Edouard ThorensWritten by Petra Gratzer-Weninger on the 24th of October 2019
Out of all places, I first met with Franz „Junior“ Weninger in Montreal, Quebec, as he was showing his craft at Raspipav, a local fair, back in November 2018. I’d already heard a lot about the wines, then my dear friend Emily Campeau went harvesting there that year, and it quickly enough came pretty clear to me - I had to try them wines as soon as possible.
I can still very clearly remember my first tasting, Franz walking me through the extensive line, from a pan-European rosé to single vineyard Blaufränkisch. But what I remember even better is the long, deep, talk Franz and I had. I’ve met countless winegrowers, from all over the world, but not often have I met with people that are so in line with what they do, so rooted in their terroir. Aware of every single little factor, curious of what to try next, willing to get out of the comfort zone for the sake of producing the juiciest wine ever. This was Franz, and it was a hell of a great time we had.
A few months later, I found myself in Horitschon, Mittelburgenland, Austria. His bright yellow winter jacket on, Franz took me for a vineyard tour. The history, the sites, the slopes, the soils, the winds, the birds... I could hardly process the amount of information he was throwing at me, but boy was this a great tour. Franz not only talks and shares like few, he also cares, asks and wonders, willing to always learn more himself, from those around him.
Visit after visit, tasting after tasting, I grew to like Franz’ craft always more, as I understood his style, his personality and the estate’s background better. I truly didn’t have to think twice, as Petra asked me, if I was interested in writing their next „Flaschenpost“, and here’s my take on the three wines of the season...
Verkostungsnotizen von Edouard Thorens
- Fehérburgundi 2017
Fehérburgundi, Hungarian for “Pinot Blanc”, but the 2017 vintage actually also carries a minor bit of Pinot Gris. Now should I have to limit myself to one single word, describing this wine, it would be a clear choice. Freshness. I’ve just filled my glass, and although I’m staying a good 50 centimetres away, I can feel its refreshing notes filling the room. A blend of two sites, the wine holds both’s characteristics and doesn’t just transmit “a” sense of place, but of “places” rather. Frettner, making for the major part of the blend, is on a North-West facing slope, with the Kohlenberger forest in the back. The shadow comes over the vineyard early in the late afternoon, the nights are cooler, and the fresh breeze from the Lake keeps the vineyard constantly aired. The chalky soils always made for the best terroirs to plant Pinot, Frettner is no exception. The remaining part of the blend comes from Steiner. Just a few kilometres south-east, but with no forest to balance the local micro-climate, you’re in for a much hotter time, easily reaching over 40 degrees in the peak of the summer. The grapes come out golden, richer and broader in their aromatic. That’s probably what you first feel, as you try the wine and get pleased by the bright, ripe citrusy notes, leaning more towards grapefruit rather than lemon. Steiner ain’t far. Then, as the juice lingers on your tongue minutes after your first sip, the chalky minerality echoing with this unmistakable freshness, you’ll know Frettner’s the one running the show.
- Hochäcker 2017
Single vineyard Blaufränkisch from Hochäcker, the first historical site to be planted in Horitschon, at a time when all vineyards were in Neckenmarkt or Ritzing. The site is loamy, yet with lots of stones for perfect drainage, and if you get lucky you might even find a fossilised oyster shell here and there. Beautiful green vineyards with a lush cover-crop, the berries are small, rich and concentrated. It’s got an elegant, discrete nose, reminiscent of freshly mashed cherries. The palate is bright and generous, the loam being noticeable. As the fruit evolves towards crisp blue and black berries, notes of aromatic chlorophyll bring a pleasant freshness – yet again! – and the mineral aftertaste stays hanging for long seconds... Destemmed, rather infused than macerated, aged in large oak vessels with no racking or topping, the wine carries the resulting elegance and refinement with it in the bottle. So much so that I could easily grab another glass.
- Syrah 2016
Syrah, in Hungary? Oh yes! After hearing people kept comparing his Blaufränkisch’s spiciness to Northern Rhône Syrahs’ signature, Franz “Senior” decided it was time to plant some for real. Back to Steiner, its Gneiss and Micaschiste soil, and its always hot and dry micro-climate. The sort of environment in which Syrah truly thrives. The nose is inviting, and you can hardly miss the variety. It doesn’t have the rich, almost creamy, notes you’d associate with a ripe Saint-Joseph vintage, but rather the elegance and refinement you’d find up north on the Côte Rôtie. The palate is meaty, peppery, yet also marked by ripe, darker, berries. I’m sipping on it and all I can think of is the oven-roasted lamb shoulder I want to devour right now. Quintessential “food wine”, this 2016 Syrah will be the perfect partner for your Sunday lunch, and a pretty safe way to make sure you’ll please the inlaws too. Add rosemary to the roast, but not too much spices, the wine already has it all! Before you think it’s all jammy and spicy, let me point out Franz’s signature freshness also is part of the deal here. The razor-sharp acidity will clean all the lamb-fat away and get your palate ready for more.
Friendly advice, make sure you’ve got a second bottle hanging near, the first one might be gone before you know it.
The Message in a Bottle is our wine subscription. Our aim here is to present to you an assortment of wines to enjoy, including interesting tasting notes from our guest authors. Our Message in a Bottle in autumn 2019 is presented by Edouard Thorens, www.thewinestache.com