Alzinger 2020 'Dürnsteiner' Riesling Federspiel , Wachau, Austria
Alzinger 2020 'Dürnsteiner' Riesling Federspiel, Wachau, Austria
Winemaker: Leo Alzinger
Variety: Riesling (Federspiel ripeness level)
Terroir: From multiple vineyards in the village of Dürnstein, composed of clay mixed with gneiss, mica schist, & loam
Vinification: Alzinger crushes whole-cluster with a short maceration, then allows the must to settle for 24 hours, dropping any green tannins out. Spontaneously fermented in stainless steel. Elevage in steel with a small amount of neutral Austrian oak.
From our January 2021 Bottle Club notes:
Leo Alzinger Jr. was destined to become a winemaker. As a child, he would accompany his parents as they worked in the vineyards and cellars of the family winery, which, at the time, was just about a 10-acre farm. As he got older, his love for winemaking grew and he knew the next step was to get formal oenology education and get in the field. He went around the world learning from top winemakers in Austria, Germany and New Zealand before returning home in 2002 to begin to take over his family’s estate. Within the next decade, he grew his farm from around 10-acres to nearly 30 by slowly acquiring small parcels of land from his neighbors and in adjacent villages. The Wachau (the overarching region where Alzinger sits) has a very particular soil called gneiss, which is a granite-like soil that warms quickly and evenly in the summer, reflecting heat back onto the vines in the relatively cool climate. This contributes to the subtle richness of this Riesling, as the berries can continue to develop even when the weather turns cold. But the real name of the game in Wachau is terrace. The hills here are steep, so vineyards are planted on narrow terraces that machinery simply cannot get to, so a lot of hard handiwork goes into planting, pruning, and harvesting. Leo focuses on two grapes: Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, and he gives those vines his all.
“Our efforts in the cellar are based on the same intentions that we practice in the vineyard – getting the balance we’ve achieved in the vineyard into the bottle. Vineyards are always more important than cellar work. In the cellar you can only lose quality; you cannot make poor grapes better in the cellar,” says Leo.
Harvest at Alzinger happens later than some of Leo’s neighbors in the area, something he attributes to old vines and the specific exposition of his parcels. The extra time on the vine doesn’t increase sugar levels, Leo says, but rather pushes physiological ripeness to greater balance. Alzinger crushes the whole clusters with a short maceration, then allows the must to settle for 24 hours, dropping any green tannins out, but keeping a phenolic texture that expands the palate. The wine then ferments spontaneously from the ambient yeasts present on the grape skins and in the cellar, and once fermented, is aged in a mix of stainless steel to preserve freshness and a bit of neutral Austrian oak casks to allow it to breathe. All of this work brings characteristics that are particularly beautiful in his Rieslings, where in Austria, we can find riesling that is either opulent and rich from late-ripening and botrytis, or incredibly austere to the point of sourness. But tasting Alzinger wine, which showcases elegance and transparency, allows us to see the terroir with every sip, the terraced vineyards, the shimmering sun on the Danube river, and the patience in both the vineyard and the cellar that has made Alzinger into one of the top Austrian wine estates. -CP
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