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02 June 2006

Special F.X.

Fxexc To many acolytes of Riesling & Grüner Veltliner from Austria's Wachau, the letters, "FX" are synonymous with top quality.  The FX Pichler winery has received heavy-duty praise from some guy named, "Parker."

"F.X. Pichler is the Chateau LaTour, Domaine De La Romanee-Conti, Zind-Humbrecbt, Sandrone, and Helen Turley of the Wachau." - Robert. Parker, The Wine Advocate, 2002

Now, I'm predisposed to root for the underdog, so it was with a little apprehension, and perhaps a more critical palate, that I made a visit to the Wachau's "top dog," the F.X. Pichler winery.  I arrived just as F.X.'s son, Lucas, was beginning to bottle the 2005 Smaragd wines.  Not yet having learned that the trend in the Wachau is for pops to work in the vineyard and young whippersnapper son to act as winemaker, I stupidly asked, "So what do you do here at the winery?"  Thank the good lord that Lucas Pichler is a kind human being.  For, he could've replied, "I make the wine you idiot."  However, he politely responded by telling me that he had been making the wine for several years, while his father, Franz Xavier, spends most of his time in the vineyard. 

Knowing just how big F.X. Pichler wines are in the wine world, I was flattered that Lucas took a break from the bottling bonanza and sat down with me to chat & to taste.  Lucas explained the winery produces 14 different wines from 13 hectares of vines spanning just 2 kilometers along the Danube river.  Unsurprisingly, the focus is on dry wine made from Grüner Veltliner & Riesling. The Pichlers also experiment with a very small amount of Sauvignon Blanc.  While tasting the 2005 vintage, I consistently underestimated the alcohol content of many wines.  To be sure, the Pichlers go big when it comes to ripe Smaragd wines, with most being between 13.5-14.5% alcohol.  However, the wines are all refined and opulent without being rotund.  Lucas voiced the most apt description of Pichler's 2005 vintage.  He described these wines as, "juicy and animated."  All of Pichler wines are full of fruit character.  However, the wines also possess a near-perfect structure of acid-fruit-alcohol, which results in their 'animation' across the palate.  The entire tasting was a highlight.  Here are two of the highest highlights:

2005 Kellerberg Smaragd Grüner Veltliner - One of the most exotic G.V.s I've sampled in the Wachau.  The wine offers pineapple and lychee scents along with honeyed fruit flavors.  The texture is rich, to put it mildly.  The wine's acidity lifts the flavors slowly off the tongue - resulting in a lasting finish.  I imagine Kellerberg could easily age upwards of 15-20 years. 

Unending2005 Riesling "Unendlich" - This wine is only made in the best vintages.  Over the past ten years it has only been produced in 1998, 2002 and 2005.  Lucas allowed me to taste a barrel sample of this, as yet unbottled, wine.  Unendlich is German for "neverending."  Indeed this is an apt description for a wine which was harvested late in November from the ripest, most compact (Pichlers favor the smallest berried Riesling clones) single berries still clinging to the vines.  The label for this wine is the only unique label in the Pichler line-up.  It is a recreation of the original set design from the debut production of a little opera called, "The Magic Flute."  All you need to know about this wine is that I guessed it contained 13% alcohol - big, but not overbearing.  Lucas smiled and replied that the wine is upwards of 15.5% alcohol.  This is a mountain of a wine, which has been sculpted gracefully.  It is however still a baby, and should be allowed to age for at least 5 years before opening.

FX Pichler wines are imported into the USA by Weygandt-Metzler.
Stay tuned for my interview with Lucas Pichler.  We talk a bit about the winery's biodynamic practices, the 2004/2005 vintages, and Lucas' favorite red wines. More photos here.

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2005 Riesling "Unendlich" - This wine is only made in the best vintages. Over the past ten years it has only been produced in 1998, 2002 and 2005.

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