Austria Revisited, Reconsidered
2009 Sohm & Kracher Grüner Veltiner
Our Single Parcel Arrives Friday
This is one of the most important new projects to come out of Austria in some years and the truth is that we have almost no wine to offer.
For the 2009, the inaugural vintage, a scant 150 cases were made. Only a few of the U.S.'s top sommeliers were given a bottle to taste along with us, and among this small group, the wine was completely sold out. Rajat Parr said he would take every single bottle. (Lucky for us, he was denied.)
And all this was months before the wine would even arrive.
The wine is that good. It maintains a really intriguing balance between richness and sleekness; richness in the depth and obvious concentration (low yields and old vines will do that), sleekness in the very styled finesse of the wine, the fine lines and smooth, almost glossy feel.
More than most Grüners, this is a bottle of wine to blind next to white Burgundy - take your pick, Meursault or Puligny or Chassagne.
Perhaps the quality and the resulting demand here should not be that surprising: Aldo Sohm and Gerhard Kracher are two of the most famous names in the Austrian wine world. Aldo is one of the most respected Sommeliers in the world. He is the Chef Sommelier at Le Bernardin and in 2008 he won the "Best Sommelier in the World" competition. Gerhard Kracher has been running his family estate since 2007, making some of the most world-famous sweet wines from Austria.
But today's wine has little to do with any of this - it has more to do, in fact, with a lunch at a Thai joint in Queens where the two friends first thought of the idea of working together.
The choice of working with Grüner Veltliner was for both of them, obvious - it is perhaps Austria's most defining grape, famous for its versatility and ageability. What was not so obvious was where to do this.
While the most obvious route would have been to do some serious fundraising and find some "Grand Cru" sites in the Wachau or Krems, the choice was made to go further afield. The "Weinviertel," that region north and east of Vienna, is to some extent the wild west of Austria. It is diverse and undefined and though it chronically underperforms, there is immense potential here.
Today, that potential is realized.
The two hectares that today's wine comes from were found with the help of Hans Schwarz, the famous butcher from Burgenland (a long-time friend of Alois Kracher). Two factors set this site apart: old vines (between 35 and 50 years) and a limestone subsoil. Limestone and Grüner is actually a fairly rare phenomenon, though based on this wine, maybe it shouldn't be. Limestone offers the wine a decidedly mineral core, a freshness and cut that is truly uncommon.
For the Austrian fanatic, this is a no-brainer, though I'd encourage white Burgundy fans to try a bottle or two.
Or maybe just a bottle. Our only parcel of the wine arrives on Friday and it consists of just a few cases - we expect to sell out very quickly. Then, if you want to try the wine, you'll have to go to Jean-Georges or Daniel or Bar Boulud or one of the Michael Mina restaurants.
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