Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Hirschvergnügen 2020

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In the vineyard Johannes Hirsch uses biodynamic preparations and follows the lunar cycle for vineyard work. Eighty five percent of his holdings are in the slopes in the villages of Zöbing and Kammern, home to the Heiligenstein and Gaisberg Riesling vineyards as well as Lamm, Grub, Renner and Kammerner Gaisberg for Grüner Veltliner, though he is quick to note that “the grape variety is just a way to transport terroir. One hundred years ago, you might just find the village name on the label or the vineyard and no mention of the variety; it was not so important.”  A full two thirds of his holdings are in classified, Erste Lagen vineyards.

In addition to biodynamic practices, Hirsch utilizes soft pruning, a method he learned in Alto Adige to minimize the amount of cuts and thus lessening the amount of tissue exposed to disease and old wood near the pruned area. In the vineyards, manure from celebrated cheese maker Robert Paget’s water buffalo and goats, grazing in the pastures in front of the vineyards, are used.

The basic wines and village wines are normally fermented and matured in stainless steel while the Erste Lage wines are done in a mixture of steel and oak, depending on the vintage. In a warmer vintage, for example, more stainless steel may be employed.  Fermentations are done with ambient yeasts and always without temperature control.  “One of the plagues of modern wine is uniformity. Cooling is one of the worst things you can do, in this regard.” says ‘Hannes.

While Riesling may take Austrian white wine to its most resplendent heights, Grüner Veltliner, its most widely planted and signature white variety, isn’t far behind and in fact is much more useful at the table, especially given the wide range of styles in which it can be produced. Some of my most fond Grüner memories may involve liter bottles and hot dogs on the beach, Hirsch’s “Hirschvergnügen” (just say it with confidence in your most contrived flamboyant faux German accent) Grüner Veltliner, on the other hand, is perhaps the perfect introduction to the variety, especially at this price. It occupies a mid-point between the joyous quaffing of those slightly spritzy liter bottles and the more serious single vineyard renditions. All, the Grüner hallmarks are here: it is savory and salty with the variety’s trademark white pepper note hovering in the background and has just enough tree fruit to keep things from becoming too dour. Pair with anything from schnitzel to ceviche.

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