|Stadlmann 2021 Gruner Veltliner, Thermenregion
In the rolling hills of Austria’s Thermenregion, just 20 minutes south of Vienna, the Stadlmann family has tended the vine since 1780. Eighth-generation Bernhard Stadlmann, who took the reins from his father Johann with the 2006 vintage, holds three doctoral degrees, but he chose ultimately to dedicate his life to continuing and refining the traditions established by his long chain of predecessors.
Stadlmann owns 20 hectares of vines in 35 separate parcels in the northern sector of the Thermenregion, a chain of gentle east-facing slopes with soils of varyingly mixed limestone and clay.
While the Stadlmann family produces outstanding examples of Grüner Veltliner (which assumes a lovely saltiness in these limestone soils), Weissburgunder, and Pinot Noir, they are most renowned for their riveting and age-worthy Rotgipfler and Zierfandler. Only about 120 hectares of Rotgipfler and 75 hectares of Zierfandler still exist in the Thermenregion, and Stadlmann is their clear standard-bearer, having perfected the management of these finicky varieties through accumulated generational wisdom. Zierfandler, though capable of articulating site with startling precision, is naturally low-yielding, and prone to rot due to its compact clusters of thin-skinned berries. Zierfandler will always be Stadlmann’s hallmark wine. What makes this grape special is the combination of acidity and sweetness, due to the characteristic of the grape: While ripening, the Zierfandler grapes turn light red on the side exposed to the sun, giving them a high sugar content. On the shady side, however, the grapes are yellowish, crisp, and acidic. The best Zierfandler site in the Stadlmann wine-growing estate is the “Mandel-Höh”.
Rotgipfler (named for its red “rot” shoots), on the other hand, must be carefully managed to avoid overproduction and loses acidity quickly once it achieves phenolic ripeness. And these varieties’ late-maturing nature, a result of the daily cooling winds which descend eastward from the nearby Alps, only serves to increase the possibility for calamity during the lengthy growing season.
However, in Stadlmann’s hands, these obscure varieties attain a gravitas that places them among the great white wines of Europe, and Bernhard’s fastidious irrigation-free and chemical-free farming, and hands-off cellar approach allow his wines to articulate their sense of place with clarity and power.
Notably, while many Austrian growers produce bottlings of various ripeness levels from the same plot each vintage, Stadlmann has always issued forth a single wine per site, harvested at what they believe is the correct moment to capture the characteristics of the vineyard and growing season—typically around mid-October. (Bernhard spent a brief period in the Côte de Beaune, and as he stated cheekily in an interview with Levi Dalton in 2015, “When I worked in Burgundy, we made only one Montrachet and only one Chevalier-Montrachet.”) Charming in their youth but capable of aging for decades, Stadlmann’s wines are textural masterpieces that eschew the dominant Austrian paradigm of stainless-steel-fostered digital clarity in favor of a profoundly harmonious layered character.