Without going into a whole Mitchneresque reach back to the formation of the earth, Atzberg and Singgeriegel are virtually identical in their composition of red stones, slate and gneiss with little topsoil. Eventually, they were separated by a stream called Mieslingbach. Singgeriegel went on to become recognized as one of, if not the top vineyard in the Wachau. Atzberg can trace its history back to the 13th Century and the building called Mauritiushof was used by the monks to collect grapes. The Gritsch family bought the property in 1799, and used the building for wine production.
In recent times the Atzberg Vineyard itself was not cultivated. It’s terraced vineyards high on the hill were unplanted until winemaker Franz-Josef Gritsch and his partners Hans Schmid and Robert Wutzl decided that the spot was too special and important a site to be ignored. They dove in and ‘recultivated’ this historic site with the idea of restoring it to its formal elite status that was mentioned in records as far back as 1382.
Everything is ‘old school’. This 100% Gruner Veltliner vineyard is labor- intensive, with the grapes handpicked and carried in small tubs down to the lower valley. The thinking was that, given the history, if Singgeriegel is such an iconic vineyard, so too should Atzberg be among the stars of the region. If the Atzberg Gruner Veltliner Steilterrassen 2016 (Steilterrassen literally means ‘steep terraces’) is any indication, the ‘reclamation’ project is going quite swimmingly. The juice in the glass definitely gets one’s attention. It begins with a harmonious succession of aromas such as red berries, earthy minerality, apple, pear, wild herbs and spices.
In the mouth, all of this reveals itself in a palate that has not only the anticipated lift but a fairly broad, ample, and tender feel. Some Gruners sting, this one does a lot more caressing while still delivering the kind of bright, energetic experience one expects from this varietal when done right. Somewhat kinder and gentler, it delivers loads of character and finishing salinity. While it should please established fans of the genre, it is capable of winning some new friends for Gruner by virtue of its friendlier texture. The breeding and complexity of the site in the glass support the effort Gritsch and friends have put into it.
We don’t have any flashy reviews. We didn’t find any reviews on this specific vintage, we didn’t really need them to validate that this was exciting stuff. Also, given the laborious nature of the site, we found the price to be more than fair, particularly when compared to an ‘upper cuvee’ from the site called Obere that literally costs more than twice as much. Delicious Gruner that can play with serious food should you choose, this is an early look into what we expect to be recognized as one of the superstar sites of the region soon enough.