Hiedler Riesling Ried Heiligenste Erste Lage 2017
The ’17 is certainly a big smoky voodoo beast, real wicca-juice. It’s like you’re about to leave home for a few weeks and you cooked all the veggies you had, esAlready highly complex on the nose, full of minerality and fullness of fruit, blooming with a thousand facets, ripe peaches, orange blossom, mirabelle plums, yellow grapes; powerful pedestal, at the same time of impressive elegance, crystal clear structured, bundled, with enormous depth; makes endless pressure and still remains noble in every phase, distinguished, Riesling high-carats specially the peppers and eggplant, with cinnamon and nutmeg, and then you sucked on a Ricola eucalyptus candy, and then you top-applied Timut pepper, paprika and marjoram to your veggie-mess.
Hiedler’s holdings are in the best vineyards in the Kamptal, with riesling parcels in the Heiligenstein and Gaisberg, and grüner veltliner in the deep loess vineyards that rest at the base of those two mountains: Lamm, Grub, and Renner. Hiedler’s other sites in the area include a ‘Grand Cru’ monopole, Thal, Spiegel, Steinhaus, and Loiserberg. In addition to grüner veltiliner and riesling, the Hiedlers work with weissburgunder, the first plantings of which were planted by Ludwig’s father in the Schenkenbickl, a ‘Grand Cru’ plot just below the Käferberg. The estate is a pioneer in ecological winegrowing and only sustainable vineyard practices are implemented – intense cover of herbs and flowering vegetation are used, as well as a compost program and integrated pest management. The first organic experiments began in the sites Thal and Kittmannsberg and have extended throughout Hiedler’s parcels.
Ludwig extends his natural approach to his vines in the cellar as well. For the past several years now, Ludwig has operated with only spontaneous fermentations, without temperature control, enzymes or even SO2. Grapes are selectively harvested by hand. After fermentation, wines are matured in either stainless steel or casks made with local Langenlois acacia, employing extended lees contact and selective batonnage. Notably, malolactic fermentation is never blocked but allowed to occur naturally, allowing Hiedler a quite broad and unique dimension of texture and weight; a distinctive approach to both grüner veltliner and riesling from this region.
Climbing north and slightly east of the Kremstal region, Kamptal has very little vineyard area bordering the Danube River (unlike Wachau and Kremstal, whose vineyards run along it). The region takes its name from the river called Kamp, which traverses it north and south. Kamptal’s densely planted vineyards represent eight percent of Austria’s total.
The area experiences wide diurnal temperature variations like the Wachau but with less rain and more frost. Its vast geologic diversity makes it suitable for various experimentations with other varieties besides Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, St. Laurent and Zweigelt.
But the region is probably most noted for the beautiful and expansive terraced Heiligenstein, arguably one of the world’s top Riesling sites, as well as some of Austria’s most extraordinary Grüner Veltliner vineyards. Kamptal’s soils, which are mostly loess and sand with some gravel and rocks, make it suitable for Grüner Veltliner, so much so that actually half of the zone is planted to that grape.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
In the Glass
Riesling typically produces wine with relatively low alcohol, high acidity, steely minerality and stone fruit, spice, citrus and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.
Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice) and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.