Congratulations to Fritz Miesbauer, newly crowned 2020 Winemaker of the Year. Whenever Falstaff Magazine announces the result, the winner is the toast of Austria. But this year it’s a little different; an entire city and 28 monks are celebrating because our friend Fritz is both head honcho at Weingut Stadt Krems and guiding light for the wines at Stift Göttweig.
It’s mammoth achievement for someone to receive this accolade while representing both an entire city and an ancient monastery. But Fritz and his young, motivated team have pulled it off after propelling Stadt Krems to the peak of Austria’s winemaking elite, and elevating Weingut Stift Göttweig to star status at the same time.
Fritz looks after just over 40 hectares currently owned by the city of Krems, including numerous parcels in exceptional sites. The vineyards are among the oldest in the region and were gifted to the city in 1452. Fritz arrived at the helm in 2003, having already worked wonders on what is now Domäne Wachau. By the time he got here, Stadt Krems had lost much of its lustre. “I was always convinced that the estate’s vineyards held tremendous potential,” Fritz is now able to reflect. But to realise that potential, mountains of work had to be done. Among other things, they rehabilitated vines and trellising, completely replanted 29 hectares, restored ancient stone walls on 5.4 hectares and went through four phases of renovation, expansion and modernisation of the cellars. Fritz’s team also grew from four employees in 2004 to 23 in 2020
Stift Göttweig is another exceptional story. The Benedictine abbey stands proudly across from Krems on the south bank of the Danube. Monks have been cultivating wine on its 26 hectares of vineyards for almost 900 years. Winegrowing was first outsourced in the 1980s, and in 2006 a consortium of wine-lovers assumed responsibility for cultivation, handing the reins to Fritz. He has repaid the faith of his particularly devout partners in no short measure.
“To succeed in the wine industry, you need a tremendous amount of patience, because change takes at least a decade to really manifest itself, and sometimes a full generation,” Fritz says.
We certainly take our hat off to him. What he’s done at these unique, historic estates in a relatively short space of time is quite extraordinary.
2019 Stadt Krems Lössterrassen Grüner Veltliner RRP $24
With more than 550 years of history, Weingut Stadt Krems is one of the oldest wine-producers in Austria. This typical Veltliner is tangy and light. This is because of the good loess soil and the very good climate. In the first weeks of October the grapes were handpicked with strict selection. After they were destemmed and pressed carefully, the must was fermented under controlled temperature in a stainless steel tank. It’s fresh and fruity with notes of pineapple and grapefruit. It has pleasant acidity and flavours of pear, pineapple and grapefruit on the palate, finishing crisply.
2017 Stadt Krems Ried Wachtberg Grüner Veltliner RRP $77
The site was first documented as “Wartberg” in 1137, coming from the Middle High German: “Wait”. From the hill defenders could warn the city of Krems of approaching enemies earlier. The spelling Wachtberg can be found from 1689.
The mighty terraces of the Wachtberg climb to a height of 400m. The terroir is characterised by the deep loess soil in the lower plots as well as the iron-rich Danube gravel in the top plots. The weathered paragneiss forms the geological foundation of these soil types. Conditions are determined by the strong influence of the Pannonian climate. Weingut Stadt Krems farms 1.32Ha of Grüner Veltliner in this Erste Lage (Austrian grand cru).
Beautifully aromatic notes of ripe Russet pear peel beckon on the nose. On the palate, this lovely fruit is joined by zesty pithiness with just an edge of pleasant bitterness that lends real grip amid the flowing, exuberant juiciness. It is the aromatic pear that owns the long finish. 93 points. Anne Krebiehl MW, Wine Enthusiast
2013 Stadt Krems Ried Grillenparz Riesling RRP $60
The grand-cru (Erste Lage) “Grillenparz” in Stein an der Donau was first mentioned in 1180 and is therefore one of the most venerable locations of Krems. It’s made up of paragneiss in the deepest layers of the soil, as well as the calcareous carbonate conglomerate of the Hollenburg-Karlstetten formation. This unique geological surface is covered by sand from the river Traisen.
Originally called “ad grillenporce”, it appears to have been a steep area where a lot of crickets sunbathed. No wonder that the chirping animals feel comfortable here: the cru is south-facing, and thanks to the enormously high proportion of rock, the soil warms up quickly and radiates cosy warmth long after sunset. In terms of ripeness, Riesling finds optimal conditions here.
The Stadt Krems winery cultivates a total of 3.24Ha in this cru. (0.47 ha of this cru is planted with Grüner Veltliner.) The influences of the Danube are diverse here. In summer, this wind-exposed location dries out quickly after rainfall. In autumn, however, the Danube also emits moist air masses.
Juicy stonefruit, cool mint, rocks and a savoury grilled nut aspect. Round and juicy, stony acid through it, citrus tang, but mineral and flavour flavour flavour. Clean finish. Delightful. 94 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front February 2015
2019 Stift Göttweig Messwein Grüner Veltliner RRP $27
Stift Göttweig has been engaged in wine-growing in the Kremstal region since the 11th century. The Göttweiger Messwein, or altar wine, has been an institution in this Benedictine monastery for centuries. Grüner Veltliner and Rosé (from Pinot Noir) are vinified as light, dry wines. From the nature-friendly cultivation of the vineyards to the care and processing of the grapes and wine, the “Reinheitsgebot”, or purity law, of the church must be obeyed. Messwein cannot be produced without the permission of the bishop, and it must be only natural and unaltered. With its lowish alcohol, Messwein is the lightest wine – very easy and drinkable.
The aroma of freshly cut Conference pear peel is streaked with citrus on the nose. The palate is slender and comes with a lovely tinge of yeasty, herbal saltiness. Light, fresh, dry and yummy. 89 points. Anne Krebiehl MW, Wine Enthusiast
2018 Stift Göttweig Furth Grüner Veltliner RRP $36
The village of Furth bei Göttweig (established 1138) is the gateway to the UNESCO world heritage-listed Wachau region. Branches of the Dunkelsteiner Forest impart natural beauty to the surrounding landscape. The village of Furth is favoured by a variety of microclimatic conditions. These allow the vegetation to breathe, bringing the delicately spicy and cool air of the Dunkelsteiner Forest together with warm Pannonian air masses and the natural humidity of the Danube region.
These features are complemented by a wide array of geological variants, ranging from gravelly and sandy soil to loess and loam, all the way to weathered primeval rock and thus – in interplay with the different grape varieties – yield an enormous stylistic diversity of wines. This is an ideal setting for Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. Stift Göttweig produces mid-weight wines from the village appellation “Furth”, vinified in stainless steel tank. Alcohol 12.5%; residual sugar 3.7g/L; acidity 5.5g/L.
Aromatic peach has a lemon overtone on the nose. The palate is fruity, slender and ripples across the tongue with citrusy yet mild freshness. The dry finish shows more zestiness. 90 points. Anne Krebiehl MW, Wine Enthusiast