Stephen's Wine of the Year: Stadlmann Zierfandler Mandel-Hoh

Posted by CrushWine

When national publications name their "Wines of the Year," they are limited by many factors - the biggest of which is the wine's availability. It doesn't make sense for them to drive the public into a frenzy over a bottle of wine that is hardly available.

As a small independent retailer, we have more freedom!

Granted, we also use a different set of criteria. We want outrageous quality for the money, of course, but we also seek respectful winemaking, a wine that speaks of where it comes from and what we call the x-factor - that inexplicable, inexpressible, toe-curling sense of something extraordinary.

Stadlmann's 2006 Zierfandler Mandel-Hoh has all this and more - that's why it's my wine of the year!

No, you've probably never heard of Zierfandler. It's a largely unheard of grape that's basically only grown in Austria's tiny Thermenregion. The Mandel-Hoh vineyard is the world's top site for the grape - this wine should not to be confused with Stadlmann's regular Zierfandler bottling.

This is the "road less traveled" in vinuous form. Stadlmann's Zierfandler Mandel-Hoh is a wine that will never be on the cover of a magazine. The bottle will probably never score 100 points (so far as I can find, no one's ever even rated it) or be sought out by collectors around the world.

Instead, a select few will find the wine, or pick up the bottle on a whim, and be quietly gracious for the unique experience it offers.

While I've had the wine in a number of vintages, the 2006 edition is special, unapologetically complex, containing both exotic ripe notes and cutting citrus tones. Let the wine breathe for 10 to 15 minutes and it begins to unfold: Melons dappled with honey, quince, grapefruit, vanilla, flowers, orange skins, grapefruit, almonds, and that's just the beginning.

The outrageous concentration is what takes the wine to the next level - the soon-to-be-legendary 2006 vintage speaks! The front-end and midpalate of the wine are just dense with fruit, flowers and spice. Zierfandler though, keeps its acidity quite well, and the rich introduction of the wine is balanced by a fresh, herbal acidity on the finish - a bit of crackle to contain the exuberance of the wine.

Joe and I have been talking about the greatness of the 2006 Austrians since we first tasted them this spring. We have to say it's rewarding that the wines are finally beginning to get some serious recognition in the national wine media.

Stadlmann is too small a producer (less than 200 cases of this wine make it to the US) and the Zierfandler grape too esoteric to ever be welcomed into the mainstream. That's fine with me; the wine will remain off the radar and wildly underappreciated - except by the lucky few.

The 2006 is drinking terrifically right now, though keep in mind that Zierfandler has the reputation for being able to age very well, and I will definitely be putting a half-case of the 2006 in the cellar to track its evolution over the next 5 to 10 years.

I have locked up as generous a quantity of this wine as I could. While I really want to get the bottle in as many hands as possible, Stadlmann is a small producer and the wine is an unknown rarity.

Stephen Bitterolf
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits

Click below to purchase the 2006 Stadlmann Zierfandler Mandel-Hoh