Donabaum Setzberg Riesling Smaragd 2005, 750 mlfrom Donabaum (View all)
The Setzberg is a new Riesling bottling from winemaker Johann Donabaum. We loved the 2002 Offenberg with a mighty passion, so it was with some surprise that we found we loved this wine even more. We shouldn’t have been surprised, though: Johann’s talents deepen with each new vintage. Wine Spectator called Johann one of the three vintners leading the way in the famous Wachau region. Jancis Robinson has also chimed in about his talents: One of the most impressive for quality - and without a doubt for value - was Johann Donabaum of the eponymous family winery of Spitz at the coolest, western end of the Wachau, Austria’s great dry white wine region….This is a name to watch.
|Wine Spectator||92 - “Shows aromas of mineral and slate, with tangy citrus, pippin and green peach flavors and notes of grapefruit. Zingy acidity lingers on the focused finish. Drink now through 2014.”|
|Wine Enthusiast||91 - “Bursts from the glass with terrific aromas of honey, nuts and smoky grilled peaches, then adds apple and molten rock of minerality to go along with bold fruit. This round, full-bodied wine with a long, spicy finish should age easily over the next 10 years or more.”|
|Wine & Spirits||91 - “This is a new single-vineyard wine from Donabaum, made from young vines. Indian spice underlines bold mango and passion-fruit flavors, everything kept racy by bright acidity.”|
|Undefined||90 - “Fresh lime; juicy and dense with lovely balance. FROM: Anthony Dias Blue / Patterson’s Tasting Panel”|
|Bottle size (ml)||750 ml|
|Residual Sugar||6.9 g/l|
|Cellar potential||Now to 2019|
Johann Donabaum works a relatively small five-hectare family-estate in the Spitzer Graben.
The Austrian press dubbed him a “Shooting Star” (that’s Austrian for Wunderkind) a couple years ago, and this recognition has recently been confirmed by top ratings from the Wine Spectator—both for his Riesling and for Grüner Veltliner.
Donabaum’s vineyards are spread out in steeply raked sites as well as among terraced vineyards—the cool character of this corner of the Wachau allows him to produce wines that show a pronounced softness and rounded expression, always balanced by fresh acidity.
The Smaragd-level wines are voluptuous as one might expect, but Johann displays a deft hand with Federspiel as well. The delicacy of his wines emphasizes the difference in the mineral character of his individual vineyard sites—he says that he wants for each of them to paint the picture of the place where it comes from.
Johann Donabaum’s Rieslings
The south-facing Setzberg is so stony and meager of soil that many growers are tempted not to look beyond Neuburger, a variety that needs so little moisture that, according to Josef Högl, “Sometimes the dew is enough.”
The terroir is composed of Kalksilikatgneiß, which is indeed as complex as it sounds—limestone with silicates and metamorphic rock, and the resulting wines are mineral-toned and very finely textured.
In contrast, the Offenberg is planted in silex, and the wines bring forth a lovely stone-fruit component and a gorgeous spicy vivacity.
The Johann GV
2005 marked the debut of Johann Donabaum’s eponymous Grüner Veltliner. Assembled from a cuvée of his single-vineyard Federspiel GVs, the Johann stands for all that we admire in the man’s wines: the perfect typicity of the grape variety exquisitely complemented with terroir.
The pricing is as striking as the modern look of the bottle: a first-class Federspiel wearing a Steinfeder pricetag.
A fine relationship of quality to price is back in fashion this year with the superb balance and expressive fruit of the 2007 vintage, coupled with a little breathing-room in the currency exchange.
The Spitzer Point Vineyard
In the Wachau, when a vineyard-name ends with the syllable “point”, it means that it lies at the bottom of a hill. From this we know that centuries of precipitation have washed rock and soil from uphill on to downhill, improving the soil and its minerality with fibers of the mountain’s primal stone.
Spitzer Point is situated where the Offenberg meets the Setzberg. Old vines up to 60 years of age produce a Grüner Veltliner that perfectly marries this deep minerality and elegance with power and complexity—this makes it, year after year, Johann Donabaum’s flagship Grüner Veltliner.
The Wachau is one of 8 "sub-areas" in Lower Austria. The other 7 are Kremstal, Kamptal, Danubelands, Traisental, Carnuntum, Weinvertel, and Thermenregion. Calling this region "lower Austria" may seem counter-intuitive to most. The four main wine regions of Austria are all in the eastern half of the country, and lower Austria is the northernmost. One generally equates "North" with "upper", but not here. The explanation given is that it has to do with altitude and not latitude. Of course, while it is at a lower altitude than Styria and Vienna, it is not as low as Burgenland. Go figure.
The Wachau is perhaps the best known of the 8 sub-regions. There are 3500 acres of vines, mostly Gr?ner Veltliner and Riesling, planted in a soil of weathered primary rock, granite and slate on the steeply terraced vineyards above and sand and loess on the slope of the hills below. The area also grows Neuburger, Gelber Muskateller, Sauvignon Blanc, M?ller-Thurgau and Chardonnay. The regional association "Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus" acts as a kind of DOC police for this area, labeling the wines under three classifications: Steinfeder (light, young and racy), Federspiel (elegant and with body), and Smaragd (very ripe and powerful). "Smaragd" literally means emerald, and is a reference to the color of the small lizards that run amok in the vines here. For more specifics on these classifications, see types of wines.
The Wachau's proximity to the Danube, which winds lazily past like some great fat serpent, adds to the amazing beauty of this place. In the spring the steep rising hills are a lush bright green and the apricot trees blossom madly. In the fall these hills seem almost ablaze with the turning leaves of the vineyards.