. Creamy palate brimming with plum and apple, and woven with a web of structured spice. Fine, smoky, yeasty touch; balanced, nuanced and long. 17 pts” -- Paula Sidore, JancisRobinson.com
Hirsch, Riesling Gaisberg 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 $74.99 $65.99
Hirsch, Riesling Gaisberg 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 (1.5L) $164.99 $145.19
“Mica schist. Screwcap. Nuanced fruit aromas marked with a soft, herbal spice and a nearly invisible smoke. The taut palate moves in alternating waves of fruit, spring flowers and stone. Captivating citrus elevation and textured grip. Expressive, elegant and far from finished. 17+ pts” — Paula Sidore, JancisRobinson.com
Hirsch, Riesling Gaisberg Library Vintages ['15~'16~'17~'18], NV $74.99 $65.99
“Hirsch's 2015 Kamptal Riesling Heiligenstein 1ÖTW opens with a great nose that blends perfectly ripe white and yellow fruit aromas with the typical stony/flinty Heiligenstein terroir flavor. Full-bodied, rich and piquant on the silky textured palate, the 2015 reveals remarkably fine acidity, great finesse and a very long and salty finish that is also pure and finely aromatic. The 13% alcohol comes along light and vital, and the tension in the finish is full of positive vibrations. A great dry Riesling from one of the world's most spectacular vineyards for Riesling. Highly recommended! 93 pts" — Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
"The 2016 Kamptal Riesling Heiligenstein 1ÖTW is super pure, fresh, precise and mineral on the nose, offering flinty flavors of crushed stones and lemon juice. On the palate, this Heiligenstein is enormously finessed, racy-vital and elegant. It shows a certain lightness without losing complexity, intensity or length. The wine is firmly structured, but all seems filigreed and mineral here, with no charming sweetness, no creaminess, no compromises. It is a pure Heiligenstein, and the finish is salty, piquant and very compact. A highly promising dry Riesling and an impressive Heiligenstein. Tasted as a sample in late June 2017. 93-94 pts" — Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
"The intensely yellow colored 2017 Zöbing Ried Heiligenstein 1ÖTW Riesling displays a clear, precise, lovely, pure bouquet of ripe bright fruits and crushed stones. Lush and round on the palate, this is an intense, very elegant and creamy textured Riesling that partly underwent malolactic fermentation. The finish is fresh and even piquant, with stimulating salinity and mineral grip. Still very young. Tasted at Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, September 2018. 92+ pts" — Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
"The 2018 Riesling Zöbing Ried Heiligenstein 1ÖTW is crystalline, pure and fresh as well as intense on the nose that displays ripe white stone fruits. Dense, compact and juicy on the palate, with a silky texture, this is a fresh, vital and sustainable salty Riesling with a grippy, slightly phenolic finish. Tasted two times at Schloss Grafenegg in September 2019. 90 pts" — Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
Hirsch, Riesling Zöbing Kamptal DAC, 2021 $30.99 $27.27
"This is ripe, a good kind of richer fruit character, but not over ripe at all. I love the style of this wine. It has crunch and saltiness a a pure-fruit character (lemon balm and Mirabelle) that reaches to the Riedenweins." — Gabriel Clary, Skurnik Wines
Hirsch, Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 $79.99 $70.39
Hirsch, Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC, 2021 (1.5L) $169.99 $149.59
“Permian sandstone. Screwcap. Rich white-stone-fruit aromas in a refreshing blend of juice and zest. Somewhat more opulent than the graceful Gaisberg, with a stony backbone and finely textured, chiffon-thin layers of juice on the palate. Exceptionally lingering, spicy and long. 17.5+ pts” – Paula Sidore, JancisRobinson.com