Wine Review: 2004 Rabl Kaferberg Gruner Veltliner

14 06 2011

Before we get to tonight’s wine, I should pass on that today was a red-letter day for PnP, as we got some unsolicited (but very welcome) press from one of Calgary’s top local websites, calgaryisawesome.com.  Check out the article here — it’s truly exciting to be mentioned alongside some pretty damn talented Calgarians.  Calgary Is Awesome is awesome!

Possibly the tallest bottle of wine I've ever seen. It didn't even fit in the frame!

Now, raise your hands if you’ve ever had an aged Gruner Veltliner.  If you haven’t, I’m now telling you that you owe it to yourself to try.  Gruner, as discussed in more detail in this prior post, is Austria’s signature grape, a white with a unique flavour profile that is now receiving much more mainstream attention, and for good reason.  Like many other older wines I’ve purchased recently, I got this 2004 Rabl from Aspen Wine & Spirits, which routinely puts back-vintage wine (obtained in a fire-sale purchase of the inventory of a now-defunct Calgary boutique shop awhile back) out for sale at fantastic prices.  This bottle, from a strong, well-known producer, hasn’t been on the market for 5+ years (the current vintage of this Gruner is the 2009), but was on the shelf for $22.  Crazy.  I don’t go to Aspen W&S a lot, but when I do, it’s to hunt out backdated bargains like this.

As you can see in the picture above, this wine was a DEEP, rich, full golden colour, almost the colour of apple juice due to its seven years of aging.  Despite this extra time in the bottle, the aromas pouring out of the glass were still intense, and were signature Gruner — a myriad of smells that ranged from synthetic and chemical to lush and tropical.  Before I gave the glass a swirl, the former types of aromas dominated, with strong notes of rubber, Vaseline and gasoline.  Post-swirl, the fruit started to come out, baked apple and pineapple, laced with honeycomb and spice and rounded off by a hint of something vegetal, like cucumber.  The softening process that a wine goes through with age was evident on the initial attack, as the wine started out mellow, with a languid full body and slowly-developing flavours.  Then somewhere in the midpalate it snapped to attention and showed that it still had a lot of life left:  the acidity kicked in with a vengeance and finished on a searing crescendo.  The bizarre panoply of flavours on the nose multiplied even further on the palate, starting with cooked fruit (candied lemon and apple crisp, both sweet descriptions which somehow fit a wine that was completely dry) and moving to mineral (bath salts and a sulphur-y note like a just-lit match) and spice (strong hints of pepper) before finishing where the nose started, on a rubbery, chemical note (like the taste of balloons or rubber bands).  The complexity of the wine kept unfolding on the finish as my taste buds struggled to make sense of what had just happened.

Cork Rating: 6.5/10 (Extra half point for the bird.)

The best part about this wine is that it can’t be anything else than what it is.  It is classic aged Austrian Gruner, and there’s no way it can be mistaken for any other grape from any other place.  It’s not as tight and racy as Gruner can be when young, but it is just crazy interesting to drink, something that will keep you reaching back to your glass to figure it out.  I feel confident in saying that you won’t have a more intriguing time with a $22 bottle of wine, and for wines at that price point, there may not be a higher form of praise.

91 points

$20 to $25 CDN (on sale)

 [Wine Jargon Notes:
attack/midpalate/finish when you taste a wine, the initial taste impression you get is called the attack; the final taste impression as and after you swallow is the finish; everything in between is the midpalate.]
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