Schachtnerhof, Wörgl

October 3rd, 2009

The title of this tasting was “Kapazunder”, which is quite an Austrian word and one doesn’t even find it in every German dictionary. The word is taken from the Greek “coryphaeus”, literally meaning the top of the head, but was also the chorus leader in attic drama. This was a tasting among friends and participants delivered flights from their own private cellars. The idea was to taste “Kapazunder” wines in pairs.

Flight 1:

Two Mosel Riesling Auslese of the same vintage from two different producers. The Haag was surprisingly mineral and chiselled for an Auslese and definitely showed more fresh rather than dried fruit. The Loosen was rounder in body and the acid plays coyfully with sweet, slightly unctuous, botrytized fruit. The Haag had a more austere character due to its structure: a firm spine of acid was enveloped in fruit and minerals. On its own, I preferred the Haag, but the Loosen paired better with our food: a small dish with three variations of goose liver.

2005 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Auslese #6

(96 points)

Medium straw yellow. Intense quince and lime drizzled vineyard peach are backed with flint and a hint of petrol on the nose. Intense apricot, lime, and salty minerals are wrapped around an exquisitely integrated spine of racy acid which perfectly counters sweet juicy peach. Extremely well-balanced, taut and precisely focused.

2005 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr

(92 points)

Medium straw yellow. Smoky minerals and very intense stone fruit. Mango, peach and apricot are lifted by piercing acid. This acid counters the significant residual sweetness a playful light-footedness. Acacia blossom, peach and lemon linger on the long finish.

Flight 2:

Austria has long secured a niche for itself among the top white wine producing countries of the world. The red wine culture is just now entering its second generation. The first generation of high quality red wines began to establish itself in the mid-eighties, a time when over-ripe fruit and plenty of toasty oak were in fashion. This fashion was often grasped with more enthusiasm than thoughtfulness or skill and the first efforts were sometimes clumsy. Despite this, Austria’s most important wine competition, the Salon, as well as many of its most prolific wine critics applauded the over-ripe, jammy red wines with heavy doses of toasted oak and high alcohol content. Unfortunately the habit of focusing on intense aromas and ignoring disappointing structure is a difficult habit to break. Fortunately, the most balanced, elegant, and longevous red wines that have gone largely unnoticed by the local media are receiving praise from outside the country. The Austrian red wines that are most appreciated by international critics are often from indigenous varieties that are well-matched with their terroir – well-balanced wines in food-friendly styles. This flight portrays two typical wines from the first generation of producers enjoyed national cult status in the 1980s and 1990s. Both producers seem to be changing their styles since the 2001 vintage.

2000 Heinrich Salzberg

(78 points)

Deep dark ruby. The nose is penetrating and volatile with rum pot and spiced plums. Coffee, black cherry and nail polish on a full-body. The tannins are fleshy and rather wide-meshed. Balsamico drenched, overripe fruit remains on the finish. This wine lacks in structure and has far too much volatile acidity. Further bottle maturation will not transform this ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.

2000 Pöckl Merlot

(87 points)

Deep dark ruby with violet red highlights. A heavily oaked nose exhibits roasted coffee, charred meat and stewed fruit. Mocha and cacao flavour abundant, grainy tannins. This wine is definitely better structured and far more enjoyable than its partner in this flight, but the finish is a bit hot and drying.

Flight 3:

I think that of all the wines of Chile, I am most familiar with Alamaviva. It has an inimitable style, expressing its Maipo Valley origin with distinguished Old World flair. We were sceptical about this bottle because both the label and the cork reeked of TCA, indicating a period of storage in a tainted environment. Despite this, we determined that the wine itself was not flawed. Although the wine showed no overt taint, the fruit was suppressed and the wine generally not as expressive as I recall it from previous tastings. The Seña was brilliant, a prototypical Cabernet from Chile.

1999 Seña

(90 points)

Dark ruby garnet. Intense lovage and spearmint envelope cassis and leather. Abundant tannins that are medium grained are beginning to soften. Pronounced eucalyptus lingers on the finish of this well-balanced wine.

1998 Almaviva

(88 points)

Dark ruby garnet. The nose is restrained with subtle aromas of roasted coffee beans, blackberry and dark raspberry with a hint of sweaty saddle. Abundant firm tannins and nicely integrated acid. The fruit is quite suppressed on the finish. This wine generally lacks in the intensity of expression with which I remember from other tastings.

Flight 4:

Just as the Seña is an admirable example of a Chilean Cabernet, so is the Penfolds 707 a superb illustration of the variety in Australia. Still, it had a difficult time holding up to the iconic Penfolds Grange, which is 97% Syrah. The Grange was multi-layered, rich and complex and its finish continued for minutes in waves.

1998 Penfolds Grange

(96 points)

Deep dark ruby. Eucalyptus, cassis, freshly ground coffee beans and peppery spice. Intense blackcurrant and lavender nuances follow. Perfectly integrated acid lends brightness to the sweet fruit. Marinated game, crushed wild berries, cedar and juniper unfold with time in the glass. This is a complex and very well-balanced wine with restrained power and finesse. It will benefit from more bottle maturation and offer tremendous pleasure from 2011 to at least 2028.

1998 Penfolds Bin 707

(91 points)

Dark ruby-garnet. An expressive nose of black currant, blueberry and tobacco. Abundant, velvety tannins are nicely bedded in rich cassis. The spicy, roasted oak is also well integrated with cacao, tomato plant and cassis. Well-balanced, harmonious, and long on the finish.

Flight 5:

We are on a roll here with iconic New World Cabernets. It may have been interesting to have the Seña, the Penfolds 707, and the Shafer Hillside Select side by side in one flight. Each expresses its origin so inimitably. Perhaps it was better to keep the Shafer separate because it is truly a boisterous show-stopper. The Opus One had the unfortunate position at its side and really suffered as a dull, boring wall flower in comparison.

1998 Shafer Hillside Select

(93 points)

Dark black-red, nearly opaque. An intense and charismatic nose exhibits boisterous, deep black currant, oaky spice, and a touch of graphite. Sweet yet not jammy fruit, clove, and cedar are woven with finely meshed, sweet tannin. Balsamic notes and liquorice linger long on the finish of this boisterous, open-hearted yet sincere wine. Quintessential Napa Valley!

1998 Opus One

(89 points)

Dark ruby-garnet with a transparent, fading rim. Subtle leather, cigar box, and graphite. Crushed black currant and raspberry flavour medium tannins that are fairly fine-grained. This is a subtle wine that makes a nearly Bordeaux rather than Napa Valley impression. I find that this wine was already unjustly treated by the American press and today we’ve again unjustly paired the poor thing with a wine of a much bigger sized shoe.

Flight 6:

Gaja’s basic Barbaresco was put to the test in this flight. Fortunately we had a break for a bite to eat before this flight, otherwise it would have had a difficult time after all those flamboyant New World wines. Nebbiolo requires time in general, and Gaja’s remain particularly closed in their youth. Both wines will continue to benefit from further bottle maturation. But I must admit that I really like my Nebbiolo just on the brink of morbidity when the tannins have softened and all that wonderful forest fragrance, decay and tar are present, but the red berry fruit has not yet disappeared.

1998 Gaja Barbaresco

(90 points)

Deep dark garnet with a fading rim. Massive tannin, sweet anis, fennel and Bing cherry. Searing acid and astringent tannin will benefit from further bottle ageing. Truffle, raspberry and tar are found on the finish, but expect this to gain in intensity as the tannins soften. Drink 2015 to 2028.

1993 Gaja Barbaresco

(85 points)

Dark transparent garnet. Wild herbs, apricot, cherry and tar. Piercing acid and abundant, very fine-grained tannins. This wine lacks in aroma and flavour intensity and leaves one with a rather meagre impression. Perhaps this will surprise us later – worth taking a look at again around 2013.

Flight 7:

If you know that the vineyards of Ribera del Duero lay considerably higher than those in Rioja and that grapes will develop thicker skins to protect themselves from UV exposure, the difference in the depth of colour of these two wines is suddenly logical.

1994 Vega Sicilia Unico

(94 points)

Deep dark ruby. A complex bouquet reveals macerated plums, vanilla, estragon, violets and volatile rum pot like aromas. The body is expansive, rich and unctuous, and woven with satiny textured tannins. Truffles, liquorice and ironed linen remain on the long finish.

1999 Artadi El Pison

(90 points)

Dark ruby with a transparent, thin rim. A wonderfully concentrated nose exhibits plenty of plum, cherry, vanilla, and kitchen herbs. Hints of roasted coffee and dark chocolate join in the array of aromas in the mouth. Nicely polished, silky tannins marry harmoniously with bright acid to lend this wine a vibrant structure. Soft floral spice and red fruit linger on the finish.

Flight 8:

A fellow taster said the Cos smelled like “piss on a hot rock”. Unfortunately that was an accurate description and although it didn’t smell like musty cork, I do think it was a tainted bottle, because other tastings have shown this wine just fine. Thankfully, we were rewarded with a GPL that was really singing its heart out!

1990 Cos d’ Estournel

No Score

Dark garnet-ruby. Thankfully, the nose is restrained because it smells… very earthy-chemical-like. The finish is bitter and brittle. Bad bottle.

1990 Grand Puy Lacoste

(94 points)

Ever since interviewing him in November of 2008, I think of Michael Broadbent MW each time I taste GPL. He recommends this estate as a reliable producer of age worthy wines with modest price for quality. The dark ruby colour makes a youthful impression. Rich cassis, graphite, fresh calf leather and floral components comprise an alluring bouquet. Full-bodied with plenty of velvety tannins which remain firm at the core. The long finish is complex, long and continues to be very vibrant. Drink to 2020.

Flight 9:

Although a troisième cru, Palmer certainly belongs among the super-seconds – not only in price, but in quality. This was a comparison in vintages. The 1985 vintage enjoyed nearly perfect conditions from flowering to harvest and was considered the best vintage of the decade by many. It was a difficult year not to make a good wine in good quantities. 1996 on the other hand, enjoyed very good conditions until rains hit pre-harvest. The left bank faired better than the right with roughly half the rainfall. This flight exhibits that a good estate is still able to produce extraordinary wine under difficult conditions.

1996 Palmer

(96 points)

Dark ruby. An elegant bouquet of tobacco, wet slate, and cassis is immediately present and continues on the palate. This firm and well-structured wine exhibits fine-grained, silky tannins with just a bit of youthful grip. Plenty of plums, black currant, liquorice and toasted cedar linger on the long finish. This is showing superbly now, but will hold well through 2020.

1985 Palmer

(92 points)

Dark ruby with garnet highlights. Rich and luscious yet crisp berry fruit is backed by mint and cassis on the nose and in the mouth. The tannins are supple and just a hint of decay underlies fruit that is still vibrant. This wine currently displays all the virtues of mature Bordeaux combining just a hint of morbidity with forward fruit. At peak. Drink to 2015.

Flight 10:

1976 Mouton Rothschild

(86 points)

Deep dark garnet with a fading brick rim. The nose is initially quite restrained and reveals only dusty minerals and deciduous forest floor. This wine is getting a bit tired and dried out. Still good-drink now!

1986 Mouton Rothschild

(99 points)

Deep dark ruby, saturated to the rim. Incredibly mineral with lots of crushed slate and flint. Glycerine infused lingonberry and cassis are laced with pencil shavings, leather and cedar. Perfectly developed tannin meld seamlessly into the full, firm body of this perfect wine. This wine still makes a youthful impression and will continue to evolve and easily offer pleasure through 2046+.

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  • Andreas

    Hi Julia – I definitely like your tasting comments and agree on most of them. What surprises me is the "low" rating for the Shafer Hillside Select which I gave 20/20. This wine has got everything a wine can have, complexity, structure, power without being near to jammy. Length, good acidity and a lot of wonderful tannins which will bring this wine to his first peak in about 7 – 8 years only.
    Also I cannto see the 99 points of the Mouton Rothschild which got a 100 from me as the Shafer did. Can you let me know where you lost this one point :)))

  • julia7ich

    Hi Andreas! Thanks for your comments! As you know scores and points are meaningless without the tasting notes. And the real reason for giving tasting notes for scores is to communicate as accurate and objective a picture as possible of what a particular wine tastes like and perhaps when and/or how it is best enjoyed. After all people are willing to pay 5, 10, 20, 50, and even hundreds or 1000s of euros for a bottle of fermented grape juice – they want to be getting their money's worth. I gave Shafer 93 points and if you read my note you can see that we agree on a lot of points, but if you look closely you'll see that I found quite a bit of fruit and oak – but not tremendous complexity, great tannin structure – but not extraordinary finesse. It is a great wine, no doubt about it, but it lacked in the points compared to the Mouton. And the Mouton… do you remember the bottle we tasted in March? It was better than this bottle. That missing point is a point of hope… hope that I will once again get the chance to taste a perfect bottle of 1986 Mouton Rothschild!!!
    It was a great tasting and a pleasure to enjoy and discuss it with you.