Monday, January 10, 2011

In the Glass: 2007 Leo Hillinger HillSide Unfiltered With Weingut Hillinger's Michael Hoeffken

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Michael Hoeffken from Weingut Leo Hillinger

I met Michael Hoeffken from Weingut Leo Hillinger, Burgenland, Austria, recently in Vienna in Austria. I think he is more of a salesman, but he told me (and his calling card confirmed this) that he is also an assistant winemaker at Weingut Leo Hillinger. Anyway, he is a very nice, charming guy and he introduced me to Hillinger’s new HillSide wine.

Weingut Leo Hillinger in Burgenland

Weingut Leo Hillinger is in Jois in the Neusiedlersee area in Burgenland. Burgenland is one of Austria’s 4 wine regions – Lower Austria, Styria, Burgenland and Vienna. For many years it was a bit on the margin, although it has a log wine growing tradition. Burgenland belonged to Hungary until 1921 when it was annexed to Austria post WWI. It is a melting pot of Magyar, Slavic and Austrian cultures. Many of the towns have two names, one Croatian or Hungarian and the other name Austrian.

The vineyard area of Burgenland totals 14.000 hectares and comprises 4 areas: (1) Neusiedlersee: At the edges of the vast and shallow Lake Neusiedl, a variety of grapes are grown on 9,100 hectares of vineyards, including world-famous noble sweet wines. (2) Neusiedlersee-Hügelland: At the foot of the Leithagebirge and west of Lake Neusiedl, a variety of grapes are grown on 4,150 hectares of vineyards, including the renowned Ruster Ausbruch. (3) Mittelburgenland: On 2,100 hectares of vineyards, one red grape variety plays the leading role: Blaufränkisch and 4 towns are the wine-growing area´s main producers: Deutschkreutz, Horitschon, Lutzmannsburg and Neckenmarkt. (4) Südburgenland: One of Austria´s smallest wine-growing areas, where excellent terroir wines are produced from 500 hectares of vineyards, which are situated mainly on the Eisenberg, with Blaufraenkisch being the typical red wine.

Picture: Austria's Wine Regions

The Hillinger family has been producing wine for several generations. Leo Hillinger took over in 1990. At the time, the Weingut was tiny with only one hectare of vineyard area. Under Leo’s stewardship the winery has seen a phenomenal growth. Today, the vineyard area totals 46 hectares, of which 26 hectares are in Jois in the Neusiedlersee region, and another 20 hectares in and around Rust in Neusiedlersee-Huegellland. 60% of the area is planted with red varieties - Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, St. Laurent, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah - and the remaining 40% are planted with the white varieties - Welschriesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. In addition, grapes are sourced from contract growers with another 70 hectares of vineyards. Weingut Leo Hillinger is today one of the top names in Austria.

2007 Hillside Unfiltered

Grape varieties: 80% Syrah, 10% Blaufränkisch and 10% Merlot
Alcoholic: 14% alc. vol.
Residual sugar: 0,5 g/l
Acidity: 5,2 g/l
20 months in oak barrels

Tasting notes: Intense ruby in the glass, spicy aromas with dark berries on the nose, good structure, juicy, ripe fruit on the palate, very creamy, hint of coffee, smooth finish, a delicious wine.

The 2007 HillSide Unfiltered retails for about $ 25 in the US. For more information, see Klaus Wittauer's Select Wines.

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