Monday, February 3, 2014

Vintage 2011 Tasting with Lucas Pichler, Weingut F.X. Pichler, with Dirk Wuertz at his Koenigsmuehle in Rheinhessen, Austria/Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Lucas Pichler at Dirk and Gabi Wuertz's Koehnigsmuehle in Rheinhessen

I had the luck and pleasure to meet Lucas Pichler,Weingut F.X.Pichler, Wachau, Austria, and taste with him his 2011 vintage. Robert Parker said about Weingut F.X.Pichler: "…F.X. Pichler is the Chateau Latour, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Zind-Humbrecht, Sandrone and Helen Turley of the Wachau."

There is some discussion in certain wine circles in Germany and Austria about the 2011 Pichler wines. Some long-term customers of Weingut F.X.Pichler claim to have detected some unpleasant notes in the wine recently and have communicated their findings on facebook. In response, Dirk Wuertz, Managing Director (Betriebsleiter) at Weingut Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim and well-known German wine blogger, who also produces a regular wine video with the weekly “Der Stern”, contacted Lucas Pichler and asked if he could taste the wines. Lucas Pichler not only sent the wines but came along to the home of Dirk Wuertz in Rheinhessen (where Lucas Pichler’s wife comes from).

On Dirk Wuertz's Weingut Balthasar Ress wines, see:
Dirk Wuertz Presented the 2012 Grosses Gewaechs Wines of Weingut Balthasar Ress, Germany

Picture: Dirk and Gabi Wuertz's Koenigsmuehle in Rheinhessen

Dirk Wuertz was so kind to invite me to the tasting. Also present were Ralf Kaiser (Weinkaiser), Helmut O. Knall (Wine Times) and Oliver Bock, wo writes for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, along with Gabi Wuertz.

Pictures:Christian G.E. Schiller with Helmut O. Knall (Wine Times) and Oliver Bock, wo writes for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

To make it clear right from the beginning: I was highly impressed by the wines and did not detect any notes that I would qualify unpleasant. Nor did Dirk Wuertz, Ralf Kaiser, Helmut O.Knall and Oliver Bock.

Weingut F.X. Pichler

Weingut F.X. Pichler is not only the most renowned wine producer in the Wachau but arguably all of Austria. The winery is in Dürnstein, surrounded by the Klostersatz vineyard and overlooking the famous Kellerberg, Schütt and Loibenberg wine terraces. The new and ultra-modern winery building is a piece of art in itself.

About 80% of the wines are classified as Smaragd and 20% as Federspiel, a ratio which is unrivaled in the Wachau and speaks volumes on behalf of the Weingut F.X. Pichler vineyards. Production is around 13.000 cases, exported to 42 countries, and selling out pretty much on release each year. Prices tend to be high for these sought-after wines.


Lucas Pichler told us that after the 2002 floods, where the old cellar filled to the roof, the decision was taken to build a new, above ground winery. Lucas Pichler on the winery: Every cellar has its own atmosphere, its own envelope. A cellar is the workshop for craftsmanship and art. We have picked up on the traditional theme of the natural stone wall and interpreted it anew. Surrounded by vines, our new caller facilities were built in 2009 in a contemporary architectural style to harmonically fit into the grown cultural landscape of the Wachau.

Single Vineyards

Lucas Pichler: We are proud of our single-vineyard sites. Proud, because the authenticity of our wines is individually based on each site. We believe in vineyard-designated wines – to us, they are challenge, goal and ideal all in one. It is primarily the steep mountainous terraces from the 12th and 13th centuries, which we cultivate and maintain with utmost respect – to us, an exceptional cultural asset. Our vineyards comprise some 18 hectares. Of this, around 52 percent is planted to Grüner Veltliner, the major portion being the clones selected by Franz Pichler Sr., around 47 percent boasts Riesling vines and approximately 1 percent is reserved to Sauvignon Blanc. Some 45 percent of the area under vine sprawls across the steeply rising terraces, which can be worked only by hand. The remaining plots extend at the foot of the mountains and in the plains of the Loiben basin, between Dürnstein and Rothenhof, at the eastern end of Wachau.
Frany Xaver Pichler

In 1971, Franz Xaver Pichler, at the time 30 years old, took over the family’s vineyard: by then about 3 hectares were cultivated. Already in the 1980’s, Franz Xaver Pichler was successful in gaining a high level of recognition, initially in Austria – and internationally at least since the 1990 vintage.

In 1991, he produced his Grüner Veltliner “M” (for “monumental”) for the first time. It is a wine which is designed as a vineyard blend – and which targets the ideal combination of highly mature aroma and mineral freshness. In 1998, Franz Xaver Pichler made a Riesling which is designed similarly for the first time: “Unendlich” – it has been legendary since then.

Lucas Pichler

In 1999, F.X. Pichler passed on the responsibility for the winery to his son Lucas, though he continues to take care of the vineyard work personally.

Pictures: Lucas Pichler at Dirk and Gabi Wuertz's Koenigsmuehle in Rheinhessen


Lucas Pichler talked a bit about the Wachau: Wachau is a cultural landscape in the truest sense of the word. And this was officially documented by the admission of this 36-kilometer long riverside between Melk and Krems as a "cultural world heritage" by Unesco. Natural elements like the elegantly snaking Danube, bottom lands, rugged rocks, dramatically steep slopes and charming hillsides complement one another in thrilling harmony. And the works created by man, from the vineyards rising high along stony terraces to the picturesque communes harboring architecturally intriguing estates, mansions and churches and, finally, the abbeys of Göttweig, Dürnstein and Melk as historically outstanding monuments of cultural interest.


Dirk Wuertz issued a long posting on the tasting (in German). I am re-issuing his tasting notes below (in German). For the whole article see here.

2011 Loibner Klostersatz Grüner Veltliner, Federspiel

Dirk Wuertz: Rauchig und würzig, dunkle Beeren, dunkle Aromatik, etwas malzig, knochentrocken, lang und einen Hauch von Feuerstein. Keine Mullbinden, kein Eisen und auch sonst nichts Medizinales. Blitzsauber! Der Wein hat quasi keine Säure.

This vineyard was planted by the monks, hence the ‘Kloster’ in the name and is the flat vineyards just next to the winery.

The lightest of the wines we tasted. Bone-dry: only 1 g/litre of residual sugar. Crisp, with herbal notes.

Pictures: The Tasting at Dirk and Gabi Wuertz's Koenigsmuehle in Rheinhessen

2011 Dürnsteiner Liebenberg Grüner Veltliner Smaragd

Dirk Wuertz: Gibt es erst seit 2010, die Anlagen sind von 20 bis 60 Jahre alt. Im ersten Moment leicht floral und auch wieder sehr würzig. Ich rieche einen Hauch von Lorbeer und weißem Pfeffer. Alles sehr klar. Ein Maul voll Wein, dicht, druckvoll, beinahe cremig (Knalli sagt: “nix beinahe”), lang ist er, ellenlang. Im Nachgang wird das Ganze unglaublich saftig – der Wein regt den Speichelfluss an und ist einen Hauch johannesbeerig. Salzig ohne Ende, ist er auch! Als ob man an einem Stein lecken würde. Ich kann keinen Fehler finden, und ich gebe mir Mühe einen zu finden. Der Wein ist nahe an der Perfektion.

Liebenberg is the coolest and driest site of the Weingut F.X.Pichler vineyards, in the east, next to the first of the Weissenkirchen vineyards, Achleiten. It is very steep with weathered gneiss and mica schist soils.

Floral and peppery notes on the nose, approachable and round on the palate, very mineral.

2011 Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Grüner Veltliner Smaragd

Dirk Wuertz: Es riecht nach weißen Blüten – Orchideen – ein Hauch von Vanille, Minze, Filz, Weihrauch, Mango… es ist total verrückt, der Wein verändert sich beinahe augenblicklich. Ich rieche und rieche und will gar nicht aufhören zu riechen. Irre! Es schmeckt gigantisch. Es hört gar nicht auf zu schmecken. Der Wein hat einerseits Druck, andererseits ist er unglaublich elegant. Dieser Wein, so erzählt mir gerade Lucas, wurde als “untrinkbar” bezeichnet. Wenn das untrinkbar sein soll, dann darf mir das künftig jeder gerne schicken. Ich “entsorge” das Ganze dann fachgerecht. Der Wein kostet ab Hof 48 Euro und er ist jeden Cent wert. Der Wein hat keinen objektiv feststellbaren Fehler. Der “Fehler” des Weins ist seine Jugend. Der Wein ist groß. Das einzige, was ich anmerken muss, ist die Tatsache, dass dieser Wein jetzt nicht getrunken gehört. Vielleicht in zehn Jahren, aber ganz sicher nicht jetzt.

Kellerberg is Weingut F.X. Pichler's most important single vineyard. Lucas Pichler: Kellerberg is always relatively high in acidity. Notes of vanilla and mangoon the nose, great concentration, creamy and mineral on the palate.

Pictures: Lucas Pichler Pouring

2011 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd “M”

Dirk Wuertz: Riecht extrem konzentriert nach ganz vielen Dingen. Die öfter schon festgestellten weißen Blüten. Ganz viel weißer Pfeffer, das Holz ist feststellbar – perfekt integriert. Ich rieche einen Hauch von Anis, Lakritz und Vanille. Im unbestechlichen leeren Glas rieche ich Weihrauch und einen Hauch von Röstaromen. Der Wein hat Druck, Opulenz und Fülle. Er ist aber in keinem Moment plump oder ordinär. Auch hier ist die Jugend das einzige, was anzumerken ist. Ein Hoch auf die Jugend und wir sehen uns einfach in zehn Jahren wieder! Der Wein ist groß und hat keinen feststellbaren Fehler. Wer auf elegante und filigrane Weine steht, dem langt hier ganz sicher ein Glas.

Lucas Pichaler: The grapes are mostly (80%) harvested from the Loibenberg with the end product being a mix of the most potential single vineyard grapes left unharvested by the team for a couple more weeks after harvesting of the single vineyards. The grapes achieve higher sugar level and ripeness, thus producing a poweful wine with long cellaring potential.

This is a really big wine, with the alcohol level exceeding 15%, very long finish.

2011 Riesling Federspiel Loibner Burgstall

Dirk Wuertz: Kein Diskussionswein, ein Trinkwein. Wirkt reif, riecht extrem nach Aprikosenmarmelade. Trinken und Spaß haben. Fehlerfrei.

A relatively light and refreshing Riesling Federspiel.

2011 Loibner Oberhauser Riesling Smaragd

Dirk Wuertz: Sehr komplex, fruchtig und reif. Hat einen gewisse Würzigkeit, wird aber von der Frucht dominiert, ist beinahe schon “primärfruchtig”.

The Oberhauser vineyard is on sandier soils.

Herbal notes on the nose, creamy on the palate with notes of cinnamon and baked apple cake.

Pictures: Debating

2011 Loibner Steinertal Riesling Smaragd

Dirk Wuertz: Taufrisch. Zitrusfrüchte ohne Ende, Pfirsich, Anis. Der Wein ist extrem druckvoll, schmeckt ein wenig nach Mandarine, genau genommen nach dem weißen Zeug, was von der Schale noch an der Mandarine hängt. Der Wein ist extrem dicht und komplex, saftig und animierend. Die Säure ist reif und perfekt eingebunden. Hintenraus wird es super salzig. Der Wein hat keinen objektiv feststellbaren Fehler.

Steinertal (Valley of Stones) is at the eastern end of the Loibner Berg.

Floral notes on the nose, very expressive on the palate with delicious creamy nutty nuances, good acidity, long.

2011 Loibner Loibenberg Riesling Smaragd

Dirk Wuertz: Aprikose ohne Ende, fest und zupackend. Ein Wein mit irrem Grip aber keinerlei Hauch von Überreife. Trotz aller Konzentration ist das Ganze eher elegant. Ellenlang, hört nicht auf zu schmecken. Viel zu jung, absolut fehlerfrei! Großer Trinkfluß.

Attack of apricot notes on the nose, lots of minerality on the palate, creamy, gentle.

2011 Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Riesling Smaragd

Dirk Wuertz: Reif, fest, dick, unendlich tief und schwer zu beschreiben. Völlig unterentwickelt, wie zubetoniert. Aktuell schwerstens vom Alkohol dominiert. Schmeckt nach Ananas und Aprikose, Vanille und einem Hauch von Mango. Extrem jodig und salzig, ultra mineralisch. Alles ist sehr warm, wirkt beinahe heiß. Muss viele Jahre liegen und ist ein wahrhaftiges Monument. Keinerlei Weinfehler feststellbar.

Lucas Pichler: The Dürnsteiner Kellerberg enjoys a special microclimate with steep terraces, a south easterly aspect with early-morning sun and large diurnal temperature swings due to the cool air flowing in from the bordering woods at the ends of the day, thereby extending the growing season.

Notes of tropical fruits on the nose, although the wine is still a bit closed, salty and nutty on the palate, powerful.

Picture: Dirk Wuertz Drafting

2011 Riesling Smaragd “Unendlich”

Lucas Pichler: Unendlich – The varieties of nature are never-ending, but each vineyard resembles a microcosm that reflects life and history – also those of our family." The idea to make the most of a terroir and varietal had already been alive long before the first "Unendlich" (the German word for never-ending). With the 1998 vintage, that vision for the first time became true. It reflects our passion to craft a wine that is an experience for all senses – a total work of art. The label for this exceptional offering was inspired by the stage setting created by Karl Friedrich Schinkel for Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute". It represents a starry sky on blue ground – a symbol of cosmic infiniteness. An allegoric way to describe a wine with a "never-ending" finish.

Dirk Wuertz: Das ist in der Tat sehr viel Wein. Der Alkohol springt aus dem Glas und an alles, was auch nur in die Nähe des Glases kommt. Dezente 15 Prozent sind hier angesagt. Das ist kein Wein zum so eben nebenher trinken. Essen muss her. Dick muss es sein. Schweinebraten wäre eine Idee oder irgendetwas anders Monumentales. Ein irrer Wein, von allen einen Tick zu viel, aber sehr faszinierend!

80% Kellerberg, 10% botrytis. Vanilla, biscuit, lemon curd notes on the nose, not over the top, just massive drive and power on the palate, never ending finish.

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