Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 16

16 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

I love rare birds. I’ve been a birdwatcher since about the age of 10, one of those “twitcher” types that needs to keep a life list of every bird I’ve seen. Of course, a particular brand of nerd status and glory is affixed to the rarities. There is something deeper at work as well here, at least for me. I was a psychology resident in Vancouver in 2008, and frankly it was one of the worst years of my life. Everything seemed like it was falling apart. One way I coped was by spending most Fridays at a beach close to UBC campus, sneaking out there almost every week (rain or shine) when I was supposed to be working on a research paper. If my supervisor knew (and she probably did), she had the forbearance to turn a blind eye. One day I was hiking down the wooden steps as a band-tailed pigeon exploded past my head. Not even that much of a rarity, but it was a first for the life list, and it felt like at least one tiny win that I majorly needed. I’m a pretty good archivist and a half-decent birder. Well, I do the same thing with wine grapes. I keep a life list. Birds are beautiful but wine smells better and you can drink it. Although I’ve had dry Rotgipfler before, from this very same producer, unwrapping this distinctly-shaped bottle still made me feel some of what I felt when I saw that damn pigeon (despite the fact that my life is a whole lot better now). What a pleasant surprise. And of course, my Pop & Pour Advent Austria streak remains alive. Zum Wohl!

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Look at how long this sucker is… Great field mark for an Auslese split.

Rotgipfler (and what a name…) makes full-bodied spicy white wines in Austria’s Thermenregion, a true local specialty. The grape is a half-sibling of my beloved Gruner Veltliner. The name refers to the red colour of the vine’s shoot tips (“rot” = “red” in Austrian). The aroma is typically compared to peaches or apricots. As far as white grapes go, this one is a bit of a tank. Known for great concentration and a heavy, unctuous body, Rotgipfler is often paired with Zierfandler, another Thermenregion specialty that adds needed acidity and minerality to the blend. I enjoyed Reinisch’s entry level Rotgipfler with an importer buddy of mine and although the wine had seen no oak, it somehow featured a pungent smoky  nose and was bursting at the seams with banana peel, peach, mango, and gooseberry notes. Huge concentration indeed but elegant at the same time.

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The fourth consecutive generation of the Reinisch family is now producing organically farmed wine in the Thermenregion, with the current winemaking team consisting of the three brothers Hannes, Christian, and Michael. The Thermenregion is named for the geothermal hot springs that flow under the vineyards, contributing to favourable wine growing conditions for fussy grape varieties like Pinot Noir. Although the brothers would likely claim Pinot and St. Laurent as their specialist focus, they have significant vineyard holdings in the famed Gumpoldskirchen, where the indigenous grape varieties Rotgipfler and Zierfandler are cultivated (and they are cultivated pretty much no where else, I might add). The Grand Cru site Satzing features limestone and brown-earth with loamy clay, faces south, and borders extensive woods near Vienna. The result is excellent diurnal variation and this vineyard is planted exclusively to Rotgipfler. The high elevation, very warm and sunny vineyard Spiegel vineyard also has some Rotgipfler. Quality sites such as these are key to producing wines in the ripe Auslese style.

You may not know that Austria also uses the Prädikatswein system of classifying wines according to the ripeness level of the grapes. The classic German system includes six levels, with these same six used in Austria along with an additional two For Auslese wines, the grapes must be picked when they are quite shrivelled and high in sugars. Although a majorly of Auslese wines therefore contain residual sugar, they can be fermented completely dry. The 7.5% ABV for the present bottle certainly indicates a dessert wine.

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Stelvin Rating: 6.5/10 (um, I kinda have to give it the same rating as Day 3’s Gruner, no? But it is purple instead of white. So 6.5 it is.)

My brain immediately starts running comparisons between this and the dry wine I had some months back. Probably not that helpful a strategy, although I do get loud apricot, peach, lychee/longan, mango, and custard apple flavours right out of the gate. The palate is utterly dominated by lush stone and tropical fruits along with Apple Jacks and Honey Nut Cheerios. There are also more ephemeral aromas of lemon-lime Gatorade, Epsom salts, coconut sugar, and dark cane syrup. Although this does not have the infinite elegant complexity of the top-end Riesling Auslese with which I am more familiar, it does have an approachable earnest charm that is refreshing in its own way. This is ready to party after a hard day in the fields. Nice aroma that could benefit from a lift in the form of more acidity (where are you, Zierfandler? You should be writing this paper with your colleague!). That increasingly apparent vanilla custard note is delicious though. I really should go back to that damn beach.

88+ points

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