2018 Weingut Alzinger, Riesling Smaragd, Loibenberg, Wachau, Austria.
Leo Alzinger has quietly made quite a name for himself in recent vintages and his wines are getting a lot of buzz, and I have been tracking these Gruner and Rieslings from the Wachau region of Austria for a number of years and these 2018 are on par with the best, including his neighbor’s Emmerich Knoll! The latest Smaragd, a later pick and richer style, is a gorgeous Riesling from the Loiber Cru and sourced from steep plots on the prestigious and towering terraced higher elevation site that is set on mostly primary rock, loam and sandy soils with some loess, at the lower sites. This is a place with great intensity and depth of flavors, captured to perfection by Alzinger in his 2018 Loibenberg with a dense array of classic terroir influence and highlighted by racy green apple, key lime, ripe apricot and honeyed grapefruit fruits along with crushed stones, delicate mineral tones, white flowers, sweet herbs, clove, almond oil, verbena and a hint of leesy elements. This beauty shows extract and has a palate impact that will impress red wine lovers as well as Riesling fans, this dry wine has the mouth feel of an Auslese or a richer white Burg, but still has plenty of zing and vigor, it never goes dull or feel cloying.
According to Alzinger’s famous importer Terry Theise, the harvest at Alzinger comes later than some of Leo’s neighbors in Unterloiben, which Leo attributes to his old vines and the unique settings and exposures of his particular plots. This extra hang time on the vines doesn’t increase sweetness or lift brix, but as Alzinger notes, it gives physiological ripeness and leads to greater balance and complexity, that in this case shows clearly to be true. Theise adds that Alzinger whole cluster presses his grapes and does short maceration on the skins and then settles the juice for 24 hours, which limits green tannin in the ferments. The house style leans toward the elegant with transparency being the main goal and while this parcel delivers a richness it is impressive for its restraint, this Loibenberg Smaragd is the real deal and a thrilling Riesling that should perform well for a good decade or more. With time in the glass this wine gains opulence as a Smaragd should do and the textural pleasure intensifies and the length is seriously divine, it is a Riesling to search out! The 2018 vintage is varied for Austria, but these Alzinger’s are exceptional from his lighter and zesty Federspiel Gruner Veltliner to this Smaragd with it’s fuller body, keep an eye out for them.
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive