One of the nine Bundesländer (Federal States) of Austria, Niederösterreich – or Lower Austria – completely envelops the capital Vienna, and is administratively subdivided into four regions: Waldviertel (forest quarter) in NW, Weinviertel (wine quarter) in NE, Industrieviertel (industry quarter) in SE and Mostviertel (fruit quarter) in SW. Niederösterreich is also the name of the wine region (27,000ha), indeed the single largest in Austria, followed by Burgenland (14,000ha), Steiermark – or Styria – (4,500ha) and Vienna (600ha). Of Niederösterreich’s eight wine districts, six (Kamptal, Kremstal, Traisental, Wachau, Wagram and Weinviertel) are situated north of Vienna and specialise in whites, the remaining two south of Vienna and specialise in reds (Carnuntum and Thermenregion).
With approximately 2,200ha under vine, Thermenregion (literally: hotsprings region) is the southwesternmost wine district of Niederösterreich. It is renowned for its hotsprings and spas since Roman times, hence its name. There are numerous spa towns in Europe, but those with viticulture and winemaking are a true rarity. In French-speaking Europe, spa towns often contain the word “Bains” (literally: baths) in their names, whereas in German-speaking Europe, they often include “Bad(en)” (literally: bath(s)). Located 30km south of Vienna, Baden bei Wien – originally Thermae Pannonicae (literally: Pannonian hotspring) and not to be confused with Germany’s Baden-Baden – is the main spa town in the Thermenregion.
Sitting along the 48th parallel N and on a par with Troyes, indeed the southern edge of Champagne, Thermenregion is remarkably warm and sunny, thanks to Pannonian influence. In fact, it is so warm that Riesling and Grüner Veltliner would give way to rarity whites such as Rotgipfler (Roter Veltliner x Traminer) and Zierfandler (Roter Veltliner x a Traminer-like variety). With less than 200ha between them, Rotgipfler and Zierfandler are autochthonous, naturally crossed and late-ripening varieties of heritage value. Where conditions are met and yield strictly controlled, they can be made into age-worthy wines high complex aromas, good acidity and high extract.
Co-managed by brothers Christian, Johannes and Michael Reinisch, the organic Johanneshof Reinisch is one of Austria’s pre-eminent producers of red wines, as much as it is a guardian of rare white varieties.
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Johanneshof Reinisch Dialog 2016
An innovative blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in equal parts, fermented in large barrels and stainless steel respectively. Limpid citrine with pale golden reflex, the floral nose offers Tianjin pear, quince and frangipane. With ample acidity and clear minerality, the refreshing palate delivers pomelo peel, grapefruit and rosemary. Medium-bodied at 12.5 percent, the fresh entry carries onto a lively mid-palate, leading to a clean finish.
A single-varietal Rotgipfler from the renowned Satzing vineyard in Gumpoldskirchen, spontaneously fermented with ambient yeast and matured in barrels for 12 months. Crystalline with shimmering golden reflex, the perfumed nose effuses longan, mirabelle, garden herbs, crushed rock and acacia. With bounteous acidity and structured minerality, the sophisticated palate emanates lychee, grapefruit, bouquet garni, rock salt and frangipane. Full-bodied at 14 percent, the composed entry evolves into a melodious mid-palate, leading to an indelible finish. A gem that rivals the mighty whites of Northern Rhône.
A blend of Rotgipfler and Zierfandler sourced from various vineyards in Gumpoldskirchen, fermented separately, then assembled and matured in large barrels for four months. Pellucid citrine with light golden reflex, the fragrant nose presents whitecurrant, apricot and bell pepper. With generous acidity and clean minerality, the fruit-laden palate delivers cloudberry, mango and sweet ginger. Medium-full bodied at 12.5 percent, the fleshy entry continues through a stony mid-palate, leading to a rounded finish.
A single-varietal Zierfandler from the renowned Spiegel vineyard in Gumpoldskirchen, rigorous sorted, fermented and matured in barrels for 10 months. Translucent citrine with shimmering golden reflex, the aromatic nose radiates lime peel, calamansi, verbena, crushed shells and jasmine. With abundant acidity and stern minerality, the vibrant palate oozes pomelo peel, lemon, crushed leaf, rock salt and daffodil. Full-bodied at 14 percent, the succulent entry persist through a joyous mid-palate, leading to a tantalising finish. A gem that rivals the finest whites of Southern Rhône.
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