Monday, June 22, 2015

1997 Nikolaihof Vinothek Riesling, a wine for the ages

I was unfamiliar with Nikolaihof Riesling Vinothek prior to receiving an offer from Morrell's in May of this year. Having had good luck with Jeremy's suggestions in the past, I ordered a few bottles sight unseen. I have drunk three of the bottles since and will provide my perspective on the wine in this post. But first, as is my custom, some background.

Nikolaohof Wachau is the oldest wine estate in Austria with production that can be traced back 2000 years. The 22 ha estate, owned by the Saahs family since 1894, is Demeter-certified biodynamic and adheres to the regime shown below.

Allowed Vineyard Applications Prohibited Applications
Stinging nettle manure Herbicides
Valerian drops Pesticides
Valerian tea Artificial fertilizers
Other specially produced preparations Synthetic sprays

Planting and harvesting activities are guided by the moon calendar,

The average vine age is 47 years with the vines occupying soils that are primary rock topped with humus or gravel and eroded primary rock. Resident varieties are Riesling (55%), Gruner Veltliner (35%), with the remaining 10% distributed between Malvasier, Neuburger, and Chardonnay.

The Vinothek label is rarely produced with only five recorded prior to the 1997:
  • 1990 -- Riesling
  • 1991 - Gruner Veltliner
  • 1993 - Gruner Veltliner
  • 1995 -- Riesling
The 1997 Vinothek is, of course, a Riesling.

The decision to produce a Vinothek is made early and is based on the potential and quality of the particular grapes. Vinothek-bound grapes are fermented naturally in 3500 L oak casks and are aged for up to 17 years on the lees, This oxidative aging contributes to the unique aromas and flavors in the wine as well as to its hardiness in the face of oxygen exposure. The 1997 Vinothek was bottled in August 2014 (17 years after production) while its non-Vinothek peers were bottled and marketed in 1998.

I drank a test bottle of the wine shortly after it was delivered to my house and was impressed. We took another bottle to lunch with Ron and Bev on on Wednesday last and were disappointed until, at Parlo's behest, we changed the glasses we were using. The stubby, rounded glasses that had been presented to us initially were not allowing the aromas and flavors to manifest appropriately. Once we switched to taller glasses, the wine became reminiscent of the first bottle I had drunk. But the damage had already been done.

I took a third bottle to dinner at F&D Kitchen and Bar on Friday night last and the following observations are based on that bottle. The bottle was opened 3 hours prior to arrival at the restaurant and I had it both as an aperitif and an accompaniment to a dish.

The wine had a pale golden color in the glass and its surface tension hinted at viscosity. It had a honeyed nose with caramel, orange, tangerine, and brioche from the lees contact evident. Richness on the palate with intensity building back to front. Initial bracing acidity yields to pleasing freshness. Lemon rind and burnt orange. Balanced and persistent. Toffee-caramel fading to a dry, somewhat metallic finish.

I had ordered a Skillet Seared Rock Shrimp as an appetizer and the garlic butter, herbs, and spices used in its preparation were very evident. The wine flavors provided a pleasing contrast to the shrimp flavors before clearing the palate and gently ushering the tamed shrimps past the epiglottis and into the esophagus. Heavenly.

I am so pleased with the wine that I have placed orders for additional bottles. Pricing is rather non-uniform. pegs the average price at $202 but I paid $197/bottle at Morrell's and $170/bottle at Crush Wine and Spirits. Ron has two bottles of the same wine in his cellartracker logged in at $130/bottle.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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