Vibrant green-golden hue. Lush, rich, deeply flavored with a wonderful aroma of sun drenched peaches and apples balanced by notes of grapefruit and nutmeg concluding with a persistent finish marked by stony minerals and supportive acidity. So what was this masterpiece? As it turned out, and perhaps not a surprise to some of us, this was a top white wine from Austria. Specifically, it was a Gruner Veltliner, Austria’s famous indigenous varietal, from one of the country’s best growers/wine makers, Johannes Hirsch. Not just a handsome face -Hirsch is one of the best looking male wine makers in Austria -he is as serious about his vineyards as any vigneron on planet earth.
Hirsch is part of the young glob trotting circle of wine makers who have enriched their understanding and craft by working in such diverse wine areas as California, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This diversity of vinous experience has enabled Hirsch to bring the new world focus on depth and ripeness of fruit flavor to the traditional old world emphasis on acidity and minerality. His Gruners and Rieslings, all from the grand cru quality vineyards his family owns in the important village of Kamptal, often exhibit the yin of luxuriously expressive fruit flavor to the yang of ripe citrus permeated minerality. His wines are both delicious and complex. They have found favor with new drinkers and connoisseurs alike. The Hirsch estate dates back to the 1870s and is comprised of some 70 acres divided among three exceptional vineyards.
The Lamm vineyard – the source of the fabulous wine we tasted–is south facing and composed of loamy soil which is ideal for Gruner Veltliner. Hirsch uses a strictly organic approach to his vineyards. In 2003 Hirsch decided to bottle all his wine in the Stevin screw top fashion in reaction to the number of his wines ruined by bad corks. He is hardly the only maker of high quality white wine. Studies in Austria, New Zealand and Australia have confirmed the benefits of screw top for preserving freshness and liveliness in white wines. The title indicates that we all regarded this as a nearly ideal Thanksgiving wine. Indeed we could hardly imagine another white wine which could handle and compliment the many trimmings that typically accompany a Thanksgiving meal. With its layers of ripe fruit, round acidity and gentle spiciness, the Hirsch Gruner is a treat for the senses.
Bob Millman New York Vintners