Posted by: tomciocco | July 7, 2014

ROTGIPFLER – A BEAUTY WITH THE NAME OF A BEAST

Yeah, if you were able to choose the name of your product, the name Rotgipfler probably wouldn’t even make it into your top thousand, but the growers and winemakers in Austria’s Thermenregion don’t have any such choice, so it is what it is, they live with it, and push forward. Obviously, a short digression is in order…

Austria’s Thermenregion (pronounced ter-men-REHG-ee-own by the way) is situated geographically about 40 miles south of Vienna. And as you can perhaps infer from its name, this gently hilly area is shot through with hot springs which in addition to contributing a pronounced minerality to the quite humus and chalky, lime-rich soils, in certain spots, actually serve to measurably warm vineyard soils.

Not surprisingly, this peculiar terroir has a couple of very peculiar – indeed unique – white grape varieties in the form of Zierfandler, and tonight’s subject, the unfortunately tagged grape Rotgipfler. The latest genetic research seems to indicate that Rotgipfler is an old spontaneous cross of the strongly Jura-associated white variety Savagnin and another Austrian rarity, the pink-skinned Roter Veltliner. Currently, though Rotgipfler is in no danger of extinction, there is less than 300 acres of this variety under cultivation, with most of the vineyrds located in the even more tooth-breakingly named town of Gumpoldskirchen.

In terms of its character in the glass, Rotgipfler yields wide-bodied, piquant and semi-aromatic wines not dissimilar to those derived from Traminer, though the two varieties have no genetic kinship. And because of the grape’s high acidity levels and deep flavor, this a variety ages quite well, and consequently responds quite well to some exposure to oak, and indeed 20% of this particular bottling is aged for four months in large, used oak casks, with the remainder resting in stainless steel for the same stint.

Getting your hands on a bottle of Rotgipfler is a lot harder than liking it if you do manage it, but putting aside its undeniably convivial personality, its rarity in some part represents a decent part of its appeal. And getting to tell your friends and colleagues that your drinking a wine with a handle like “Rotgipfler” doesn’t hurt either – it’s fun to say, and it elicits lot of raised eyebrows when you do. Would that it raised as many glasses, but like I said, sometimes rarity makes a really good thing into a great one. This is definitely one such case.

To match this full-throated white I served a first course of zucchini and green pepper fritters followed by a main course of pork schnitzels fried with lots of sage and dusted with sweet paprika with a pea and carrot melange to keep them company.

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Johanneshof Reinisch Thermenregion Rotgipfler 2010

Greenish, medium golden color. Fragrant and fresh nose of honeydew melon, apricot, mandarin orange, white flowers, toasted almonds, cedar and pine sap. The palate shows an overall very well-balanced and cohesive medium-full body with an elegant minerally acidity and flavors of kumquat, kiwi, lime, smoke and cream soda. The finish is very long with clean notes of sweetened ginger and Shiitake mushrooms.

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