The wines of FX Pichler with Elisabeth Pichler
reporter: Phil Wilkins
Well there I was at the front table having almost passed out from the fumes from the preceding Sherry tasting. I couldn’t wait for this. The tasting was presented by Zubair Mohammed of Raeburn Fine Wines in Edinburgh & continued by with the beautiful Elisabeth Pichler who is the daughter of one of my winemaking heroes, Franz Xaver Pichler. Elisabeth heads up the sales team with mum while dad & her brother front the winemaking team. I must say that Elisabeth was absolutely brilliant, answering all manner of questions during & following the tasting. Kudos & many thanks to her.
The collection of wines on show were all from the Wachau’s top category – Smaragd – and with many of the grapes finally being picked in December, yes that’s December! None of the wines are chaptalised & none have a residual sugar content of over 9g/l. Also interesting to note that generally 5% of the blend are botrytis effected grapes, although this was not the case in 2003 & 2000.
Sauvignon Blanc Smaragd 2003
Black current leaf, green pepper & some sort flinty gooseberry fruit on the nose – actually struggling to find true variatal characters here. A alcoholic slightly spicy peppery palate gives way to a good finish & lacks true excitement or acidity but has a good length to the finish. The 2000 at the same point was delicious. 85/100
Riesling Steinertal Smaragd 2003
Much softer on the nose here giving pear, apple & citric fruits. The palate was all spice, white fruit with some minerality shining through. Lovely structure but again there is an apparent lack of acidity here. 91/100
Riesling Kellerberg Smaragd 2003
One of the great Wachau sites & SE facing. The nose is more peach & apricot with hints of quince – lovely. The palate reflects this but with lovely spicy mineral notes. Finishes long but there was a lack of acidity. A lovely well balanced wine for the medium term. Excellent for a ’03. 93/100
Grüner Veltliner Kellerberg Smaragd 2003 Wow. Peach, pea pod & glycerine here. The palate however was a little on the ‘big’ side showing some alcoholic sweetness, peach & quince with little pepperiness & generally good minerality but poor acidity in relation to the other ‘03s. 90/100
Conclusion: All these wines were, although of the top tier, were really lacking in acidity. Sure there were some there, but as the summer heat in 03 was so exceptionally high the resulting wine were ‘flabby’ & alcoholic in comparison to earlier vintages – from ’99 onward, but close in general terms to the ’00 vintage. Although the wines were above average this is a vintage to drink while the ‘99 & ‘01 are maturing. I personally failed to get overly excited by this vintage.
Riesling Kellerberg Smaragd 2001
The coolest of the Pichler (shared) vineyards & the highest at 350m. This showed great purity & laser like precision to the nose & followed true on the palate. Great acidity and thicker than one might imagine. Very long. 93/100
Riesling Steinertal Smaragd 1999
I love the ’99 vintage. All Wachau examples I’ve tries show glorious structure, fruit purity, acidity & minerality. This was of no exception and almost seeming a backward on the nose. The palate was slightly restrained but still glorious, long, defined & complex. Steinertal means ‘Food of the Mountain’ BTW. 94/100
Grüner Veltliner Kellerberg Smaragd 2001
A stunning complex GV. Drinkable in every way with its spice, mineral and white current nose. Minerals and exotic fruits follow. A delight 94/100
Grüner Veltliner Loibner Berg Smaragd 2000
Hints of white peaches & blossom here. Spiced pear, quince & mineral. Lovely. 91/100
Grüner Veltliner Loibnerberg Smaragd 1983
Well for a start the information on the category was incorrect although the vineyard was true. The extremely strict Wachau categories actually began in 1984. This should have been labelled as Grüner Veltliner Loibnerberg Spatlese Trocken. Well actually the bottles were in a 2-litre format with no labels and made for the wineries restaurant for drinking young (forget the names for these still very common hostelries). The Pichler one closed in 1990 due to the fact that too many wines were being consumed to early & there wasn’t enough to go round!
The only real difference in winemaking techniques is the wine was fermented old oak foundries (Slovakian oak) while these days the juice is fermented in stainless steel & then placed into the same old oak barrels for 4 months.
The first thing that struck initially me was the colour. Just the barest hint of yellow in it – quite amazing considering this was 21 years old white wine!!!!! I was in disbelief over this & Elisabeth showed me the corks to confirm the vintage was correct. The nose was equally as youthful with lovely Grüner qualities. Actually the only ‘difference with a GV of this age & a 5 year old was that the ’83 was slightly richer, smoother & showed more complexity. Other than that there were typical pea pod intermingled with white pepper & hints of asparagus. Very complex and a delight to try. There was no further oxidation having been opened for 4 hours & it actually developed further complexity to it during the dinner – although the glasses supplied there were pretty useless. Apparently there were perfect growing conditions in ’83, 2 days of rain, lots of sunshine & warm as opposed to hot. 96/100
But the best thing…. was my Continental ‘kiss~kiss’ from Elisabeth as she left late in the evening. Now that was worth all 3 superBOWLs combined!!