F.X. Pichler Gruner Veltliner Durnsteiner Kellerberg Smaragd 2016


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“Black pepper, marjoram and burley tobacco dominate a pungent, smoky, penetrating nose that also harbors intimations of mango as well as muskmelon and honeydew melon. The luscious, glycerol-rich, expansive palate is at once effusively fruity and deeply savory, leading to a mouthwateringly salt-tinged, invigoratingly cress-laced finish displaying remarkable transparency to herbal and mineral nuances. Drinking window: 2018-2029. 94 points

Lucas Pichler reported having had to sidestep or sort out a significant accumulation of botrytis in 2016 due to intermittent rain – chilly October temperatures notwithstanding. This is a phenomenon that only a few other growers have emphasized, though quite likely he is simply being more candid. “We elected to start [picking] with the Riesling,” he explained, “because the Grüner Veltliner has thicker skins and can tolerate a bit more rain without succumbing to rot. The upshot is that we got all of the Riesling picked before there was significant [October] rain, and it’s turned out to be an exceptionally fine Riesling vintage, whereas we ended up having to throw away 25% of the Grüner Veltliner that had developed stem rot.” Another factor seemingly setting apart Weingut F. X. Pichler from other growers I visited in Lower Austria is the sheer duration of picking that Lucas Pichler reported: Nine weeks! Given these just-mentioned factors, it’s no wonder that he recalled the harvest of 2016 itself with considerably less fondness than did most of his fellow growers. But its results are predictably excellent. As usual at this address, some wines are fermented in cask and then racked to tank while others ferment in tank and then spend time in cask; but regardless, Pichler tended to give them even more lees contact this year than in the past, right up until late-summer bottling. (Federspiel and generic Smaragd bottlings are the only ones raised solely in tank and bottled in springtime, as well as the only ones subjected to screwcap closure. For background on this estate and its vineyards, readers should consult the extended introductions to my reports on its 2013 and 2014 collections.)

David Schildknecht, Vinous (12/18)