From €6.70, £12.50, 16 Swiss francs, 120 Danish krone
I’m delighted to report that the wines of one of Lower Austria’s brightest sparks are now available in the UK, as well as in Austria, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the US and Canada.
As members will be able to see from our 130,000-strong database of tasting notes, I was very impressed by Herbert Zillinger’s Grüner Veltliners from a range of vintages when I first tasted them back in April 2015 (see Assorted new Austrians). Now I have been able to taste the range of his 2015s, from an exceptionally good vintage in Austria on which Julia will be reporting, currently listed by The Real Wine Company at prices from £12.50 to £19.50 a bottle, and worth every penny. Lucky Austrians and Germans can find them at a fraction of these prices.
Herbert Zillinger studied winemaking at Klosterneuberg and then did the WSET course at Rust, presumably giving him a fairly cosmopolitan outlook on wine in preparation for starting work at the family seven-hectare wine estate in the Weinviertel at the tender age of 20 in 1998. He and his speech-therapist wife Carmen have been in charge of the estate since 2005, redesigning the bottles and website in 2013.
They have since grown their vineyard holdings to 12 hectares and completed certified conversion to organic viticulture last year. Like many of his contemporaries, he has been returning to the more traditional methods of winemaking of his grandparents, and his Horizont Grüner Veltliner 2015 was voted best organic wine in Germany, Austria and Switzerland by Best of Bio Wine 2016.
Top of the range is the single-vineyard Weintalried (£19.50) from mature vines on a particularly exposed patch of loess. This will surely be the longest-lived of the Zillinger Grüners and is already the most pungent and concentrated, with 13.5% alcohol, but I actually ended up giving the same score, 16.5 out of 20, to all three of them. They vary in potential longevity and density but not in drinkability or purity.
Horizont (£14.50) is wonderfully pure with a suggestion of talcum powder and great freshness. At 12% alcohol, and made from middle-aged vines, it strikes the perfect balance of ripeness and acidity for drinking now and over the next four years. Neuland (£12.50) at just 11% alcohol is made from the earliest picking of the youngest vines. It's the most forward and delicate but is another great expression of Austria’s signature grape without any vapidity and nor does it smell of paint or the fermentation vat, the way some young Grüners do. All Zillinger wines are fermented slowly with ambient yeast and left on the lees afterwards.
Zillinger is about to release a new 2015 Grüner Veltliner. Elementar was aged in old oak but I have yet to taste it.
The jazzy Zillinger website includes a list of importers (they export 60% of production) and includes a Canadian importer, but it is not totally up to date since it doesn’t mention The Real Wine Company, nor the enthusiastic US importer Lyle Fass of Fass Selections, New York. The website encourages direct sales from the winery.
Another string to the Zillinger bow is agrotourism. In their base in Ebenthal almost on the Czech border north east of Vienna they offer inexpensive accommodation in five modern guestrooms that you can snoop at on their website. This is the sales pitch: ‘The sound of tweeting birds when you wake up, with fresh fruit on your breakfast table and an organic breakfast egg to set you up for the day, along with the best bread from our local bakery. Should you fancy a few early morning lengths in our swimming pool, so be it!’