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Austrian Wines:: Schloss Gobelsburg : Shattering Myth about Whites

Posted: Monday, 13 June 2011 12:09

Austrian Wine :: Gobelsburg : Shattering Myth about Whites

June 13: Although most white wines are produced to drink young, there are several that can age well besides fine Rieslings and white Burgundy. But surprisingly Grüner Veltliners and Sylvaners are also quite age-worthy as Subhash Arora discovered in Austria when he visited one of the producers, Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg, a historic winery in Langenlois in the Kamptal region of Lower Austria.

Click For Large View
Moosbrugger holding a bottle of Grüner Veltliner 1947
Michael Moosbrugger, who took over the long term 2-generation management of the winery owned and run earlier by monks of this monastery in 1996, was not a winemaker but he took the well-known producer of Langenlois, Willi Bründlmayer as his partner and engaged the services of the winemaker consultant Peter Maximilian and today is a winemaker and considered a good quality age-worthy white wine producer. 

History

The winery has a long history since Roman times but according to Michael a lot of improvements took place in winemaking between 11th and 14th century when it reached its zenith. It was as advanced as it is today but beer drinking culture came to the fore at that time and made a significant dent into wine drinking.

Red wines are aged in barrels made from regional wood grown and seasoned under the same climatic conditions as the vines and made by a local cooper. ‘We like to make our wines not of international style but our own authentic style with their own personality,’ says Michael who is proud of the dynamic winemaking technique they employ by using barrels on wheels to have the fermentation take place at suitably controlled  temperatures. Even white wines and sparkling wines they make use these tanks.

White Wine Specialists

But like most of the wineries in Kamptal, a part of Lower Austria, it specializes in making white wines- especially Grüner Veltliner and Riesling from what is known as the First Growth vineyards (an unofficial classification based on an the classification over a century ago when vineyards were classified. Several white wines are age-worthy and will last30-40 or even 50 years or more, opines Michael, busting the myth that white wines are generally to be drunk young.

White Wine Heritage

Moosbrugger is a staunch believer in white wine aging. He says that the legacy he wants to leave behind for his children will be that of white wines. How long does he think the wines would mature? ‘You are asking the wrong person. I believe for ever-but seriously, 50 years or more is distinct possibility.’ Won’t the wines change character and would they be drinkable at that time.  ‘They will definitely be drinkable. We often taste wines that are over 30-40 years and they are still singing. Of course, they have to be stored at a proper temperature and humidity,’ adding that ‘the fungus around and the location of the cellar in the basement created over the years protects the liquid inside.’

Would they be drinkable and taste the same as now? ‘The wine will definitely change its character. It is like listening to music. If you like rock and roll, you’d perhaps like young and vibrant wines. After a few years these wines become like soft music, classical music or even opera. If you try playing classical music or opera to a rock and roll or hip-hop music lover, he won’t appreciate it.

The Year of 1947

My ears perked up when I asked him the oldest vintage they had in the wine library. ‘We have several old vintages but we have quite a few bottles of Grüner Veltliner 1947 and Grüner Sylvaner 1947, the later variety has almost vanished and moved to Germany, especially in Franconia as Silvaner.

The year India gained freedom from the British was 1947 and the coincidence was not lost on me. Excited as I was, we started to look for the vintage in the cellar stocking the oldest bottles and sure enough we were able to find a few bottles complete with the black, cottony fungus (yeast present in the atmosphere) that encompasses the bottles over the decades they are resting and also helps protect them from oxidation. There were quite a few bottles of 1947 Grüner Veltliners and Sylvaners which used to be referred to as Grüner Sylvaner at that time.

When was the last he had a 1947, I asked, after holding a bottle in hand along with a metallic name plate aside certifying the authenticity. ‘ A few years ago he said, adding when queried that it was not doing a rock n roll but was singing like an opera,’ says Michael who claims it is the oldest winery in the Danube region.

Tasting Age in the Glass

Although I could not bring myself to ask him for a tasting of 1947, he did end up opening, after tasting several wines, a bottle of Riesling from 1973, which had been a mediocre year according to him. It was extremely elegant and balanced wine with a nice petrol smell and flavour and much alive. This could go on for decades more and I had no hesitation scoring it 95, the best wine tasted- I could hear Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9.

We tasted 12 wines despite his original plan to open six bottles initially. Starting with a modestly priced Domaine Gobelsburg 2010 (88), we tasted several wines including those from their Erste Lage vineyards  (a concept being used and promoted by VDP in Germany).  Although most of the vineyards were not affected by phylloxera, they were replanted after the World War II and so have some very old vines whose fruit gives wines of concentration, complexity, minerality and often spiciness.

Grüner Veltliner 2010 from the Erste Lage (First Growth) oldest Vineyard -since1951 Kammerner Renner (92) and First Growth Lamm (93) were delicious wines both, but the Renner 2004 (94) was a good example of an age worthy Grüner Veltliner –it was an elegant wine with plenty of fruits and balance and a persistent and very long after taste, truly a sexy wine.

Younger Rieslings were quite approachable and drinkable- like the First Growth Heiligenstein 2010 (91) but the real charmer was Gaisberg Riesling- crisp and vibrant, full of the pleasant ‘petrol-like’ and apple flavour, elegance and finesse with a strong impression on the back end with a long after taste (95). As Michael explained, ‘the Rieslings should be drunk in the first two years after production when they start changing their character. Then one should wait till 6 years after the harvest after which the character does not change much.’ This Riesling was not rocking’ and rolling’ but was certainly doing a tango on the tongue.

Before I left the winery, Michael Moosbrugger had me convinced that a well made Grüner Veltliner from grapes of high quality vineyards, and of course the Riesling can mature for decades.  But the amount of enjoyment depends upon how the palate of the drinker has evolved.

For more details, check out www.schloss-gobelsburg.at or contact at Schloss@gobelsburg.at . You may also contact with Aspri Spirits and Wines who import some of their labels in India.

Subhash Arora

       

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