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Day 1, Roter, Botrytis and Tradition

After a bumpy arrival in Vienna, which included a lost luggage I was ready the next morning to begin tasting the precise wines of Kremstal. My first stop was Mantlerhof, a winery located just about 10 minutes from the town of Krems, settled in an old monastery that has been owned by the Mantler family for over 200 years, and that serves as home for the family as well.

I was received by Josef Mantler, about the 6th generation of winemaker in the family, who from the beginning he strikes as approachable and friendly. At a young age of 25 he has clear point of views of his wine philosophy and more importantly what he does not want in his wines. For instance, he never rushes his wines, as I learned that the Sandgruben Riesling 2018 had taken almost one year to ferment, providing a wine that was strikingly gravelly and with a high sense of minerality.

One great characteristic of Mantlerhof is their wide range of out of common range that has allowed them to become one of the champions of the little known variety Roter Veltliner. This variety is characterised for having the highest extract in a white wine variety, providing wines with great texture, and great flavor intensity, think of honeycombs, honeysuckle, pineapple, accompanied with some great acidity and a strong ageing potential. Quite naturally rich, and with a charming mouthfeel. Having tasted the Ried Rasenthal 2018 wines they stroke to me to be nicely floral, always with a bite in the palate that is unique to this wine.

Take into account that Josef uses botrytis in his winemaking, being able to produce wines with more fruit intensity, and some added weight and richness. This philosophy has lead the wines always to have a cheerful and explosive character. One of the clearest examples I found was in the Gruner Veltliner Losser Terrassen which is a blend of the mid-terrace vineyards that he owns, with aromatic notes of ripe papaya and with lemon pie, accompanied with its high acidity.

My Mantlerhof visit was characterized by the humbleness and ambition that Josef portrays. His wines certainly have his signature, and they can also be considered unique within the area, be by his love for that botrytis touch or by always giving a chance to lesser known varieties. For instance, in the future there are plans for a furmint bottling, perhaps the next big surprise coming from Austria. After the tasting I was taken to the vineyards where I could see first hand the vines flourishing, and seeing how healthy they were.

My next stop took me to one of the strongholds of the Wachau, Nikolaihof. A winery considered to be the oldest wine estate in Austria and a leader in biodynamic wines having been certified by Demeter in 1971, certainly not the brightest decade for organic let alone biodynamic farming.

Nikolaihof has a very broad range providing many different winemaking and ageing methods but the wines always have a precise acidity backbone that permits them to age slowly and, more importantly, gracefully. The Vinothek Range, which the 1995 gave the first 100 Parker points to Austria, is aged for more than 15 years in old casks giving the wine a unique oxidative profile, the latest release being the 2002 with dry apricot, and old woody notes. Another unique wine to try would be the Baumpress which is made with a huge 1750 original press, a wine that is broader than the rest with a dry floral profile that is enticing.

1750s Traditional Press

At the end of the tasting I was presented with a 1986 Riesling Spatlese Trocken which was certainly the star of the tasting, a wine that makes you fall in love with it and that needs you to sip it patiently, soft and slow, ideally with a company that gives you peace and conversation as it begins to touch your heart and you remember how lucky you are to be in this beautiful wine world. A wine that finally showed that potential that Nikolaihof has to offer, as I also feel that the wines are way too young to appreciate their true being.

1986 Gruner

It is difficult to include all the wines tasted from them here nevertheless, one of the things you begin to notice in Austria is the hunger of producers for sticking to your style, but never settle for what they already have. Both of the producers had their classic bottlings, but also were experimenting with other things on the side. Unfortunately much of these wines cannot be had outside of Austria due to the limited range that is being exported at the moment, although to be honest the wines alone are the worth the trip.

Almost all of the bottles tasted!

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