If you are new to the delights of Styria, Stephan Reinhardt recently wrote this excellent piece on the region for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The wines of Styria cannot be compared to those from the Danube. Although the majority of the wines are also white, the soils often are coral limestone or opok (marl), and where they are not, they are of volcanic origin. With the exception of Sauvignon Blanc, varieties known in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) are also cultivated here, such as Chardonnay (which is often called Morillon in Styria), Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Muscat. Grüner Veltliner, however, plays no role at all here in the south of Austria on the border with Slovenia or in the west within the province of Carinthia, and Pinot Noir also plays only a subordinate role. Riesling, on the other hand, is found here but really—in terms of relevant quantity and quality—only in the Kitzeck-Sausal, where dark, partly reddish-colored slate soils are predominant. Wohlmuth has [also] firmly established itself among the very best domaines in the region.”
“Hike” the vineyards of Wohlmuth and you are traversing some of the steepest plots in all of Europe. The mother rock here is composed of slate and schist. Powerful sunshine provides phenolic ripeness and Kitzeck Sauzal’s high elevation hilltop location means huge diurnal swings which slow the ripening process and preserve the natural acidity in the grape. The result is intense freshness, tight rope tension, and a linear acidity which results very long-lived dry Sauvignon.
Viticulture practices are old school-organic and sustainable and remain largely unchanged since the family’s founding of this estate in 1803 – No pesticides or herbicides are used, and it goes without saying that harvesting is manual. Work in the cellar is similarly traditional, with spontaneous fermentation and the use of neutral 500L casks.
“From a 60% to 75% steep black slate vineyard up to 600 meters above sea level, the 2020 Ried Sausaler Schlössl Sauvignon Blanc shows an intense and concentrated but coolish, precise and flinty nose with dense and tangy Sauvignon aromas. Lush and filigreed, with a fine texture and hint of tannins from the large oak vat in which the wine was raised for 12 months, this is a still young but very distinctive Sauvignon with dense and aromatic fruit and a highly stimulating mix from lemon juicy, salty and crunchy slate. If it wasn’t Sauvignon, it could have been Riesling with a Sauvignon accent as well. A beautiful wine that I have never tasted before. 13% stated alcohol. Natural cork. Tasted in December 2021. Drink 2022-2050.” – 94 points, Wine Advocate (December 2021)
“Light yellow-green, silver reflections. Fine slate savouriness on the nose, delicate white grape, some mango and pineapple, a hint of fresh orange zest, mineral and inviting. Complex palate, juicy, fine yellow peach fruit, elegant structure, salty, powerful finish with very good length. Safe ageing potential.” – 94-96 points, Falstaff (PM)