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Friday, 18 February 2011

F.X. Pichler

FX Pichler's Kellerberg vineyard
F.X. Pichler is one of the great names of Wachau wine and it was a real pleasure to meet current Chief Winemaker Lucas Pichler (son of Franz "F.X." Xaver) and wife Johanna in London for the Annual Tasting of Austrian Wines recently.

They make a glamorous couple - she elegant and understated, he intensely rugged with charismatic charm; together they are almost a metaphor for their own wines.

I was keen to work through the wines in order to get a sense of Wachau terroir; with very few exceptions, all their wines are from single vineyards and were from the moderately warm 2009 vintage - cooler than 2008, but not as difficult as 2010.

F.X. Pichler's vineyards are located towards the warmer, eastern end of the Wachau where achieving the top Smaragd level of ripeness is easier, and the wines correspondingly bigger and riper, than at the cooler western end.

We started with a mid-level, light and refreshing Riesling Federspiel from Loibner Burgstall which showed lots of aromatic white pepper and elderflower.

Next came a Riesling Smaragd from the Dürnsteiner Hollerin vineyard which has a warm, south easterly aspect; this wine felt richer and fuller with a graceful minerality and finesse.

A Smaragd from Loibner Steinertal at the eastern end of the valley showed racy minerality and a long finish.

Next came the Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Smaragd Riesling which enjoys a special microclimate with steep terraces, a south easterly aspect with early-morning sun and large diurnal temperature swings due to the cool air flowing in from the bordering woods at the ends of the day, thereby extending the growing season.

As a result of all this, the wine shows a great balance of ripe exotic fruits, linear structure, mineral length and great elegance.

A Grüner Veltliner from the same vineyard was equally impressive lots of typical aromas of celery, white pepper and lentils and, again, great structure and minerality on the finish.

Finally, the last wine was the "M" Smaragd Grüner Veltliner, a blend of grapes from Pichler's top two vineyards ("M" standing for Monumental) producing a richly complex and intense wine which is also at the same time delicate and nuanced; full-bodied with great minerality and slightly smokey, tabaccoey notes, it is impressive now but Lucas feels will not show its best until around five years from the vintage.

The grapes for the "M" come mainly from the steep slopes of the south-facing Loibner Berg vineyard and are usually harvested several weeks after the grapes for the single vineyard wine, no mean feat when the usual harvesting range is from October to early December.

The minimum alcohol content for a Smaragd is 12.5%, but these wines were at almost New World levels of 13% and 14%; yet, whilst undeniably big, they expressed this ripeness with a distinctly Old-World degree of finesse as rich, full-bodied mouthfeel, balanced with great linear structure, extract and mineral length.

F.X. Pichler wines are available through Richards Walford Importers of Wine in the UK.

The Wines

Loibner Burgstall Federspiel, Riesling, 2009, 12%
Dürnsteiner Hollerin Smaragd, Riesling, 2009, 13%
Loibner Steinertal Smaragd, Riesling, 2009, 13%
Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Smaragd, Riesling, 2009, 14%
Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Smaragd, Grüner Veltliner, 2009, 14%
"M" Smaragd, 2009, 14%


F.X. Pichler - http://www.fx-pichler.at/

Richards Walford Importers of Wine - http://www.r-w.co.uk/


  1. Hi Tom...
    I recently had a bottle of M 2007...which convinced me to buy the M 2000...which was superb.
    A great property indeed
    I have a bottle of the Riesling Unendlich 2006 which I am told is a great.
    You ever had this version?


    PS..I have added you to my blog list

  2. Thanks Barry

    This was my first proper tasting of Pichler's wines - previously, I'd had mainly Prager and Domaene Wachau.

    I have a couple of Knolls quietly waiting to be consumed too.

    All superb, though !