Austrian Riesling

Reviewing 12 great whites


With the focus around here on keeping cool and refreshed, it’s no surprise that we’re on a dry Riesling kick. Dry Riesling can be wonderfully brisk and clear, the perfect wine for summer scorchers, but it’s also superbly food-friendly with the foods you might turn to during these summer days: namely take-out, thinking spicy Thai, Chinese or sushi!

Of course, you can also opt to ‘cook’ as well, say a nice chicken salad, or some shellfish with a nice Dijonaise dressing over greens, all paired with a nice heirloom tomato salad. Now that sounds both cooling and freaking delicious. The only thing missing is a great, powerful, rich yet bright and minerally Austrian Riesling!

Now, before you jump down my throat, let me just say that I am dismayed by the prices some of these wines are fetching, but that doesn’t make them any better or worse. It simply changes their value proposition and that is something I will leave to each of you. I can’t say these are killer values, but they are unique expressions of the beauty that is Riesling, so give them a try when you can; hot weather optional!

Best Value

2010 Loimer Riesling Kamptal 12% $18

Tons of trapped CO2 give this a pop out of the bottle and preserve the yeasty aromas of fermentation which are joined by a touch of butcher’s wax, some green, fresh leafy elements and hints of peach and grapefruit over a talcy mineral element.  Round yet vibrant in the mouth with a fine, slightly waxy rich entry of apple and sweet corn fruit. The acidity here is totally covered yet brilliantly vibrant and while there’s enough sugar to keep it covered, this finishes dry and nicely steely. 88pts

Top Scoring Wine

2008 Prager Riesling Klaus Smaragd 13% $50

A nice note of white cherry on the nose is joined by some Kirschy aspects, golden apples, light mineral scents and a very fine floral/woman’s cologne top note that really grows in the glass. This is really rich on entry, powerful with great depth and yet the acids stay right in there, keeping this fresh and lively. There’s no escaping the mass here but the flavors are very well-rendered with lots of silken apple and quince notes that fill the mouth and yield to a slightly more honied profile on the back end before picking up some spice. A hint of mineral on the long, elegant finish. 93pts

2008 Rudi Pichler Riesling Smaragd Wosendorfer Kirchweg 12.5% $50

Smoky and warm on the nose with notes of slightly dried fruit and dark, almost earthy, mineral scents with a touch of tea. On entry, this is broad and angular with great backing acid and a really tight, tough mineral edge. The fruit drapes nicely over the angles but it just softens the edges leaving this tense and energetic in the mouth with good depth of flavors on the palate that fades away on the finish, leaving more mineral charter to take over. Could have a little more length but this is all about the firm, texturally interesting palate with its pear and citrus flavors. Love it. 92pts

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2009 Loimer Riesling Kamptal 12% $18

This shows significant evolution on the nose with petrol notes, paraffin and dried yellow fruits. Still plenty of CO2 prickle on the tongue, followed by rich, broad, slightly waxy dried yellow fruits with lots of dried lemon zest. This is similar in many ways to the 2010, but lacks that wine’s precise balance. Definitely a wine that’s drinking well but one best consumed over the short term. The finish is on the short side here and while the acid does drive the finish, it’s uncovered and a bit hard. 86pts

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2009 Domaine Wachau Riesling Terrassen Smaragd 13% $30

Gently aromatic with nice layers of spice, pear skin, apricot, lemon drop, rainwater and hot iron all come together on the nose. Almost round on entry, then turning fairly angular quite quickly, with fine acidity jutting out past the transparent and fresh fruit. There’s a lovely spiciness to this that floats above the glassy apricot fruits, accented with lemon and lime zest. The finish shows nice length with the citrus character of the palate framed by quartzy, steely mineral notes. Fine length and really wonderful balance of flavor and texture make this a winner. 91pts

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2007 Weingut Hajszan Riesling Pfaffenberg 12% $40

A nicely layered nose of incipient petrol, apricot, jasmine, quartz and iron all seep from the glass. This enters with vibrant acids and a wonderfully precise feel. Very fresh in the mouth with a slow to emerge richness that shows the edge of evolution here. The fruit is fresh, sweet and pure, but it’s well backed up with a nice, almost steely minerality. So well-balanced with great follow through and really fine energy. You can knock the finish (it’s two-toned with citrus and mineral elements and a bit short), but this has an elegant feel and real finesse. 91pts

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  • Mayer am Pfarrplatz in Vienna is not only an outstanding winery, belonging to the WienWein group, but also a fantastic "Heuriger", i.e. wine tavern. I enjoyed very much an evening at the Mayer am Pfarrplatz last year with the WienWein makers group The "Gemischte Satz" - field blend - is increasingly becoming popular in Vienna.

    Jul 21, 2011 at 12:05 PM

  • Excellent selection, now I know what was missing in my cellar. Thanks!

    Jul 21, 2011 at 2:20 PM

  • Snooth User: Tollig
    558655 4

    Dismayed at the prices? Why is it that Riesling is always undervalued. People gladly pay huge amounts for chardonnay, from burgundy or elsewhere, but complain if a good quality riesling cost more than $25. Top quality German and Austrian Riesling are among the best white wines in the world. If anything,they should cost more.

    Jul 21, 2011 at 4:48 PM

  • .... and what in the blue blazes is "butcher's wax". Hoist on your own petard, Gregory. Just too, too pretentious.

    Jul 21, 2011 at 8:26 PM

  • I have the benefiit of living in Vienna (not far from Mayer am Pfarrplatz). The value of the wine in Austria should not be in dispute. Also the tendency is to get what you pay for.
    The best white wines are long lasting but drink well from an early age. The Rieslings can be magnificent but so too the signature grape, Gruener Veltliner (also most versatile) and there are some stunning Sauvignon Blanc (complex and long). Most of the wine is drunk within Austria (sadly for the rest of you) but some excellent ones escape the border. I have the Prager Klaus in my collection. I recommend it.

    Jul 22, 2011 at 1:53 AM

  • Snooth User: kmackie
    451384 21

    You missed the winery, which I believe makes the best Austrian Riesling and that is Weingut Tegernseerhof! Well priced and UNBELIEVABLE quality!

    Jul 22, 2011 at 8:26 AM

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