A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rotgipfler - Thermenregion, Austria

Yesterday we took a look at a wine from Austria called Gumpoldskirchen that is made from Rotgipfler and Zierfandler grapes.  Today and tomorrow we're going to take a closer look at each of those grapes, starting with Rotgipfler today.

Rotgipfler is a white wine grape that is thought to be indigenous to the Thermenregion of Austria (located in the eastern part of the country, just south of Vienna), though Philipp Blom, in his The Wines of Austria, indicates that it may actually be from Styria originally, just south of Thermenregion.  Its parentage has been confirmed as a spontaneous crossing between Traminer (aka Savagnin) and Roter Veltliner (Sefc, K.M., Steinkellner, H., Glossl, J., Kampfer, S., Regner, F. (1998). Reconstruction of a grapevine pedigree by microsatellite analysis.  Theoretical and Applied Genetics. (97) 227-231).  The Roter Veltliner link may lead you to believe that this grape is also related to the Austrian specialty Grüner Veltliner, which is sometimes known by the name Weissgipfler, but it turns out that that's probably not true (there has been no proven link between Roter Veltliner and Grüner Veltliner).  The name Rotgipfler has something to do with redness somewhere on the vine (rot being the German word for red), though different sources seem to disagree about precisely where this redness is occurring.  Some say that it is the tips of the leaves that are red, some say it is the shoots that are red, while the winery's fact sheet seems to give a literal translation of "red shoot-apex," whatever that means. Something on the vine that is not the grapes is red, that much we know for sure, and that's where the grape's name comes from.

It is considered something of an also-ran in the Thermenregion by outside observers, with nearly every critical source starting out their evaluation of the grape by unfavorably comparing it to its running-mate, Zierfandler.  Jancis Robinson (in The Oxford Companion to Wine) describes it as "the marginally less noble of the two," while Blom is less equivocal in his statement that it "is certainly the less noble of the two."  Robinson offers no support for her declaration of the grape's inferiority, while Blom's reasons seem to be linked more to the fact that the grape is fairly difficult in the vineyard.  He points to the grape's habit of ripening late (though it still ripens earlier than Zierfandler, a fact passed over in silence by Blom), its fussiness in terms of its soil and climate preferences, and its sensitivity to wind-chill and botrytis before concluding: "it can produce some full-bodied wines with marked acidity, golden colour, and characteristic aromas of clementines and almonds.  Often, though, it produces light and fresh wines that are not remarkable in terms of sophistication and complexity."

The Johanneshof Reinisch Winery
Whatever the critics believe, the vine is planted on pretty much the same amount of land as Zierfandler in the Thermenregion (just over 100 hectares), and the local winemakers seem to think that it's good enough to stand on its own.  Johanneshof Reinisch is one of those local producers.  They are a family owned estate that has been producing wine in this region for four generations, starting with a meager half hectare in 1923 that grew to the over 40 ha spread (broken up over several regions) that they farm today.  The majority of their plantings are red wine grapes, with about 65% of their vineyard area dedicated to red grapes (especially Pinot Noir and St. Laurent) and the remaining 35% to white.  A brand new winemaking facility was built in 1995 and the winery continues to walk the line between tradition (large neutral oak barrels and natural fermentation) and modernism (temperature controlled stainless steel and high-tech mechanical sorting and pressing equipment).

I was sent a sample bottle of the 2010 Johanneshof Reinisch Rotgipfler by the good people at Circo Vino.  They tell me this bottle retails for about $20 and is available in the NY, NJ, IL, CA, FL, OR, and WA markets with the possibility of Massachusetts distribution in the near future.  Some batches of this wine undergo spontaneous wild yeast fermentation, but all batches are kept on their lees for about four months after fermentation stops and the batches are blended together and bottled.  In the glass, this wine was a pale silvery lemon color with greenish tints.  The nose was nicely aromatic with lemony citrus, ripe pear, green apple and white flowers.  The wine's body was on the lighter side of medium with medium acidity.  There was nice lemony and light apple fruit and a very clean, very refreshing minerality that kept me reaching for the glass.  This wine made me long for the warmer days of summer (which I don't often do) and had me wistfully looking out my window at the gloomy Boston October I found myself in.  Fans of lighter Italian Pinot Grigio will find a lot to like here.  I kept imagining myself eating raw oysters on the half-shell with just a twist of lemon on them while I was drinking this. It's not the most complex wine you'll ever drink, but it's incredibly refreshing and there's always a spot in my cellar for wines like that.


Marie-Sophie said...

Klick to see the "redness" in young Rotgipfler vines: http://www.weingut-hartl.at/show_content.php?sid=72
Kind regards from Austria!

Marie-Sophie said...

Sorry, link is not working! Copy paste and chose image #5.

Eclectic_Tastes said...

I ws lucky enough to live close to Gumpoldskirchen for a couple of years and got a taste for these local wines. Now happy to find them locally at EclecticTastes