Hogl Georg Gruner Veltliner 2003, 750 mlfrom Hogl (View all)
The 2003 vintages are the happy result of record high summer temperatures that made for uniquely powerful wines, which is why vintner Josef Hogl was able to fill this wine as early as the late December after the harvest. It’s also why he named the Georg “Hogl’s Junger” which means “younger” or “junior” in English. This wine has everything a great Gruner Veltliner is known for: green aromas, crisp minerals, and a white pepper finish. It does not carry one of the usual three Wachau classifications and was improved by chaptalization. But it is this added sugar which will allow it to hold longer than the usual “Steinfeder” wine while still remaining dry dry dry.
|Bottle size (ml)||750 ml|
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We find ourselves now deep in the Spitzer Graben, the valley where the Spitzerbach runs, which is too frequently bypassed by tourists enjoying an outing on or along the Danube.
Josef Högl, the best-known winegrower in the valley, calls it for this reason “the forgotten Wachau.”
Högl adds with a wry smile, “Everybody goes up and down the river or the highway, but only a few folks get lost and find their way to us.”
Some 100 hectares, a solid third of Spitz’s total plantings, are located in the Graben, and this expanse of terraces spreads itself out quite impressively on the hillsides.
Since the glen runs East-West from Spitz to Viessling, the vineyards enjoy a full South-Southwest exposure.
Josef Högl continues, “The Spitzer Graben is different from the rest of the Wachau. Not too far away from the Danube, but still different.” It is the coolest terroir in the noble district.
Here there is very little wind: the easterly breezes don’t make it into the Graben, and the frequently mentioned mountain-winds from Jauerling and the Waldviertel are clearly noticeable only in summer. The sun warms this small valley quite readily, but does so without drying things out.
The grapes require a lot of time to ripen, which makes for particular and finely-developed aromatics. In the warmer years, the cool nature of the place is in no way a disadvantage—the vines can regenerate themselves better from the heat-stress of the day.
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 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.