During a recent visit, a group of five growers hosted a tasting from their small corner of Kamptal, which is renowned for its grüner veltliners and rieslings.
In its entirety, Kamptal is quite a large region, relatively for Austria, with 3,800 hectares of vineyards, centred around Austria’s largest wine town, Langenlois, which has a population of 7,000. The famous Heiligenstein vineyard overlooks this town.
But a short five kilometres east of Langenlois, at the eastern end of Gaisberg, lying in a tributary valley of the river Kamp, is the village of Strass im Strassertal, home to a band of some 70 Kamptal producers, and 1,500 people. Here, on the eastern side of the Strasser valley, Wechselberg, peaking at 327m, shoulders up to the 9-metre taller Gaisberg over the valley.
The south-facing Wechselberg, made of slate, granite and gneiss, is the focal vineyard of this small community, though, as with the Burgundian model, producers have vineyard sites on several hill slopes. Whichever the site, said the vivacious Birgit Eichinger, of Weingut Eichinger “it is important to make wines with personality, full body and life.”
An overarching feature to the north is the “Waldviertel at the back of Wechselberg [which] is like a freezer”, said Heinz Weixelbaum, of Weingut Weixelbaum, bringing cool night winds down from the north which help to keep fresh aromas in the fruit.
Hasel vineyard to the east of Strass im Strassertal, heading towards Wagram, has deep loess soils, so is better suited to hungrier and thirstier grüner veltliner.
Tasting notes, in situ, May 2011
Weingut Allram, Grüner Veltliner Gaisberg 2010, Kamptal DAC, Reserve
13.5%, 6.8g/l TA, 6g/l RS. Mainly on primary rock, slate, under loess.
Tropical fruit, fresh, exotic, tight tension in the spicy expression. Good.
Weingut Allram, Grüner Veltliner Hasel 2010, Kamptal DAC
Smoke and firestone, with a medium weight of attack. Aromatic spices – nutmeg, allspice, ginger – with smooth texture and balance. Good,
Weingut Allram, Riesling Reserve Gaisberg 2010, Kamptal DAC
Peachy nose, with sweet, ripe peaches and preserved lemon fruit on palate. Enticing and more-ish, in fresh, intense, fashion. Vg.
Martin and Anna Arndorfer, Grüner Veltliner Strasser Weinberge 2010, Kamptal DAC
Selection of grapes from Gaisberg, Wechselberg and Hasel.
Peach, nectarine, spicy aromatics, dense, sweet fruit compote of lush flavours that are not quite full bodied. Long finish. Good.
Martin and Anna Arndorfer, Riesling Strasser Weinberge 2010, Kamptal DAC, Reserve
A blend of sites on Gaisberg and Wechselberg on primary rock. 50% made in stainless steel, of which 25% were stainless steel barriques; 50% in 2,000 litre old casks.
Tropical, spicy, richly textured, big wine, with rich, spicy layers and long finish. Vg.
Weingut Eichinger, Grüner Veltliner Gaisberg 2010, Kamptal DAC Reserve
Peaches and cream, with full fat, tropical and lush fruit and glycerol sweetness. Rounded style. Good.
Weingut Eichinger, Riesling Gaisberg 2010, Kamptal DAC Reserve
12.5%, 5.2g/l RS. Apple with citrus freshness, limey and pure. Perky, linear profile, smoothly textured. Good.
Weingut Topf, Grüner Veltliner Ofenberg 2010, Kamptal DAC Reserve
Steely nose, with soft spicy frame to ripe, mediterranean fruits. Nice proportions with a bit of firestone frame in place to support the fruit.
Weingut Topf, Riesling Wechselberg 2010, Kamptal DAC
Fresh attack with bruised apple and a gentle balance. Good intensity in an uncomplicated fashion.
Weingut Weixelbaum, Grüner Veltliner Wechselberg 2010, Kamptal DAC
Citrus, peppery nose, with gun smoke and steely notes to the fore. Super definition of fresh perky white pepper spiciness. Good.
Weingut Weixelbaum, Riesling Gaisberg 2009, Kamptal DAC Reserve
Perfumed, apple blossom, that causes a pause for reflection on the palate attack. Rich and dry, with sun-blushed peaches, fresh citrus notes, full bodied and layered. Long and very good. This has the advantage of an extra, and different, year.
My research trip to Austria was sponsored by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.