Calgary Wine Life: Blaufrankisch Masterclass with Georg Prieler of Weingut Prieler

1 05 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne and Peter Vetsch

Austria is renowned for the fruit purity and fine minerality of its wines, and Blaufrankisch is the premier black grape of the region. Grown across Central Europe and going by various monikers (the wonderful “Kekfrankos” in Hungary, and the more prosaic “Lemberger” in Germany), Blaufrankisch is an early-budding, late-ripening variety sometimes dubbed the “Pinot Noir of the East”; its elegance and dexterity earns it that nickname, but its hallmark savoury mineral wildness forges an identity all its own.  Some grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Campania’s Aglianico are said to swamp or overshadow terroir with their sheer varietal character, while others are more protean and can serve as a lens through which the story of their soils and site and climate are reflected.  Blaufrankisch falls firmly into the latter camp, although through its various land-driven expressions one can commonly find dark berry aromas and flavours, vibrant acidity, a pronounced spiciness and that “other” wild rocky character that can set this grape apart.  We were extremely excited to do a specialized tasting of this varietal with Georg Prieler, owner and winemaker of Burgenland’s Weingut Prieler, a dynamic, charismatic, insightful winemaker who carries his family’s history with aplomb…and who might just make the best Pinot Blanc in the world.

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Georg Prieler, Weingut Prieler

Yes, Pinot Blanc. We both first came to know this producer by being absolutely floored by how stunning and utterly fascinating Weingut Prieler’s Pinot Blancs can be.  This particular grape rarely wins this sort of accolade and is often considered a paler, strait-laced shadow of Chardonnay, never fully given the opportunity to take a star turn in any region…except, as it turns out, in Burgenland, where Prieler exalts it among whites and where Georg calls it “the Riesling of the Burgundy varieties”.  That got our Riesling-loving attention, and Prieler’s single-vineyard Pinot Blanc which capped off our tasting held it,  transfixed.

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All that said, Pinot Blanc remains both the winery’s and the region’s “second most important” variety, according to Georg, as nothing in Burgenland knocks Blaufrankisch off its throne. Georg himself hails from (and still lives in) the village of Schützen am Gebirge, population ~1500, known for steely Pinot Blanc but also the sublime Goldberg vineyard, where Blaufrankisch might reach its pinnacle.  He closely oversees operations in both vineyard and winery, inheritor of a legacy that runs from his grandfather to father to sister and now, as of 2011, to Georg himself.  The family’s time in the vineyards predates their work in the cellar — the Prielers have been planting and tending grapes in Burgenland for 150 years, which perhaps is what leads Georg to immediately describe himself as “just a farmer who takes planes and drinks wine”.  After his inaugural visit to Calgary, and with the voice of his wines preceding him, it’s clear that this particular travelling farmer has a global reach. Read the rest of this entry »

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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. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Weingut Hiedler Tasting @ Bricks Wine Co.

26 06 2017

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Ludwig Hiedler Jr.

When Ludwig Hiedler Jr. speaks, generations of knowledge echo in his words.  His career has spanned many years of education and experience, multiple shifts in approach, and innumerable hours spent questioning how to create and reveal the truest form of a wine.  He at first chafed against the layers of tradition quietly imposed on him like sediment by his ancestors, and pushed back against them by experimenting in all facets of his self-described “artisanal, emotional” winemaking style, only to eventually discover his own truth where it always was, embedded within his family’s values and legacy.  He is 24 years old.

Ludwig Jr., his father Ludwig Sr. and his brother Dietmar now collectively guide the course of Weingut Hiedler, which has been producing wine in northern Austria’s Kamptal region since 1856, longer than Canada has existed as a country.  Ludwig Jr. represents the fifth generation of Hiedlers to take on winemaking duties at the estate, steering the winery into the future with a nod back into the past, through sustainable chemical-free practices in the vineyard, next to no use of oak for maturation, and wines made as a pure reflection of site and vintage, with no stylistic or flavour preconceptions guiding the journey to the finished product and limited intervention during fermentation.  Hiedler uses native yeasts to ferment all of his wines, but in an interesting way:  he allows the ambient yeasts around the winery to do some of the work during fermentation, but has also harnessed certain selections of these native strains with which he also inoculates the fermenting must, propelling the ferment forward without introducing any element external to the winery.

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Weingut Hiedler is a small piece of a 1,000+ year tradition of winemaking in Austria, and is part of a group of quality-focused producers working on taking the generational knowledge built up and passed down about vineyard sites, soils, aspects and qualities and creating a (long-overdue) formal comprehensive set of vineyard classifications for the country.  The Österreichische Traditionsweinguter (or the ÖTW for short, which translates to “Traditional Austrian Winemakers” and is roughly equivalent to Germany’s VDP) has identified a number of top “Erste Lage” (first growth) vineyards which they hope to see formalized at law in the future, bringing Burgundian rigour to Austrian soils.  Hiedler’s philosophy strives for longevity, tranquility, wisdom, harmony and elegance in its wines, a vision symbolized by the owl that graces its labels and has quickly become the most recognizable visual reference to the estate.

This was Ludwig Hiedler Jr.’s first ever trip to Canada, and his last stop in a hectic North American travel schedule before he returned to winemaking duties in Austria.  Before embarking on a transoceanic flight home, he graciously led us through a remarkable Gruner Veltliner and Riesling Masterclass at one of Calgary’s most impressive boutiques, Inglewood’s Bricks Wine Company.  Through four Gruners and three Rieslings, we got a clear sense of what Ludwig and Weingut Hiedler were all about, yet I still left thinking that there are many more undiscovered layers to both the man and the winery, to be unveiled in the coming decades of Hiedler releases. Read the rest of this entry »





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. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2006 Brundlmayer Langenloiser Berg-Vogelsang Gruner Veltliner

11 04 2011

GruVee name, groovy wine.

Time for a departure here on PnP:  a white wine that isn’t a Riesling.  Don’t adjust your set, because we haven’t gone that far afield from Germany, Riesling’s ancestral home; we’ve just moved slightly southeast into Austria to look at a prime example of that country’s national grape, Gruner Veltliner.  If you’ve never heard of this varietal before, take note:  not only does it have the coolest grape name in the entire world (“Gruner Veltliner” sounds like a luxury airline) with the best nickname (GruVee — no, I didn’t make that up), but it also has a wild and wacky flavour profile that will leave you (and tonight left me) scrambling for adjectives trying to define it.  It makes tremendously interesting and unique wine that isn’t as delicate as some whites and that drinks well alone or with food, and it’s my suggestion if you’re looking to colour a little out of the lines of the Cabernet/Chardonnay book.  Since Austria isn’t as well-established a wine region as France, Italy, Spain, etc., you can find some great, complex Gruners at excellent prices, like this one, a single-vineyard GV from arguably the best producer of the grape in the country, which I got at Highlander in Marda Loop for under $30. Read the rest of this entry »








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