In recent years winemaking has improved markedly across the globe. But I’m not sure anyplace has made bigger strides than Austria, and that’s because of people like Hans Czerny.
Part of a family that has made wine for 250 years (context: since before the American Revolution), he became Wimmer-Czerny’s winemaker in 1987. From the looks of him today, Hans must have been about 8 at the time.
Czerny’s wines have a youthful vibrancy as well, but they’re also supple and complex. His “Felserberg” is one of the best gruner veltliners I’ve ever come across (tasting notes below), and all the wines I tasted are well worth their price tags.
Czerny said his home region of Wagram is “perfect for white wine, with cool air at night and warm sunshine during the day. The south-facing slopes [his 15 hectares all face south, toward the nearby Danube River] make for a lot of aroma. We prefer our fruit mineral-y.”
Mission accomplished, largely because the grapes get their oomph from deep roots (often exceeding 15 meters down) in an unusual soil “that is like sand from the Ice Age,” Czerny said. “It’s important that you don’t work with fertilizer or irrigate because then the vines won’t go down. It’s a living soil, so the grapes are strong.”
Czerny converted all his vineyards to organic in 2003 and got biodynamic certification in 2006, and many of his Wagram peers have been going the same route. “If you do something and it works,” he said, “your neighbor asks ‘what is going on?’ Biodynamics the concept is not to produce something but to preserve the land. That’s the central thing.
“It is like [Alsatian legend] Olivier Humbrecht said ‘The grapes will decide what they will be.’ ”
But mostly he focuses on crafting delicious wine and tries to keep on learning. “You should often listen to other people,” he said. “This motivates you.”
• Wimmer-Czerny Blanc de Noirs 08 ($45): gorgeous, expressive, pear, soft mouthfeel, very clean finish.
• Wimmer-Czerny Roter Veltiner “Fels am Wagram” 2010 ($22): crisp, savory, yummy fruit, wet stone, balanced … 2011 ($24): ripe, expressive of terroir, a white for red wine drinkers.
• Wimmer-Czerny Gruner Veltliner “Fumberg” 2011 ($21): ripe mountain fruit, floral, sweet and sharp.
• Wimmer-Czerny Gruner Veltliner “Alte Reben Weelfel” 2010 ($28): racy but firm, sweetish start then bracing acidity, smooth finish.
• Wimmer-Czerny Gruner Veltliner “Felserberg” 2009 ($36): supple, gorgeous stone and citrus fruit, harmonious, long finish.
• Wimmer-Czerny Saint Laurent 2009 ($24): sweetish, plum, juicy, smooth