Martin Arndorfer die Leidenschaft Gruner Vetliner 2005

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Arndorfer’s wines are the perfect catalyst for the oak debate in white wine, with its classic questions: Is oak makeup or does it add something to the right wines? If it does add something, what is the level of interference that is appropriate? Rather than directly answering these Arndorfer simply makes two lines of wines: the “Strass” line, made from grapes grown in a vineyard purchased in 2005 and vinified traditionally (mostly in steel, but with some shorter term barrique ageing), and the “die Leidenschaft” (or “passion”) line, in which Arndorfer explores his philosophy of sensitive use of oak to bring greatness and character to Austria’s traditional grapes.

Arndorfer is certainly young for a wine maker, being born in 1983 (yes that’s younger than me and probably most of my readers), but he seems to have absorbed a considerable amount of knowledge along with a sense of history and a vision for the future. This vision couples a respect for traditional methods of vinification along with a sense that a winemaker can coax a grape to its full expression with the assistance of fermentation in oak barriques. I’m not sure I agree that barriques are necessary to make Austrian wine great, but I do agree that they can add character and at least make some interesting wines when not overused.

Getting Beyond the Oak…?

My first impressions of this wine were, admittedly, obscured by my distraction from the intensity of the oak aromas in a wine I was expecting to be more classic. It turns out this was actually fermented in 100% barriques and had 10 months of elevage in oak. I think this may have ultimately muted the nose, which smells mostly of oak spice and subtle orchard fruits.

The palate again promulgated significant oak influence, but there was also white pepper, spice and an herbal finish. The wine’s acidity was far lower than I expected and the alcohol showed through in its lack of balance. I may have written this off as the result of youth, but the wine has been sitting in the bottle for 5 years already, and acidity does not diminish with age. The lack of acidity makes the wine feel wan and tired; luckily the flavour profile is interesting enough to make this tasty juice that works with the right kind of food. Nonetheless, if you don’t like an oaked style of Gruner, this will probably not be your bag.

Very Good
~$40 at Kits Wine Cellar

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