Melusine Gruner Veltliner Lyra 2003, 750 mlfrom Marion Ebner (View all)
A stunning example of the heights that Gruner Veltliner wines are capable of: complex, full, and with elevated fruit and great spice notes such as white pepper on the finish. This wine has great strength, and yet is soft in its presentation. The Melusine project is from vintner Marion Ebner, using grapes which she carefully tended herself in the vineyards at the Schloss Gobelsburg winery. ‘Lyra’ describes the way she trains her vines, and ‘Melusine’ is for the siren call of the mermaid. A very different style of Gruner Veltliner from those that we carry from the Wachau region: this one is also from Lower Austria, but from the Kamptal region. Only 600 bottles made, 400 of which were imported into the US by Winemonger (100 of which were pre-reserved by restaurants before we could even ship them over!), and we periodically release small allotments of them as they age. This wine and its winemaker are creating a big buzz in the wine press in Austria. Serve chilled. Imported in 2005.
|Bottle size (ml)||750 ml|
|Cellar potential||now to 2020|
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Marion Ebner gets a glittering recommendation from her mentor, the Viennese master Fritz Wieninger, who tells us “Marion is quite a unique personality. Despite her youth she makes such a vivid impression—not only verbally, but she also gets it into the bottle. It’s only a very small group of individuals we could say that about, and I’m very proud of her.”
Gru?ner Veltliner is a member of the Burgundy family of grapes; it counts Traminer as one parent like Chardonnay does, which makes them cousins. And much has been made in the press—by Jancis Robinson and others—about the af- finity that GV shows with excellent white Burgundy. So it is no surprise that under the right circumstances Gru?ner Veltliner should find its way into a barrique, and then emerge months later with surprisingly delicious results.
Marion was not born to the vine, as are most Austrian vintners, but found her way there while still a teenager. By her talent alone, she has earned access to the lyra-trained vines of Schloss Gobelsburg’s Ried Lamm, whence come the Gru?ner Veltliner grapes that go to make the Melusine.
Aged for nearly a year in French barriques, Melusine is a complex, powerful and beautifully structured GV in a very elegant package—not to mention the physical package: Burgundy bottle, wax-sealed. Marion named the wine for the medieval water-nymph, to underscore its feminine and seductive traits. If the critics—both foreign and domestic—are to be believed, it comes as no surprise that we are seduced.
Read "The Story of Mesuline"
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.
With more than 10,000 acres planted to the vine, Kamptal is one of the larger growing regions of Austria.
Spread around about the thriving town of Langelois, Kamptal takes its name, as does Kremstal, from the river that runs through the valley.
Kamptal is home to one of the most monumental hills of vines anywhere, the massive Heiligenstein in Zöbing. Etymologists have fun with how the hellish-hot Heissenstein turned holy into the Heiligenstein, going from the devils to the saints, as it were. This imposing natural wonder dates from the Permian period, some 270 million years ago, and is composted of weathered sandstone with volcanic highlights.
The densely terraced south face of the massif is so steep that the typical loess has never blown onto it and collected here, thus it offers particularly fine soils for growing the finicky Riesling.
This is another region where the hot Pannonian climate is tempered by the cool evening breezes coming out of the Waldviertel—which provides the grapes with a longer time to hang on their vines, developing good physiologic ripeness to complement the sugar-content.
Home to at least 160 wine estates, the region is also becoming a preferred tourist destination.