I love it when a plan comes together. Seriously, I do. Not only because I used to watch way too much A-Team in the late '80s and early '90s, but also because I do love making plans. One of them is to regularly hunt for aged wine (although I do actually prefer the term 'matured wine'), and so far I have not been disappointed with the results. Quite the opposite, in fact, the good ol' boys have been the source of much pleasure. The wine I am reporting about today is no exception, in fact, it is a pure delight. You may have heard of Austria's signature white variety Grüner Veltliner, you may have tasted some, but - like me until very recently - you may not have had the change to see what a really nicely matured Grüner can be like. This baby here is 16 years old, which is the age by which most white wines have passed the zombie stage and hang between decomposition and vinegar. A few, notably Riesling or perhaps Chenin Blanc, make it to or beyond that age. But what about Grüner?
Before we answer that question let us look at the 'Solist' in a little more detail. It was harvested in 1994 in the Wachau, where, as I have been told, the year was quite favourable for wine. Following early summer rains, the summer turned out to be hot and the early days of autumn brought a little precipitation - a good year.
'Solist' is one of three ranges of wine offered by the Kirchmayr winery. 'Juventus' stands for lighter wines meant to be drunk at younger age, 'Prinz' indicates a higher level of quality wine with the potential to age a little more, and 'Solist', well, Solist you will find on the bottles that can, and perhaps should, be stored ten years or more.
Interestingly, Kirchmayr do not seem to grow any grapes themselves. Instead they source from a range of suppliers, many of which they have been working with for years. Kirchmayr's wine philosophy is described using the words terroir, natural fermentation and large wooden barrels. Now this may all sound like marketing talk to you, but the wine shows that it is not.
My Kirchmayr experience starts with a clear, gold-yellow colour that may not reach the intensity of some aged whites, but is brilliant in how clear and shiny it is. The bouquet at first hit me with mineral bordering on dusty, candle wax and burned potato peel, but soon opened up to a really balanced and expressive sensation: green tea; ground black pepper; pear; a hint of smoked, almost overripe tropical fruit; some currant and tobacco make for a mixture that is substantial, almost ready to take on a good, aged Bordeaux, and light at the same time. Brilliant. Oh, and I almost forgot that the mineral stayed on, blended with lots of hay and also herbs. And tobacco - recently I turned into a sucker for tobacco in white wines. And the tongue sensation? Does about 1.4g of residual sugar combined with 5g acidity describe it? No. So how would I describe it?
Well, at first it was quite sharp, really focussed mineral bitterness with surprisingly crisp acidity and a very dry mouth-feel. However, give it time and more and more layers come through. There is still the dusty, bitter minerality with a tingle of citrus and ground pepper, but also an almost fruit flan like sensation of dough, sage and pear. The Grüner is very focussed and it surely has muscle too, but it remains sharp and awake, with a dense, creamy structure. All of this is embedded in dusty minerality. And the Grüner has a really good finish too that leaves you with a tingly mineral sensation on your gum, enhanced by tobacco and cocoa.
Drinking the Solist does not feel at all like drinking an aged wine. What you will find in your glass is sharp, crisp, very alive and with just the right amount of muscle - don't think weight lifter, think Wladimir Klitschko if he looked like Charlize Theron in a cat suit. Clearly a wine with lots of potential, so should you come across it in a few years time, go for it.
* Also, I love the bottle. When I recently received my new camera I chose the Solist to try it out. Remember, these were the first shots taken with the camera, so don't blame the wine for any imperfection.
** And for the curious, this is a wine of dry late harvest quality (i.e. Spätlese trocken).
*** And I am not ashamed to admit it, the wine was so good that I finished it over the course of one night. On my own.