Weingut Knoll in the Wachau’s Loiben probably has the world’s worst labels. As gharish and cheap as they appear, everything else about the winery is fantastic.
The Wachau itself is a UNESCO world heritage site and the vineyards between Krems and Melk on the mighty Danube produce some of Europe’s finest white wines. Whereas the region’s best wines are probably made using the Riesling varietal, the Austrian national grape Grüner Veltliner fairs here pretty well too.
This wine, made using the highest quality grapes in Wachau wine, those that suffice to obtain legendary Smaragd classification, is sourced from the Schütt vineyard between the communes of Loiben and Dürnstein on one of the Danube’s meanders.
Golden yellow with a brassy touch.
Orange peel with a delicate floral edge in the background. Very, very fine nuances of vegetation: meadow grass and drying straw but also sweet white petals. Apricot in the way of fruit with a hint of red apple.
Warming on the attack with red fruit: redcurrant and plums (yellow and red) and leading onto a marmelade body with orange, orange peel and Clementine, there is stone fruit feel but it is remarkably well built-in: nothing brash, just the luscious feel of peach and apricot. Honey melon and a finish with floral elements, fine vegetative structure and the finest pinch of black pepper finest the wine perfectly.
Whereas Grüner Veltliner is bright and lively in youth, it ages with grace and, in my opinion, it does this best in the Wachau. The sharp, refreshing fruit gives way to an excellently balanced, high-quality wine with classic appeal but also a sense of timelessness: a wine with the ability to impress again and again. Weingut Knoll is at the forefront of Austria’s viticulture scene and is, alongside some of the other winemakers in Loiben and Dürnstein, one of the best white wine producers in Europe.
You may link Austria with Grüner Veltliner and you’d be right but in the three neighbouring regions along the Danube: Kremstal, Wachau and Kamptal, the best wines are arguably all made of Riesling. The Wachau is in fact home to some of the world’s finest dry Rieslings and its viticulture heritage is based on this white grape rather than the otherwise omnipresent Grüner Veltliner which also grows there.
The Wachau is unique in Austrian wine as it doesn’t just use the simple classication system that the other regions of Austria do. Its wines are also categorised into three types: basic Steinfeder, middle-of-the-road Federspiel and ripe, luscious Smaragd.
One of the region’s most famous and indeed best producers is Frank X. Pichler. The winery’s products are sought-after the world over and make up some of Austria’s most expensive bottles. Alongside these wines though exist a series of affordable Federspiel and Smaragd wines.
This wine is sourced from a large, steep South-facing vineyard above the commune of Loiben: the Loibner Oberhauser. Right in the middle of a headland inside one of the Danube’s meanders, it is protected from strong winds and is able to soak up the sun’s energy for a large part of the day without shadows being cast from neighbouring hills.
Pale gold in colour.
In the nose are notes of sweetened, candied lemon peel and a great deal of delicate stone fruit: yellow plums, nectarines and apricots but also a fair amount of Nashi pear and yellow apples. The feel in the nose is rather rustical and this combined with a milky, limestone sensation reminds more of Chardonnay than Rielsing.
On the attack, the lemon and yellow plums are first on the scene but are joined by old-fashioned apple, buttery pastry and a decent amount of quince and Asian pears. The finish is chalky and contains notes of pepper but also a dash of salt and a pinch of wet rock.
A very interesting take on Riesling, this wine is a more controlled take on the varietal than one might expect: there’s no racing acidity or a large amount of underlying freshness but rather a complicated and well-mixed full experience. Combined with what might be a hint of wood, it feels like a good Rheinhessen Riesling or even a Chardonnay. Nevertheless a fantastic wine from one of Europe's finest white wine producers.
Welcome to the Wachau, where everything is done different. Well, classification is done a bit differently at least. Alongside the traditional classification that is commonplace in German and Austrain produce, the wineries of the Wachau use their own system whereby simpler wines are graded Steinfeder and the ripest, fullest bottles carry the prestigious Smaragd name. The middle of the road is called Federspiel and these make up most of the wines to originate from the region.
In the rest of Austria, particularly Niederösterreich, Grüner Veltliner is the famed grape whereby the Wachau is actually best known for its Riesling. Nevertheless, it produces a great deal of Grüner Veltliner too and its wines are some of the best to originate from Austria altogether.
One producer of such wines is Weingut Knoll in Loiben. Weingut Knoll is one of the Wachau’s most famous and, alongside single-vineyard Riesling and Grüner Veltliner Smaragd wines, it producers a handful of entry-level, varietal-specific wines of which this is one. This wine is made using grapes grown in and around the Loiben commune and carries the Federspiel classification.
Golden yellow with a tiny bit of green in the hue.
The wine has a unique floral bouquet with a bold sense of green apple and fresh herbs.
The wine is uniquely fresh on the attack with lime juice and green apples. This goes on to a thicker citrus body with lemon and grapefruit notes. There is a unique chalky feel through the body which makes the whole thing very creamy. The finish is long and elegant and carries that lovely white pepper note that is so prominent in Wachau Veltliner.
A lovely Veltliner with all of the notes that have catapulted this varietal to international success, this wine uses the soils of the Loibner commune to create a product which feels like it has a touch more personality that the wines made using grapes grown over the whole region. Enjoy it with freshwater fish dishes or milder sea fish: sea bass for example. The label is awful though…sorry.
Once again, that’s quite a long name for a wine: let me break it down for you. ‘Domäne Wachau’ is the name of the winery, ‘Himmelstiege’ is the name of the terraces of Dürnstein (a town in the Wachau) where the grapes are grown. Grüner Veltliner is, of course, the varietal and ‘Federspiel’ is the classification level: they do it differently in the Wachau than anywhere else in Austria (see here).
Domäne Wachau is one of Austria’s most famous wineries and the Wachau’s largest. Located in beautiful Dürnstein in the middle of the Wachau (Danube valley), the winery is known worldwide for its Grüner Veltliner: a varietal which is at its peppery best in Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal.
The wine is of a pale but shiny yellow colour with a faint hint of green.
On the nose are lemon peel, gooseberries and a hint of grapefruit. Some herbal aromas are to detect as well: wild nettles and freshly cut grass.
Very fresh on the attack with subtle notes of lemon and lime alongside refreshing green apple and pink grapefruit. The white pepper kicks in shortly before the finish and presents a granite-iron note which is both very elegant and typical for well-made Veltliner.
A classic Federspiel: elegant, spicy and fresh: if you’re looking at getting into Austrian wine: start here. Whilst the winerys Rieslings and single-estate Veltliners are what it is known for, both the Himmelstiege and Terrassen series are fantastic examples as to how good and how affordable Austrian white wine is. Did I mention white pepper?
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
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-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry