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The Austrian Montecassino

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Situated in the Wachau opposite the town of Krems an der Donau, Stift Göttweig was founded in 1083 by St Altmann, Bishop of Passau. The magnificent baroque abbey was designed by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, whose chefs d’oeuvre include Schloß Belvedere, Palais Schwarzenberg and Peterskirche. The Benedictine abbey is renowned for the fresco of the Imperial Staircase, a masterpiece by Paul Troger, whose illusionistic ceiling paintings decorate many abbeys in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), eg Altenburg, Geras, Melk, Seitenstetten and Zwettl.
Forestry and viticulture were the mainstay of the local economy since time immemorial, and wine became increasingly important in 14th century, as the Bavarian clergymen were enchanted by the wines produced by their Austrian cousins. By 16th century, Stift Göttweig’s wines were a favourite of the aristocracy not just in Austria, but across Europe. A Polish Queen (Anna von Österreich?) once purchased 300 Eimer – equivalent to 16,800 litres – of wine in one go.
The Benedictines still own a stake in the wine estate, which has 26ha of prime vineyards. One of the 26 members of the ÖTW (Österreichsiche Traditionsweingüter), an association of leading estates not unlike Germany’s VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter), Stift Göttweig’s Erste Lage (equivalent to German Großes Gewächs) wines are amongst the best of Austria.
The picturesque Wachau Cultural Landscape became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, pipping Germany’s Upper Middle Rhine Valley by merely two years. A glorious Austrian victory indeed – next time it will be on a football pitch!

Stift Göttweig Grüner Veltliner Messwein 2013

The sacramental wine of the millennium-old monastery is produced as per Reinheitsgebot (purity law) with permission of the bishop; any form of alteration, eg chaptalisation and de-acidification, is strictly forbidden. Light lemon-yellow with pastel golden reflex, the floral nose reveals bergamot, yuzu, green apple and apricot, decorated by frangipani. With animated acidity and slight petillance, the delicate palate supplies lime peel, grapefruit, quince, guava and bell pepper. Medium-light bodied at 12%, the refreshing entry continues through a composed mid-palate, leading to a clean finish.

Stift Göttweig Further Gottschelle Grüner Veltliner Erste Lage Reserve 2012

Grown on gravel and thick loess, berries of the old vines (50 to 70 years old) were manually harvested in early November. Rich lemon-yellow with shimmering citrine reflex, the profuse nose presents lime, greengage, honeydew and brioche, enriched by fleur de sel. With spirited acidity and pulsating minerality, the opulent palate provides pomelo, Tianjin pear, nectarine and asparagus, infused with Pfefferl (Grüner Veltliner’s idiosyncratic pepper). Medium-full bodied at 14%, the fleshy entry transforms into a peppery mid-palate, leading to a vegetal finish.

Stift Göttweig Göttweiger Berg Riesling 2013

Known as Göttweiger Berg since 1083, the vineyard is an intricate microclimate comprising natural humidity of the Danube, cool and warm air from the Dunkelsteiner Woods and Pannonian Basin respectively. Bright lemon-yellow with soft golden reflex, the beguiling nose radiates bergamot, Sicilian lemon, greengage and ume, adorned with wet stone. With racy acidity, enticing minerality and perceptible petillance, the invigorating palate delivers lemon peel, pomelo, grapefruit, apricot and mirabelle. Medium-light bodied at 12.5%, the stimulating entry carries onto a composed mid-palate, leading to a persistent finish.

Stift Göttweig Silberbichl Riesling Erste Lage Reserve 2012

Sourced from Silberbichl, a southeast-facing terraced vineyard first documented in 1562, berries were manually harvested in early November. Luminous lemon-yellow with vivid golden reflex, the multifarious nose emanates calamansi, yuzu, peach and nectarine, embellished by fragrant minerals. With pristine acidity, steely minerality and subtle petillance, the prodigious palate exudes lime peel, sudachi, quince and white strawberry, imbued with kerosene. Medium-full bodied at 13%, the precise entry evolves into a spicy mid-palate, leading to a minerally finish.

To discover the historic legacy of Austrian gems, contact Mr Franz-Josef Gansberger of Weingut Stift Göttweig; W: www.weingutstiftgoettweig.at; E: office@weingutstiftgoettweig.at; T: +43 (0)2732 801440

Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages.

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