Special F.X.: Lucas Pichler’s Dazzling Form

Securing a spot to taste through the new wines with Lucas Pichler was no mean feat in itself, such was the rugby- scrum of hopefuls surrounding the table. These guys are rock-stars! But timing is everything and as Bengt and I made our move a group where just finishing and were in!
The first thing to be said is that the FX wines are better than ever. And that’s really saying something as they were always, obviously, very good indeed. I asked Lucas if he’d changed much. ‘Not Really’ was the answer, but as we went through and he talked about the wines it became pretty clear that Lucas has definitely been tweaking the winemaking, and the results are superb. If you’ve always thought of FX as wines that were a bit ‘turned up to 11’ on the unctuousness scale, think again. These now have every inch of the finesse that Toni achieves at Prager, but just communicated through a slightly more open, loose- knit framework.
After 2002 floods, where the old cellar filled to the roof, the decision was taken to build a new, above ground winery. 7 years of planning and construction later it was completed in 2010 and is a quite stunning piece of design, with an imposing bank of stainless steel vats, side by side with the old oak fudres that are used for aging but not fermentation. Long maceration times are used – 20 hours for the Skaragds, and bottling is direct from cask, after 8 months or so aging on lees. Production from 20 hectares is between and 14 thousand cases, exported to 42 countries, and selling out pretty much on release each year.
So we tasted at VieVinum and then again – all 14 wines – at the new winery in the quite brilliant raised tasting room that affords panoramic views across the vineyards.
2011 they like very much in Austria, drawing comparisons with the spectacular 2001, or in some cases 1993. Whereas 2010, much cooler, is more like 2002. 2011 is a true ‘ Wachau’ year certainly.

All wines from 2011

GV Frauenweingarten Federspiel
(Women’s vineyard, close to the village.)
Light sandy warm soil is good for Federspiel , shorter maceration time as grapes come in warmer, so working a bit faster. Beautifully fragrant, soft generous salty, nice peachy length. Plenty of punch here, and a great introduction to the FX style.

GV Loibner Klostersatz Federspiel
This vineyard was planted by the monks, hence the ‘Kloster’ in the name and is the flat vineyards around winery rich with Danube pebbles. A brilliant start, straight into it here! Fine, tight, mineral. Stonefruit, spiced earth. Great acid, drive. Screwcap. Much tighter and more mineral than FG. Leaner, longer, more precise. More herbal notes.

GV Urgestein Terrassen Smaragd
(Smaragd can have a maximum of 9 grams RS, but are usually half that.)
The name here refers to primary rock terrace cuvée, not single vineyard.
Deeper colour, Impression of stony earth is the first thing here. Open fragrant exotic. Creamy, white chocolate notes, very approachable.

GV Loinbenberg Smaragd.
(South facing warmer larger single vineyard site.)
Lucas is not anywhere near as much a fan of botrytis as Franz is when it comes to Grüner Veltiner. This wine is all the better for it. Pronounced ripe spicy fruits reminiscent of baked banana with cinnamon, it is full rich ad satisfying. But everything is perfectly in check, and it’s well this side of being overblown. A very nice statement of where the FX wines are today. Brilliant approachability and finesse. Very driven at the same time. Salty finish, which is very long.

GV Durnsteiner Liebenberg Smaragd
Haven’t had this wine before, Liebenberg is a cooler site in Durstein, next to the first of the Weissenkirchen vineyards, Achleiten. Its very steep with weathered gneiss and mica schist soils. The wine is tighter and more direct than the Loibenberg, spiced grapefruit notes, and citrussy minerality. Again I see white burgundy nuances here, really approachable and round.

GV Kellerberg
(Barrel sample)
Totally just jumps out of the glass, beautiful, seamless, blackcurrant, spice, earth, great concentration. One of those wines that actually defies a lengthy tasting note, it’s just so seamless!

GV “M”
(Barrel sample)
This is a vineyard cuvee wine, including Kollmitz at Wosendorf, where Rudolphine Pichler (Lucas’ mother) is from, a west facing no botrytis vineyard surrounded by forest and very late picked vineyard. But the main parcels in M ( for ‘Monumental’) are Loibenberg , Steinertal and Kellerberg.
Meursault levels of richness and , batonage, 15.2 alcohol but looks nothing like it, one of the two fudres is new oak, so therefore some more burgundy references. Latest harvest, picked end of November, ripest grapes from diff sites, but co- fermented.

Burgstall Riesling Federspiel 
A flat vineyard of gneiss in Oberloiben, no botrytis issues, windy plateau – hence the name which derives from ‘castle stable’.
Beautiful fragrant open exotic nose, very salty, also pepper, because of the highly mineral soils acidity was not a problem. Very long and fine.

Oberhauser Riesling Smaragd
(Close to the house. On the flats, sandier soils.)
Very different , warm nettle herbal floral nose. Fine and pure, restrained, supple, approachable . Creamy. This will be good at good value.

Steinertal Riesling Smaragd
‘Valley of stones’ at the eastern end of the Loibner berg
Some Lovely open florals, very expressive, delicious creamy nutty nuances, open, long. Tangy, savoury.

Loibenberg Riesling Smaragd
Lucas has bought a new parcel at the top at 380 meters that has been forest for 30 years to give himself some cool Loibenberg to work with as it is the warmest Wachau site. This is now being re-planted.
Here the wine is softer, more creamy, certainly still very powerful, but gentle.

Kellerberg Riesling Smaragd
(Barrel Sample)
Brilliant spice earth open nose, very composed and silky. Long. Nutty. Orchard fruits. None of these wines are over the top, far from it! A lot going on for sure, but seamless, focussed , dry, mineral .Really honeyed, intense, power drive. Has the minerality of Steinertal, with riper fruits.

 “M”Riesling Smaragd
11 grams of RS, natural ferment, did not want to push to dry after it stopped. Looks way less than 12, barely appears off- dry, pineapple, pear, peach notes. The sugar is ‘ included’ in the wine. LP.
Baked apple, with the pastry, from the last harvested parcels of Loibenberg and KB.

Unendlich Riesling Smaragd
(A grape and berry selection, 80% Kellerberg, 10% botrytis.)
A nose that brings together all the notions of top Rieslings from Europe. Not over the top, just massive drive, focus, power. Maybe slightly longer skin contact, 100% aged in oak, 8 months. Vanilla, biscuit, preserved fruits, lemon curd. There’s a never-ending list of descriptors!