Our tasting with Lucas Pichler at ProWein this year was a highlight. The file of identically-labelled bottles lined up in their crate like soldiers on parade gave nothing away. And yet, to taste! So intricately etched, so pure, penetrating and individual.
Many of the Danube growers commented that 2017 was pretty warm and early, and all voiced the same surprise at the animation and detail that their sites had achieved. That was borne out by what we tasted here: an abundance of juicy, open fruit with all the tension and mineral nuances that makes these regions – and especially their top estates – such a magical mystery tour for the terroir-obsessed winelover. And arguably you have F.X. Pichler as first among equals in that regard.
“It’s time to marvel at what Grüner Veltliner was able to do in 2017!” wrote Stuart Pigott of jamessuckling.com of his tasting chez Pichler. And as for Riesling, it says it all that Kellerberg scored a near-perfect 99 points, while Unendlich managed to go one better.
2016 F.X. Pichler Riesling Burgstall Federspiel RRP $64 screwcap
The single vineyard Burgstall stretches on a high plateau featuring pure gneiss and granite soils with blown-in sands on top. This sun-pampered and breezy vineyard is most suitable for lacy, fruit-driven and purist Rieslings in the Federspiel range.
Almost dangerously fresh. A very mineral acidity and tart peach and delicate herbal aromas. Only medium-bodied, but with a ton of character and a super-crisp finish. Drink now or hold. 93 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com October 2017
2015 F.X. Pichler Riesling Burgstall Smaragd RRP $64 screwcap
Lots going on here, plenty of personality, plenty of drinkability, and a quiet savoury expression of Riesling for those inclined. It shows honeydew, hay and candle wax scents, while the palate is a u-turn with its bustle of lime juice, almost spritzy acidity, white pepper and sour-lolly like tang. The acidity is actually amazing, and lingers brisk and squeaky long after each sip. It tightens up to a pucker through the dart-shaped finish too. It shows a touch of mealiness/biscuity funk from lees, I suspect, too. It’s very good, very interesting white wine here. 93+ points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front April 2017
2017 F.X. Pichler Riesling Steinertal Smaragd RRP $132
This vineyard is located at the eastern end of Wachau, between the Loibenberg and Pfaffenberg sites. It’s a small section of the valley, composed of a deeply deposited, weathered gneiss soil. The resulting wine shows aromas and flavours of vineyard peaches and impresses with its raciness and finesse. It’s succulent and displays high drinkability, and is most distinctly characterised by the minerality of the primitive rock soil.
Very cool and crystalline with a ton of white peaches and citrusy acidity driving the long, radically mineral finish. Long aging potential. Drink or hold. 96 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com October 2018
2017 F.X. Pichler Riesling Kellerberg Smaragd RRP $190
There’s an international consensus that this is the model vineyard. This vertiginous, barren primitive-rock terrace, which is exposed from south to south-east and located at the exit of a side valley, creates a very special microclimate. Kellerberg is pampered by the sun early in the morning. During night, cool air streaming in from the bordering woods fosters the development of the complex texture and delicately nuanced, usually exotic aromas and concise minerality. The modest, seasoned soil and deep-rooted old vines make unparalleled wines of filigree elegance.
How do you begin to describe a wine like this, which busts apart the usual frames of reference for dry white wine? So many fresh aromas – from white peaches through mint to Amalfi lemons – but so much ripeness and concentration, too. The finish is super long and so delicate, in spite of all the power. Drink or hold. 99 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com October 2018
2017 F.X. Pichler Riesling Unendlich Smaragd RRP $412
The idea to make the most of a terroir and variety had already been alive long before the first “Unendlich” (the German word for never-ending). With the 1998 vintage, that vision for the first time became true. It reflects F.X. Pichler’s passion to craft a wine that is an experience for all senses – a total work of art.
The label for this exceptional offering was inspired by the stage setting created by Karl Friedrich Schinkel for Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute”. It represents a starry sky on blue ground – a symbol of cosmic infinity; an allegorical way to describe a wine with a never-ending finish.
Although this dry Riesling is mind-blowingly concentrated, what makes it utterly astonishing is the extreme clarity in the nose, featuring the very essence of white peach, together with the sharply defined contours of the widescreen palate. Some may, quite possibly, find the intensity and vibrancy at the finish a bit too much right now, but just give it a year or two. Better still, a decade or more! From the great Kellerberg and Loibenberg sites. 100 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com October 2018
2016 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Loibner Federspiel RRP $53 screwcap
This is the wine formerly known as Loibner Frauenweingarten. The vineyards stretch across the Loiben basin, featuring warm soils composed of sands washed out of the Danube and partially interspersed with gravel. This is the ideal terroir for F.X. Pichler’s Federspiel Grüners, which are structured like lace, displaying clear and delicate fruit.
Attractive ripe apple, white pepper and fresh herbs character. Juicy, but only medium-bodied with a finish that’s fresh and elegant. Drink or hold. Screw cap. 91 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com
2017 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Dürnsteiner Smaragd RRP $75 screwcap
Fruit is sourced from special parcels around Dürnstein, with 60% grown on rocky terraces including Kellerberg and Liebenberg. All stainless steel.
Ripe white fruit, generous body and an open heart make this a very appealing Grüner Veltliner. An impressive combination of richness and enough acidity to keep it lively. Drink now. Screw cap. 93 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com October 2018
2017 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Liebenberg Smaragd RRP $138
The steep-terraced vineyard Liebenberg stretches west of Dürnstein – the last great Dürnstein site before you reach Weissenkirchen. Lucas Pichler ranks this cool spot among the most interesting single-vineyard sites of Wachau. It’s located on meagre, weathered soils of gneiss and mica schist with an exposure from south to southwest.
Lots of green-plum and wild-berry aromas, plus herbal freshness that beautifully balances the considerable power of this unusual Wachau Grüner Veltliner. Great tension through the long finish. From chalk-rich soil, a rarity for the region. Drink or hold. 96 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com October 2018