#27 – 2009, 2010, 2011 Hirsch ‘Zöbing Gaisberg’ Halbtrocken Riesling – Kamptal, Austria

Estimated retail: $52

Back in 2002, I had the privilege of being invited to the VieVinum, the Austrian International Wine Festival held every other year in Vienna. I was part of a contingent of American Sommeliers invited by Skurnik Wines and Terry Theise — it remains one of my most memorable wine experiences. I was only in my mid-20s and it was staggering to be surrounded by so many amazing professionals, incredible wine, and associated history. In addition to the tasting, we spent a few days visiting the estates of such legendary producers as Weingut Bründlmayer, Schloss Gobelsburg, and Kracher Weinlaubenhof.

The first winery we visited on this trip was Weingut Hirsch and oh what an introduction to Austria it was. Residing in lower Austria, it’s a property with a wine growing history dating back 500 years and from it you can see the famed Gaisberg, Heiligenstein, and Lamm Vineyards. Today it is helmed by Johannes Hirsch, a fanatic for sustainability and biodynamic farming practices. His winemaking relies on ambient yeast, whole cluster pressing, and a drawn out vinification process. Additionally, he was one of the earliest and most significant wineries to utilized screw-top closures. He is both brilliant and fearless.

The Gaisberg is a terraced vineyard of 40-year-old vines that produce a deeply mineral-driven, off-dry style of Riesling. While not as celebrated as Lamm or Heiligenstein, it makes fantastic wine for far less money. The wines of Hirsch gracefully dance on the line between powerful fruit and poignant acidity. I recently put all three vintages on the list Backstreet Café after tasting through a vertical that included 2003 and 2001 vintages. They are absolutely worth tracking down. It’s also quite a match for the cuisine found in Houston’s finest BYOB Thai establishments. ∞

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