Our first full shipment of 2017 wines from Austria’s Riesling and Grüner Mecca came to us from Franz Hirtzberger, the family that calls Spitz – at the cooler, western end of the Wachau valley – home.
Having looked at a broad range of 2017s during our time at ProWein, we’re really excited about what this harvest brings. We’d heard that it had been warm and record-breakingly early, but as we know – especially these days and even more so with the calibre of winegrower we’re dealing with – any expectations of vintage character can be turned on their head. We found a tremendous amount of depth and detail in the wines of the Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal, balanced with the drive and resonant vitality that energises the lucky drinker and keeps you going back for more.
As always, the wines of Franz Hirtzberger are wines of depth and undeniable impact. The cool evenings of the Wachau, when cold air spills down from the forests above, do a great deal to keep freshness while complexity slowly builds. The Hirtzbergers’ location in Spitz gives them an added advantage in this respect, allowing them to let healthy grapes hang and mature into a thrillingly kaleidoscopic flavour zone.
2017 Franz Hirtzberger Riesling Setzberg Smaragd RRP $119
Setzberg is situated 300m above sea level and therefore the highest in altitude of the Hirtzberger vineyards. The soil type is pure gneiss. It’s location at the entrance to the Spitzer trench means that the vineyard’s mesoclimate is influence by the chilly north winds that blow through it. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in neutral oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%; RS 5.2g/L; total acidity 7g/L.
Ripe, yet really fine, this has a great combination of citrusy freshness, peachy aroma and just a hint of funk from lees contact. The long and generous finish makes it even more appealing. Drink or hold. 94 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com
2017 Franz Hirtzberger Riesling Singerriedel Smaragd RRP $215
One of the best vineyards in the Wachau valley, the Singerriedel rises steeply right behind Weingut Hirtzberger. We pay very special attention to Singerriedel, and have beeen rebuilding the stone terraces here for 20 years. The reason for our great efforts is the extreme minerality of the soil, comprising gneiss, mica, schist and other primary rocks. This unique terroir provides us with the foundation for our greatest Riesling Smaragd. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and matured in neutral oak barrels. Alcohol 14%; RS 2.9g/L; total acidity 6.8g/L.
Totally pristine and refined with a weightless quality, in spite of the full, exotic-fruit aromas and enormous concentration on the palate, where the high acidity is already beautifully integrated and the wet-stone finish is extremely long and exciting. Drink or hold. 99 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com
2012 Franz Hirtzberger Riesling Singerriedel Smaragd RRP $149
The Hirtzberger 2012 Riesling Smaragd Singerriedel features almond and pistachio extracts along with peach kernel in a penetrating, high-toned nose, anticipating the piquant richness conveyed to nut oils and white peach on an expansive, subtly oily but persistently juicy palate. There is a crescendo of flavors here through the finish that is almost breathtaking. At the same time, the impression remains seamless and polished. Although I tend toward partisanship toward Hochrain vis-a-vis Singerriedel (particularly as the two mature in bottle), in this instance the Hochrain – fine though it is – comes off as ever so slightly rustic alongside the Singerriedel. Plan to follow the latter through 2020. 94 points. David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate April 2014
2017 Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Spitz Steinfeder RRP $53
The village of Spitz is home to the Franz Hirtzberger winery and lies at the cooler, western end of the Wachau valley. The fruit for Spitz Steinfeder comes from the family’s lowest-altitude vines. These are up to 30 years old and this, combined with the excellent subsoil of alluvial soil and Danube gravel produces a wine which is low in alcohol and provides excellent easy drinking. Steinfeder is the lightest category of the region, a refreshing and delicate style with crisp and vibrant acidity. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. Alcohol 11.5%; RS 1g/L; total acidity 5g/L.
A fresh and feather-light Grüner Veltliner with yellow and green-apple aromas. Very easy to enjoy. Clean and polished finish. Drink now. 90 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com
2017 Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Rotes Tor Federspiel RRP $70
According to myth the Rote Tor (red gate) is part of the old town wall which was saturated with blood, during the Swedish Wars. Hirtzberger grows Grüner in the vineyards below, in two quality levels – Federspiel and Smaragd. The soil-type consists of gneiss, mica and schist and brown soil. The wine is fermented and matured entirely in stainless steel. Alcohol 12.5%; RS 1.5g/L; total acidity 5g/L.
Ripe yet lively, this is an elegant, mid-weight Grüner Veltliner with red-apple, sage and parsley notes. Very pure finish. Drink now. 91 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com
2017 Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Kirchweg Smaragd RRP $96
Franz Hirtzberger’s foremost aim is to produce a wine of character and utmost purity. The estate has refined its practices over many years, while applying essentially the same tried and tested methods of previous generations. The utmost goal is to produce wines which are true to their origins; which reflect unique Wachau “terroir”; the individual characteristics of each vineyard and the particular conditions of each different vintage. This wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged in neutral oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%; RS 1.2g/L; total acidity 4.9g/L.
Generous and fleshy, but with just a hint of creaminess, this is a very attractive, medium-to full-bodied Grüner Veltliner. Long, silky finish that has real finesse. Drink or hold. 93 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com