Weingut Alzinger

Unterloiben, Wachau

Leo Alzinger is based in Unterloiben and is without doubt one of the true Wachau superstars. A mature Alzinger wine is a joy to imbibe, if somewhat hard to come by.

This fine estate makes superlative single vineyard wines from premium mountain sites including Loibenberg, Steinertal, Hollerin and Liebenberg, with soil types including sandy loam and eroded primary rock.

The estate totals about 10 hectares and production is very small at just 70,000 bottles per year. Grape varieties are 60% Grüner Veltliner, 40% Riesling.

There are in fact two Leo Alzingers, father and son. Leo Senior inherited the family winery in the 1970s when they used to sell their grapes to the cooperative. In 1983 he started making his own wines, which within 10 years established a cult following! In 2000, Leo Junior joined his father and is now in charge and the quality is still up there with the best. The third generation has a few years to go yet...

Whatever the generation, Leo Alzinger's wines are simply awesome. They are right up there with the very best the Wachau has to offer and deserve every bit of attention they get. The superstar status is well deserved, yet this remains a small family business embodying individuality and an unceasing quest for quality.

In a nutshell the Alzinger philosophy is to intervene as little as possible yet as much as necessary to achieve their goals making wines that truly reflect the individual characteristics of each vineyard. It may sound like a cliché but they are truly terroir expressive wines.

If you're new to Alzinger why not start with one of his Federspiel wines? Either the Riesling or Grüner Veltliner are excellent wines which will also develop complexity with age. A great way to experienece this is to buy 2 bottles of a young vintage opening one now and one for as long as your resolve holds out (but try a few years just to see how it develops!)

(scroll down for a lot more information)

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If you really want a deep dive into the wonderful wines of Leo Alzinger read on!

Austrian wine law is pretty complex and nowhere more so than in Wachau where they previously didn't have a DAC classification (a new one is coming this year!). Instead the top growers set up their own classification system in 1983 to protect the integrity of this unique area. They replaced the 3 tier Kabinett/Spätlese/Auslese system then in use with a new 3 tier system.

Steinfelder is the lowest tier and being at the bottom of the pyramid takes it name from a local grass. These wines are made to be drink young and are typically lower in alcohol at around 11-11.5% abv. Alzinger doesn’t make any wines in this style. It’s an important point of differentiation as his entry level wines are all classified as either:

Federspiel is the middle tier. It takes its name for a lure employed in falconry. These are dry Kabinett style wines in the medium alcohol range of 11.5%-12.5% abv. With maturation in stainless steel to maintain their freshness.  These wines are made from a number of named sites in Wachau.

Don’t also let this mid-tier lead you into thinking these wines are of mid tier quality! To give you an example we showed the 2011 Federspiel Dürnstein at a tasting in 2020 and the audience could not believe the wine was 9 years old! It had some unmistakeable tertiary notes on the nose but on the palate it was only showing signs of development from youthful!

OR

Smaragd is the top tier. Taking its name from a lizard that is often seen in the stony vineyards and roughly translating in the word Emerald. Maturation is in large oak casks. These wines have huge ageing potential. Winemakers must also achieve a minimum 12.5% abv and are permitted to have residual sugar levels up to 9 g/L for this top tier of classification.  

A recent review of Alzinger’s Smaragd wines by the prestigious Falstaff wine guide rated all his wines over 93 points.

The Alzinger vineyards are listed as follows each lends something special to the grapes that are planted there and the resulting wines.

DURNSTEIN village sites

Höhereck

This is a small south facing terraced vineyard on infertile stony ground which allows the gneiss to push through. Despite its southerly aspect the vineyard temperature is moderated by constant winds from the northwest. Riesling well suited to this terroir, producing wines which are have a creamier texture than the Steinertal but a similar minerality.

Hollerin

Hollerin begins where the Kellerberg runs out on the plain. In its upper part it is strongly influenced by the neighbouring location, whereby the soils are deeper and the gneiss is less apparent. Our vineyard is in the top third, where the clay is even shallower and the rock is even more distinctive. The wines from Hollerin often ripen earlier and, in addition to mineral notes, always reveal intense stone fruit aromas.

LOIBEN village sites.

Loibenberg:

The Loibenberg’s south facing slopes store sun all day and are thought to be the warmest in the Wachau. However, this is an over simplification as there a difference of 200m between the highest and lowest terraces contributing to differing levels of diurnal variation. Some parts are shaded by forests and others cooled by air blowing along open ditches, especially at night time.

The variation in microsite and climate in Loibenberg is even more pronounced when you look at the contrasting styles of wines Alzinger make. While the Grüner Veltliner is mainly based on loess, which shows a slightly warmer and creamier texture, the Riesling is rooted in barren and shallow soils that promote a tighter style. Whilst these wines can be drunk young they age gracefully and mature with beauty!

Mühlpoint:

Lying at the foot of the Steinertal valley to the east of Unterloiben where the winery is located. An interesting site that’s a mainly infertile gneiss further up the slope that lends minerality and deep clay lower down that adds body and helps the soil to stay cooler slowing down ripening.

Steinertal

The Steinertal is located to the east of Loibenberg. This terrain really brings the Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings into their own.  Poor steep soils of varying thickness and temperature variation combine with a site that benefits from heat in the evening which is tempered with cool night air from the side valleys which slows down ripening, concentrating flavours within the grapes and adding elegance. The Rieslings are located in the least fertile and highest plots with the wines exhibiting a structural austerity that’s robust and lends itself to longevity. The Grüner Veltliner grows lower down the slopes on deeper terraces and despite exhibiting a creamer texture also shows a robust acidity and profound minerality.

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