Leo Alzinger is located in Unterloiben, just across the street from Knoll. Leo owns parcels in two of the great vineyards in this part of the river valley: Loibenberg and Steinertal. Loibenberg is a towering, terraced hillside, while the diminutive (5.5 hectare) Steinertal is hidden and maintains a cooler micro-climate. On the terraced vineyards of both sites, Riesling is cultivated on the higher, more primary rock rich parcels while Grüner Veltliner is cultivated on the lower, silty, loess based parcels.
Leo Alzinger Jr took over the family domaine in 2002 after returning from harvest in New Zealand. Prior to that he traveled to other regions to gain more experience and was fortunate to spend time with legendary winemaker Hans Günter Schwarz just prior to his retirement in 2002. “The most significant experience came with my work in the Pfalz at Müller-Catoir in the vintage 2000. Hans Günter Schwarz revealed things in the cellar, small details that gave stronger impressions of vineyard and place. He taught me not to be afraid of skin contact, that good grapes will give good phenols, for example. How important work with the lees is and many other things.”
Harvest at Alzinger happens later than some of Leo’s neighbors in Unterloiben, something he attributes to old vines and the specific exposition of his parcels. The extra time on the vine doesn’t increase sugar levels, Leo says, but rather pushes physiological ripeness to greater balance. Alzinger crushes whole cluster with a short maceration, then allows the must to settle for 24 hours, dropping any green tannins out. Tasting the wines next to some of the other Wachau greats, it becomes apparent that elegance and pristine fruit is what Leo looks for in winemaking, rather than opulence. Alzinger’s wines are never forceful or assertive; they are instead amazingly sanguine and calmly transparent.
Wachau is a small but important wine district on the Danube River in northern Austria. One of Austria's most famous and respected wine regions, Wachau is known for its full-bodied, pepper-tinged Grüner Veltliner and rich, steely Riesling.
Wachau Grüner Veltliner is arguably the most iconic of all Austrian wine styles. Racy, aromatic and intense, these wines are marked by zesty citrus notes and a zing of white pepper. Neighboring Kremstal and Kamptal are the only other regions (In Austria or beyond) capable of producing Grüner Veltliner like this.
Despite (and because of) its prominence, Wachau is a latecomer to the Districtus Austriae Controllatus classification system. It became the 15th DAC in 2020, 17 years after Weinviertel was the first to be approved. The DAC system is meant to follow the French AOP system more closely in terms of recognizing quality in regionally typical wines.
As is the case with the most recently introduced DACs, there are three tiers of geographic classification. These are Ried (single vineyard), Ortswein (from a defined municipality) and Gebietswein (across Wachau). For each the permitted grape varieties are listed below.
While other DACs have introduced terms like Classic and Reserve to address other variables, Wachau will retain its existing unique terminology 9see below). Wines from Wachau which fall outside the DAC classification are most likely to be labeled with the Niederösterreich designation.
The terms Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd have been commonly found on bottles of white Wachau wine. This three-tier classification was developed by the region's producers as a way of communicating the style of their wines, beyond region and grape variety.
Top-end Wachau Smaragd wines can improve in the cellar for 20 years or more. Sought-after examples of these wines include F.X. Pichler's "Unendlich" Riesling, and both the "Singerriedel" Riesling and "Honivogl" Grüner Veltliner from Franz Hirtzberger. Among the region's top Federspiel wines are Domane Wachau's Terrassen Riesling Federspiel and Emmerich Knoll's Grüner Veltliner Federspiel.
The viticultural region follows the Danube for roughly 35 kilometers (20 miles) until Krems-an-der-Donau, the fifth-largest city in Lower Austria. This is the commercial hub for Wachau and its neighboring districts Kremstal and Kamptal.
Most Wachau vineyards are located on steep (often terraced) hillsides above the Danube – a naturally sunny location where warm summer temperatures are stabilized slightly by the river below. The most flavorful Wachau wines come from vineyards perched on sun-drenched, south-facing terraces.
Wachau's steep, sweeping, vineyard-lined riverbanks could easily be mistaken for those of Germany's Mosel, even if the wines are distinct. Classic Wachau Rieslings taste richer, riper and more tropical than their counterparts from the cooler, wetter Mosel. They have much more in common with the richest Rieslings of Alsaçe and Pfalz.
The climate in Wachau, and indeed all of northern Austria, is influenced by two dramatically different climatological zones: the chilly Eastern Alps to the west, and the warm Pannonian Plain that dominates Hungary to the east. Overall, the Austrian climate is decidedly continental, with warm summers and cold winters, but along the banks of the Danube a more moderate mesoclimate prevails.
Soil types play an important role in Wachau vineyards. They are composed largely of sand, gravel and loess, carried downstream by the Danube over many millennia. Also present is a special kind of gneiss known as gföhler, which is said to bring a certain minerality to Wachau wines.
Riesling performs best in the weathered, granitic soils on the steeper terraces. Grüner Veltliner prefers the sandier loess carried by prevailing winds over time to eastern hillsides.
Viticulture in Wachau is thought to have been introduced by Celtic tribes, and continued in the 1st Century B.C. by Romans. The most important influence, however, came from Bavarian and Salzburger monks. They built the steep, terraced vineyards along the riverside in the Middle Ages.
The best place to start when you are pairing food and wine is to think about the structural elements of both the food and wines. These elements are: sweetness, acidity, bitterness, umami, chilli heat and fat.
We have listed these elements in foods and how you can add wines with similar or contrasting elements to help create harmony in your matches.
Sweet foods can overpower dry wines, white or red, making them appear acidic, neutral or bitter. In order to reduce this effect you should pair sweet foods with sweet wines.
Acidic foods, like fresh citrus, tomatoes or salads laden with vinaigrettes, will overpower the acidity in a wine making them appear flabby or less acidic than they were. In order to reduce this effect you should pair acidic foods with wines that have a higher acidity such as Champagne, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.
Acidity is a key element in creating balance in a dish or a food-and-wine match. If the foods are going to reduce the acidity in the wines then you need to add your own bit of acidity by bringing a more acidic wine to the table. It is the same principle behind adding lemon juice to seafood dishes, as seafood tends to have quite low natural acidity.
If a food is high in bitterness then it will make the wine appear bitter, or it will increase the perception of bitterness (tannins) in the wine. In order to reduce this effect you should pair bitter foods with wines that are not bitter but rather have refreshing acidity.
Foods that are highly savoury, like mushrooms, will increase the bitterness or acidic perception we have in wines. In order to reduce this effect you should pair umami rich foods with wines that are very fruity and do not have medium-high tannins.
Often foods that are more savoury are best matched with white wines like Chardonnay or Soave as these do not have tannins but have lots of fruity flavours nor do they have extremely high acidity.
Chilli heat is similar to umami rich foods where by it will increase the bitterness or acidic perception as well as the alcoholic burn we have in wines. In order to reduce this effect you should pair chilli heat rich foods with wines that are very fruity but also have higher sweetness.
Wines that are just a touch off-dry like many Gewurztraminer or Riesling work best with chilli foods like a curry as they will be both a bit sweet but also very fruity. If you aren't a white wine drinker then you should consider red wines that have lower tannins such as a Pinot Noir or a Gamay Noir.
Foods that are high in fat will make the wines feel flabby and less fruity. In order to reduce this effect you should pair fatty foods with wines that have high acidity. This is similar to the rule of adding in acidity (in the form of citrus) to seafood to help balance out not just the acidity but to cut down the perception of fattiness in the seafood.
This is why when you are having a piece of red meat that is high in fat, like lamb, then you should pair it with a Pinot Noir instead of a Merlot as a Pinot Noir will have a higher acidity and will help to balance out the dish.
These rules will help you with starting to think about how to create pairings. It often isn't helpful to think about 'red wine and red meat' or 'white wine and fish' because it is actually the structural elements of the wine and food that are what need to be balanced. It is the acidity in white wines that work well with cutting through the fattiness of a piece of fish but you could get that acidity through a Pinot Noir.
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