Stift Goettweig Gruner Veltliner Messwein 2008, 750 mlfrom Stift Goettweig (View all)
Clean and inviting citrus nose, highlighted with rosewood and ripe apples. Fruity and light on the palate, a good bit of traditional “pfefferl” white-pepper snap, fresh and elegant.
|Bottle size (ml)||750 ml|
|Residual Sugar||6.0 g/l|
|Cellar potential||Drink as young as possible.|
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…is one of the architectural treasures of Lower Austria, since 2000 listed as a UNESCO World-Heritage Site. “Stift” is the German word for an abbey, and its name comes from the local colloquial rendering of “(zum Herrn) Gott geweiht”—consecrated to God. The mostly-18th century construction looks down across the river Danube at the city of Krems-an-der-Donau from an elevation of some 449 meters above sea level. The Benedictine Order has been in possession of this institution since shortly after its inception in the 11th Century.
Growing around the abbey are 26 hectares of vines—the greater part of which are situated in the Kremstal, with a slight spillover into the Wachau—planted mostly to grüner veltliner, complemented by 30% riesling, 6% pinot noir and 4% chardonnay. The winemaking is supervised and directed by Fritz Miesbauer, the gifted fellow who was responsible for the Freie Weingärtner Wachau—the co-op in Dürnstein now called “Domäne Wachau”—becoming such a force in the late nineties. Wines are vinified across the river in the new modern cellar at Weingut Stadt Krems, another Miesbauer project.
The vineyards show a good variety of soils, ranging from primary rock and decomposed slate to chalky clays, sand and conglomerates. The most notable vineyard sites are the Gotschelle, Göttweiger Berg and Silberbichl.
Of particular note are the two cuvées designated “Messwein”—altar wine. One is a dry and crisp grüner veltliner, and the other is a rosé of pinot noir. These are produced with the blessing and permission of the Abbot—cannot be chaptalized and are fermented only with indigenous yeasts. One might naturally think that the blood of the Christian Savior would be symbolized by red wine, but in truth, an actual pronouncement of Pope Sixtus IV in the late 15th century established the ecclesiastical validity of using white wine in the holy service.
Winemaker Fritz Miesbauer prefers to work with the cleanest possible grape material, so botrytis-berries are discarded during the selection process. Fermentation and aging take place in super-stainless steel tanks, and Fritz uses wild yeasts as a matter of preference—not just for the Messweine. During a recent visit to New York City, Miesbauer described the Stift’s viticulture as 95% organic.
This name means Lower Austria, and many find it quaint that it refers to part of the nation that, seen on the map, lies above Upper Austria. But in this mountainous country, up means Alp and, we are figuring things in terms of altitude, rather than latitude.
Niederösterreich is the largest of the primary growing regions. The others are the city of Vienna, Burgenland, and Styria. Its size alone might grant Lower Austria a greater diversity than the other three, but that doesn't begin to complete the picture. There are eight winegrowing districts that make up Lower Austria. The most famous of these is the Wachau, and the most prolific is the Weinviertel, literally the wine-quarter, which produces a colossal amount of very flavorful and slightly homogenous Grüner Veltliner.
There: we said the magic word.
Grüner Veltliner (aka Weissgipfler) is the national treasure of Austria, and it is the unifying theme which binds these eight subregions together, although one might be hard-put to find much of it in the Thermenregion, and there isn't a great deal of it in Carnuntum.
The most memorable wines from Lower Austria are white, and typically come from a stretch which starts with the western end of the Wachau, and ends right before the viticultural city limits of the nation's capital. The most outstanding feature of this area is the river Danube, die Donau to germanophones, which runs through the wine-country from Melk to Vienna, nourishing three districts named for the valleys of its tributary rivers: Kamptal, Kremstal and Traisental, and a fourth, Wagram, which takes its name from the foothills which bind it to the river.
What makes Lower Austria unique and outstanding in the world of wine?
Perhaps nowhere else are such comparably fine wines made from so many different grape varieties:
In addition to the aforementioned King of the Hill, there is the great Rhine Riesling, which Austria shares with Germany and Alsace. Then, we must mention the presence of very fine Pinot Noir, succulent Zweigelt and striking St Laurent. With those we cross over into the realm of red wine, and very successfully, I might add, before falling back into the white varieties to mention Weissburgunder, which shows terrific potential for something whose name means pinot blanc.
Additionally, there are significant successful plantings of Grauer Burgunder, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Then we can make space on the rack for Roter Veltliner, Muskateller and Neuburger, which can be occasionally exceptional.
Thermenregion offers its couple rarities, Zierfandler and Rotgipfler, and you might even find all of the above growing in a single vineyard in the city of Vienna, like representatives all together at Parliament in the capital, but that's another story.
Great grapes make delicious wine, but when great grapes are grown in extraordinarily specific and unique soils, the wines transcend delicious and become profound. The soils of Lower Austria range from the Urgestein, primary rock, of the Wachau, through volcanic terroirs of the Kamptal and the fossil limestone of the Traisental, and happily include the deep loess of Wagram, with many combinations along the way.
And then there are the many creative growers, who have put in so much work in the past couple decades to elevate the state of their art and give the wine-drinking world pleasures that were unimagined twenty years ago.
The Kremstal, including the famous old wine-city of Krems and its satellites Stein and Mauthern, is among the most storied of the Austrian wine regions. Krems is not only the name of a major city, but also that of a river that flows into the Danube.
It offers terroirs very much like the neighboring Wachau on its western end, and deeper soils on the other. Primary grape varieties are Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, both of which are well suited to conveying these specialized variations of soil to the taster.
The deeply carved Danube valley guarantees particularly good climatic conditions, and wine-culture has flourished in the area since even before the Benedictine monks started growing vines at the Stift Goettweig high above nearly one thousand years ago.
Some 5500 acres under vine spread themselves out on both sides of the Danube. There are more than a hundred individual wine estates, not to mention those many small growers with modest- to medium-sized holdings who deliver their wines to the co-op Winzer Krems.