2018 Weingut Alzinger, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, Ried Steinertal, Wachau, Austria.
One of the most complex and serious Gruners I’ve tried in ages, the Alzinger Smaragd Ried Steinertal is one of Austria’s Grand Cru wines on the level as the fabled Emmerich Knoll wines and winemaker Leo Alzinger is getting a lot of attention and acclaim, and this wine especially shows why with its depth and richness of body and its long dry finish. Grown near the Danube, west of Austria’s capital of Vienna, Alzinger’s vines cling to steep hillsides near the town of Unterloiben in the Wachau region this Gruner is a late pick with a selection of old vine set on lower slopes on mostly loess based soils with gneiss, mica schist, primary rock and loam that give this wine its density and fruit expression. A fanatic about pristine fruit quality and serve selections in the vineyards, Leo’s wines deliver this commitment to quality in the bottle and shine in the glass with sublime detail, energy and glorious elegance, while still having a powerful presence on the palate and charming concentration. This 2018 has a full body and generously viscous with layers of lemon/lime, white peach, quince and spiced Asian pear fruits along with saline infused rock, delicate mineral tones, rosewater and a play between leesy texture and a bit of bitter almond. This is serious stuff that will take a thought on the right pairings and a match that will compliment its opulence, as these Smaragd are thicker and more blooding than the delightful and lighter Federspiel versions.
The Ried Steinertal is in a hidden cool climate zone set between steep hills and holds on with the use of majestic terraces, it is a site that develops incredibly slowly and the hang time is extremely long allowing superior ripening without high sugars making for a good retention of natural acidity and gives this Smaragd a fine balance and extra level of class. Alzinger employs winemaking methods that promote extreme clarity and transparency, Leo is ever searching for purity and terroir transmission, sometimes this can prove difficult in the denser Smaragd, but this 2018 is an absolutely stunning Gruner that has a unique character, inner beauty and certainly looks like a classic example. Leo uses whole cluster pressing during crush and a short maceration, then allows the must to settle a full 24 hours to drop out any harsh greeness or phenolic tannin. This primary is in cold conditions and is spontaneously fermented in stainless steel with the aging done with the lees, its elevage is done mainly in stainless steel, though a with a small amount of Gruner seeing neutral Austrian oak, this formula works well and the tiny amount of wood helps smooth the mouth feel and this wine gains a bit of creaminess with air. Gruner is a worldwide phenomenon with Austria’s signature grape getting vineyard space throughout the new world, in particular there are many new plantings in California and in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with some exceptional results, but a wine like this Alzinger shows you why the Wachau reigns supreme and this vintage is a profound white wine.
($75 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive