Roter Veltliner, In The Right Hands And From The Right Vineyard


img_9229The wines of young couple Martin and Anna Arndorfer have a particularly vibrant energy, which I insist on believing has something to do with their life partnership. Yin and Yang, maybe? (And you thought that biodynamics was esoteric—now I’m judging wines based on the romance between people who made them!)

But it makes sense—two people from winemaking families who fall in love and decide to make fantastic wine in the Kamptal using a non-interventionist approach and working with unique parcels, and over time they become increasingly adept at their craft, and motivated by the natural wine movement; this is by all means a recipe for beautiful wines.

Which is why I’m really excited that New York City is now getting a vertical of one of the Arndorfers’ most unique wines, a Roter Veltliner from an extremely well-situated vineyard that was planted in 1979. (Sorry, rest of the country—this wine is super limited and only a few cases of the back vintages came to NYC, but you can drink all the other delicious Arndorfer wines, don’t worry!)

Roter Veltliner is not a “noble” grape variety—it’s generally considered something of a workhorse, which is why so many vineyards in choice locations were ripped up and replanted with Riesling in recent decades. I don’t have a lot of very specific information on that right now, but as you may know, when a grape becomes popular on the global market—as Riesling did increasingly in the Aughts—growers typically rush to plant it in place of whatever older varieties they have. I love discovering the older grapes, though, and generally speaking I find that they have a lot of character.

The Arndorfers’ Roter Veltliner is raised in small old french barriques as well as stainless steel barrels, with fairly extensive lees aging (around 10 months on most of the wines)—and I think this approach has a lot to do with the wine’s charm. Thanks to the lees contact and the large oak casks, the wines are unctuous, slightly nutty, richly textured; they sort of beg you to roll the liquid around in your mouth and savor its complexity. Martin and Anna have an appreciation for traditional approaches (like large oak casks, which they use on some of their other wines), and they go easy on the sulfites, resulting in very expressive wines across the board—but these Roter Veltliner wines are particularly interesting, as the grape doesn’t typically get much respect. They were knock-outs with the dim sum food we had while tasting.

img_9239The vineyard site, called Gaisberg, is about 300 meters up—about as high as vines go in that setting—and is surrounded by top Riesling vineyards (see the picture of a map with the site circled) and consists of primary rock. Martin purchased it from a grower who didn’t much care for it or consider it worthy of great wine. But clearly, in the hands of Martin and Anna, the Roter Veltliner grown at this site expresses nuanced flavors and develops well with age.

Four vintages are currently available: 2012 through 2015. The 2012 has 8.5 grams of residual sugar, and its really well situated within the entire wine—the nose is honeyed with caramel inflections and a touch of crème brulée; the rich and creamy mouthfeel is so inviting. The 2013 has a smokier character, and the same great texture; it’s a more mineral-driven wine, with a nice thread of acidity. The 2014 is from a difficult vintage (rain throughout August) but you really wouldn’t be able to tell; it’s perhaps a bit more one-note although still wonderfully textured and fresh. The 2015 is very mineral, with wet stones on the nose and palate, and it’s fresh and a touch nutty. These are nuanced wines that deserve to be cellared for a couple of years.

I definitely recommend grabbing one of these bottles if you see them in retail (I hear that Vintry currently carries some); but look out for the Arndorfer wines in general—they have a very good Gruner-Riesling blend that runs about $18-20 on the shelf, as well as a really nice Zweigelt rosé. In general, the Arndorfer wines are real gems and are likely to only get more and more interesting with each passing harvest.