(Continued from “The Austrian Hotsprings” on April 7 2017)
The viticultural and winemaking history of Thermenregion can be traced back to more than 2,000 years ago, when the perennially thirsty Roman legionnaires stationed in nearby Carnuntum and Vindobona (modern day Vienna) began planting vines and making wines locally, so as to save the time and cost of transporting wines across the Alps from the Apennine Peninsula. Carnuntum, Vienna and Thermenregion have been producing wine to this day, the latter being one of the few capitals in Europe with significant wine production.
In the 12th century, the Benedictines and Cistercians from the Cluny Abbey and Cîteaux Abbey in Burgundy first introduced Pinot Noir to Thermenregion, where they would go on to study and demarcate terroirs as meticulously as they did in Burgundy. Thermenregion hence has good reasons to regard and hold itself as the Holy Grail of Pinot Noir in Germanic Europe and indeed Mitteleuropa.
Shielded by Wienerwald (Vienna Woods) – where Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms enjoyed strolling around – and in the west from the cold Alpine climate, Thermenregion blissfully enjoys the warm Pannonian climate from the east as well as remarkably long sunshine hours (average 1,800+ hours per year, comparable to Rhône). Its diverse soil compositions range from loamy, pebbly to stony, with substantial deposits of marine fossils underneath, ideal for retaining temperature and providing free-flowing drainage and mineral nutrients.
Named after St. Lawrence’s feast day on 10th August, when grapes traditionally begin to turn red, the aromatic St. Laurent is a distant relative of Pinot Noir, with which it shares various similarities. Along with Blaufränkisch (a.k.a. Lemberger), it is one of the parents of Zweigelt.
Co-managed by brothers Christian, Johannes and Michael Reinisch, the organic Johanneshof Reinisch is one of Austria’s pre-eminent producers of Pinot Noir and St. Laurent, as well as rare white varieties such as Rotgipfler and Zierfandler.
Sourced from Tattendorf and Gumpoldskirchen, the former with limestone-dominated soil, and matured in large barrels. Rich garnet with cardinal-ruby rim, the fruit-driven nose offers cranberry, black cherry, crushed leaf and sous bois. With jovial acidity, fresh tannins and palpable minerality, the vibrant palate delivers bilberry, blackberry, forest mushroom and wood smoke. Medium-bodied at 12.5 percent, the floral entry carries onto a tangy mid-palate, leading to a satisfying finish.
Sourced from old vines – at least 35 years old – grown in Frauenfeld vineyard and matured in French and Austrian oak barriques for 16 months. With its signature rocky soil, Frauenfeld is one of the best locations in the world for St. Laurent. Reddish black with rosewood-Tyrian purple rim, the aromatic nose furnishes prune, dried cherry, clove, sandalwood and geranium. With generous acidity, ripe tannins and minerality, the complex palate provides damson, dried blackberry, liquorice, coffea arabica and lavender. Full-bodied at 13.5 percent, the poised entry persists through an urbane mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish.
Sourced from relatively old vines – up to 25 years old – grown in Frauenfeld and Dornfeld vineyards, both rich in gravel and limestone, and matured in old barrels and barriques for 14 months. Dark garnet with cardinal-purple rim, the fragrant nose presents bilberry, black cherry, dark chocolate, balsam and iris. With bright acidity, juicy tannins and clean minerality, the fleshy supplies blackberry, mulberry, liquorice, sous bois and violet. Medium-full bodied at 13 percent, the dense entry continues through an energetic mid-palate, leading to a long finish.
Sourced from relatively old vines – at least 25 years old – grown in the loamy and sandy Anninger vineyard between Guntramsdorf and Gumpoldskirchen, matured in barrels of various sizes with little toasting for 16 months. Dark ruby with carnelian-Persian red rim, the enchantingly perfumed nose effuse blueberry, raspberry, potpourri, fur, crushed rock and iris. With animated acidity, talc-like ultra-fine tannins and chiselled minerality, the spellbindingly seductive palate emanates blackberry, cranberry, bouquet garni, balsam and porcini mushroom. Medium-full bodied at 13.5 percent, the graceful entry endures through a melodious, leading to an indelible finish. A truly sensuous and sensational gem.
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