I can't quite remember exactly what convinced me to stash it away for many years but after a few Austrian tastings in recent months, I decided it was time to dig this out and re-acquaint myself with it.
Deciphering the label for those less familiar with Austria's labelling idiosyncrasies:
- Rudi Pichler - producer
- Wachauer - from the Wachau in lower Austria; no more specific indicator of location means it's probably blended across vineyards, rather than being a single-vineyard wine
- Riesling - grape variety, hopefully quite obvious !
- Federspiel - mid-level Wachau-only tag for grape ripeness, alcohol level and quality
|Pichler's vineyards in the beautiful, UNESCO protected Wachau|
Initial sniffs reveal it has a complex and sophisticated nose of peach, apricot, elderflower, wet stones and a hint of cellar mustiness, suggestive of natural fermentation.
After a couple of minutes, there's beeswax, leather and lanolin, a suggestion of pungent botrytis.
After a few more minutes, almost all the fruit has faded, leaving just the waxy aromas of age.
There are also hints of cindery ash and characteristic kerosene that come with age.
Given its age, I don't decant or aerate; the next glass, poured from the bottle, has a buzzy acidity and some fleeting, subtle and complex aromas that I struggle to describe - a hint of custard cream biscuit ? A touch of pastry ?
Later, with the meal - tafelspitz with sauces and salty, matchstick chips - the ash, kerosene and buzzy, tropical acidity dominate.
The finish is noticeably not quite as mineral or long as some other wines I've had from lower Austria recently, but overall it feels well-made, elegant and moreish.
The winery is located in Wösendorf, slightly towards the cooler end of the Wachau, which should give a steelier wine.
However, if memory serves, 2003 was quite a warm year and I hazard a guess at the grapes are being grown on loam / loess which result in a more rounded wine than for more minerally soils such as granite and gravel.
At this age, the wine is somewhat on a cusp - still showing what it was but with noticeable traces of what it will become with more years in bottle.
As Lukas Pichler (son of FX, and no apparent relation to Rudi) explained to me, after more than 5 years, it becomes a different wine; having tried a 20 year-old Mosel Riesling not so long ago, I find myself more capable of approaching and appreciating these aged qualities.
I save a small amount (re-corked in the bottle) for the following day; the fruit is all gone and the only aromas on the nose now are hints of waxy antique-shop polish and again the kerosene; acidity still good.
Rudi Pichler - http://www.rudipichler.at/
Wein & Co - http://www.weinco.at/