Brundlmayer Riesling Zobinger Heiligenstein Alte Reben 2018
“From vines planted between the 1920s and 1960s, the 2018 Riesling Zöbinger Ried Heiligenstein Alte Reben 1ÖTW offers a spectacular, deep and concentrated yet clear, refined and spicy bouquet of crushed stones, herbs, coffee beans and ripe bright fruits with notes of fresh lemon juice. This is a great mix of mineral purity and finesse with complexity and freshness on both nose and palate! The mouth is dense and complex, crystalline, refined and salty; the character is coolish, elegant and compact, with great precision and intensity; and the firm structure is mineral/phenolic. This old-vines Heiligenstein is a spectacular amalgam of finesse, mineral purity, crushed salts and lemons. Very long and full of promises. 13% alcohol. I tasted this several times last year: at Schloss Grafenegg, at the domain in September and over several days and from different glasses in October. Try the Zalto Universal or the corresponding glass from the Josephinenhütte. Drink: 2025-2065. 97+ points
Sometimes you need two tries to discover the greatness of a vintage. My first encounter with Willi Bründlmayer’s 2018 Erste Lage wines at Schloss Grafenegg was pretty disappointing. So, I took the chance and met up with him and his estate manager Andreas Wickhoff MW, who also has a significant impact on the viticulture, harvest and winemaking. In the end, I spent several hours in the domain in Langenlois and tasted a wide range of wines, not only the white 2018s but also older vintages of the Heiligenstein, which is one of the greatest Riesling sites on planet wine for me. In fact, you won’t discover the full potential of Bründlmayer’s 2018 Heiligenstein selections if you don’t take all the time you need and they deserve. In the end, however, you will see that there is most probably no better combination of vintage and winemaker for the Heiligenstein history than Bründlmayer’s 2018s. These are world-class white wines, and they spurred me to re-taste all the other 2018 Heiligenstein Rieslings I could get the other day. And yes, there was a gap, and the gap was huge.
In 2018, the harvest began earlier than ever before at Bründlmayer, on August 20 for sparkling wine. The average temperature of the vintage was two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 30-year average and, after 2003, the hottest year since record-keeping began. Nevertheless, heavy rainfall on the first and second of September (with 70 liters of precipitation per square meter in Langenlois) forced Bründlmayer to make rigorous selections when harvesting Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. The Grüner Veltliner, on the other hand, was grateful for the urgently needed water and, in addition to sugar and strength, for a broad spectrum of aromas. The Veltliners then ripened very quickly, after they had already reached an average of 95° Oechsle at the end of August, so Bründlmayer had to prioritize the different locations. The thick-skinned Riesling, on the other hand, was still able to hang on, especially since it had not yet developed any intense fruit aromas in September. Although it was decimated after the rain, it nevertheless built up a “beautiful” botrytis, which led to a Heiligenstein “Essenz” Trockenbeerenauslese that I haven’t tasted yet and which had to be bottled with more than 400 grams of residual sugar—at 6.5% alcohol and a total acidity of about 19 grams per liter! Nevertheless, at Bründlmayer, they still left the Veltliner hanging, in the Ried Lamm, for example, for another four weeks. “The must weights went down again after the rain and then only increased slowly and, at some point, not at all, but probably aromatically,” Willi Bründlmayer explains. At 40 hectoliters per hectare, the average yield was also not very high for the Veltliner, whereas the Riesling was more generous.
But back to the three Heiligenstein selections, of which the Lyra and even more so the Old Vines selections are nothing less than spectacular. The most popular with the public is the classic version Kamptal, of which 7,000 bottles were filled. Of the two Kamptal Reserve Selections Lyra and Alte Reben, however, there are only 2,500 bottles each, which is something to look out for if you are a Riesling aficionado. To be on the safe side, I would like to mention again that Bründlmayer has not been using botrytis berries for dry wines since 2013. Botrytis is always selected, either negatively (i.e., thrown to the ground) or positively, for sweet wine. Especially for Andreas Wickhoff, 2018 is a Riesling year not only chez Bründlmayer but also along the Danube River. This is already proven by the cooler Steinmassel, which was harvested on October 17th, one week after the Lyra and the Alte Reben from the Heiligenstein. “The Lyra plot is slowly reaching an interesting age,” Wickhoff thinks. Willi Bründlmayer planted the vineyard in 1979 with the Lyra trellising, which is unusual here in Austria. Actually, the Lyra and the Alte Reben were supposed to come together for the first time in 2018 for a single reserve Heiligenstein, but Wickhoff did not allow this to happen: “Out of the question,” he cries, weeks after the decision was made and a few days after the bottling in August 2019. “Both wines are completely different and do not go together. For me, the 2018 is the best interpretation of the Alte Reben Selection for 10 or even 20 years. The acidity is completely present and all components play together harmoniously. Even if it is completely closed at the moment, I know exactly where the journey is heading here. One day we will have a huge drinking flow.””
Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (03/20)