Editor’s Note: Typically, our monthly primary red and white wine selections are drawn from different countries, but this month we felt compelled to break with that tradition to share with our members an exclusive opportunity to taste some of the world’s rarest and most interesting wines. Presently, Austrian wines are very “hot” and are in extremely high demand. Moreover, we trust you will enjoy this unique duo of wines as much as our tasting panel. Prost!
As one drives south from Vienna into what was once the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the very heart of the Old World, one still encounters the very same quaint farms, charming villages and the great shallow lake that forms Austria’s border with Hungary, the Neusiedler See. Neusiedler See or the Sea of the Viennese as it is more commonly called is a favorite vacation spot for Austrians on holiday and for Viennese looking for a simple weekend respite from the weather stained cares of life in the big city. Neusiedler See is also the only steppe lake in central Europe. Moreover, the lake’s moderating effect on climate makes it a natural location for the cultivation of the vine, a practice that dates back to the early Medieval Period and perhaps into antiquity.
The area around Neusiedler See is more commonly referred to as Burgenland. It is the warmest and most prolific of Austria’s wine regions, due in part to the Neusiedler See’s tempering influence but, also, to the mixture of the area’s soils: black earth, fine sand, and loose gravel that allow for the cultivation of a wide variety of grapes. Around the shallow shores of the lake, which are conducive to noble rot, the production of great sweet wines predominates. However, as one moves away from the more humid shoreline, the preponderance of noble red and white grapes for the production of some of Austria’s finest dry wines begin to dominate. Here, Alois Kracher Sr. and his son Alois Kracher Jr. produce several of Austria’s most compelling dry and sweet wines from a myriad of grapes.
The production at Kracher is small and the allocation long, as is the case at nearly every good Austrian winery today. The situation at Alois Kracher is a microcosm of wine making in Austria; Kracher is both a family affair (father and son fashion the wine) and an expertly run facility that routinely sells out of all of its wine. Consequently, we were ecstatic to learn that there was just barely enough of this great producer’s Pinot Gris to fulfill this month’s membership. Hurray!
Kracher, father and son, share a passion for wine that seems unheralded. Alois Kracher’s wines are unmistakably intense and irrepressible, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever visited this great property. Even on the vine, Kracher’s grapes are a standout; the leaves are deeply verdant, the stalks thicker and stronger than most ordinary vines, and the fruit’s flavor is heads and tails above the rest – no small feat in a region known for its quality.
Typically, Alois the Elder (now a septuagenarian) spends most of his time in the vineyard; while Alois Jr, tends the cellar. And what emanates from this wonderful winery is nothing short of mind boggling. The Krachers fashion a dozen or more distinctive wines every year, including a rare and delicious Pinot Gris, another dry white wine that they refer to as “Days of Wine and Roses,” some traditional red wines, and a bevy of sweet dessert wines. All of the Kracher wines bear the unmistakable energy of their architects as well as a distinctive freshness and purity that are rarely seen in other producer’s wines.