From €9.94, £14, $22
Find this wine – and note that in the US it is called Riesling Vienna Hills and in earlier vintages it was known as Riesling Wiener Berg.
Wines like this make you wonder how on earth such aromas and flavours can come from the fermented juice of freshly picked grapes. I tasted it over several days and it never lost its fragrant intensity: ripe citrus veering towards apricot and stone fruit, a light note of spice and a dry seam of stony freshness threaded through the middle. And the flavours linger long. The final notation in my review sums it up: VVGV – very very good value.
The photos below and at the end of the article show you just how close the Vienna vineyards are to the city. Fritz Wieninger’s family company owns 45 ha (111 acres) in two of the best: the Bisamberg (below) and the Nussberg (bottom), the former with light, sandy loess soils and the latter weathered limestone over limestone rocks. They are certified organic but, according Wieninger, since 2008 they have also been farmed ‘according to biodynamic guidelines’ in order to encourage biodiversity and the microbiological life of the soil, increasing the ‘health, self-healing power and the quality of vines and wine’.
Of course it's not just the grapes that give these flavours but the place they are grown, the characteristics of the vintage, the miraculous process of fermentation and the hand of the winemaker.
Fritz Wieninger (above right) graduated in 1985 from the Wine School of Klosterneuburg, worked a vintage in St Helena, Napa Valley, then took over the family business in 1987. The winemaking sounds pretty straightforward but, to judge from the result in the glass, is perfectly attuned to the hand-picked fruit, 65% from Bisamberg and 35% from Nussberg. The grapes are sorted, macerated for five hours before pressing (getting lots of flavour from the skins) and fermented with ambient yeasts in stainless steel. After ageing some time on the fine lees it was blended and bottled in March 2016 with alcohol at 13.5%, acidity of 6.3 g/l and an imperceptible 2.1 g/l residual sugar – imperceptible except in its supporting role of highlighting the glorious aromas.
Although 2015 was a hot vintage in the Viennese vineyards, with one of the earliest harvests ever – between 1 September and 13 October before the rains started – you wouldn’t know it from the wine. Even with such intensity of fruit it is fresh as a daisy. It is delicious now but I think it will age well for up to 10 years.
Fritz Wieninger works hard on export markets and was selling to Japan as long ago as 1991 and to the US from 1995. Forty per cent of his production is currently exported which means that this wine (total production a useful 10,000 cases) is widely available (even though Wine-searcher does not currently seem to list many stockists). In the UK it is imported by Liberty Wines at an RRP of £13.99 and is available online from The Fine Wine Company, as well as through Carruthers & Kent, Cornelius Beer & Wine, Eynsham Cellars, Grape and Grind, In Vino Veritas and Valhalla’s Goat. Winebow bring the wine into the US, where the RRP is $22, and it is available via Gullberg by Stockwine in Sweden, Wine Culture Limited in Hong Kong, LCBO in Canada, Vivat Fina Vina in Croatia, Leirovins in Belgium, Vinum Weinhandel in Germany and Philipson Wine in Denmark. A longer list of distributors in Austria and abroad can be found on this page on the Wieninger website though they may not all stock this particular wine.
Wieninger is also a master of Wiener Gemischter Satz, the increasingly popular traditional Viennese white wine made from a mix of varieties that must be planted together – a wine that has recently been granted DAC status. The wines are fuller in the mouth and richer than the Riesling 2015 but finely made and very good examples of this unique style of wine from the vineyards around the city. I particularly liked the Wieninger Nussberg Gemischter Satz 2013.