Weingut OTT Fass 4 Gruner Veltliner 2018
Fass 4 is a phenomenal introduction to the estate wines of Bernhard Ott. Named for the fass (barrel) that was selected every year by a customer of Bernhard’s father, this is meant to be a consistent, benchmark wine for the domaine.
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The Ott family has been growing and producing wine in the region of Wagram in Lower Austria since 1889. Bernhard Ott is of the fourth generation and has managed the winery since 1993, when he took the helm from his father. When he came home to the winery as a 21 year old, he was interested in producing wines of the highest quality. Bernhard wanted to prove that elegant and long lived wines could be produced from Grüner Veltliner grown on loess soil, specifically from Rosenberg vineyard. Bernhard replaced the old wooden casks with stainless steel and began working the vineyards with an aim for the highest high quality.
In 2004 Benhard began composting, using organic cow manure from a friend in the region. In the past four years he’s used so much manure that the EU contacted him; “they didnt think it was possible to use 100,000 Euros worth of manure – they thought there was some accounting mistake. In 2006 he took a trip to the legendary biodynamic property Domaine La Romanée Conti in Vosne, with his best friend, Hans Reisetbauer. There, after a marathon tasting in the cellars with Aubert de Villaine, Bernhard committed to move to biodynamic viticulture. In 2007, with Johannes Hirsch, Fred Loimer and a group of like-minded producers, Respekt was formed. In 2014, after a very difficult harvest in which Bernhard didn’t bottle any single vineyard wines, he decided to work whole cluster saying “the stem is part of the grape. If you work without stems, you get more sweetness, more round fruit.”
Today, Bernhard is looking back to previous generations for inspiration and to inform both his work in the vineyard and in the cellar. Grapes are picked at full ripeness, but thanks to biodynamic farming and composting, the sugar ripeness stays very moderate. “The compost helps with water regulation. Healthy soils give water when the weather is dry and take it back when there is too much. This also means no irrigation at all.” says Bernhard. In addition to working the soils with compost, Bernhard is a firm believer in not disrupting the eco-sysytem under the soils too much, preferring to plowing only 8cm deep.
Harvest is done 100% by hand, something that is very important to note in a region who’s rolling hills and flatter landscape allow for machine harvesting. After picking and a strickt selection, the fruit is crushed in the press and maceration is done inside the press. The length of the maceration depends on the vintage, but also on the vineyard and the quality of the fruit. Bernhard uses closed pneumatic presses and has several different sizes. “This is how the press used to operate – there was only one pressing per day, so there was a maceration in the press.” explains Berhard. The juice is “browned” and racked into stainless steel where it is fermented by native yeasts without temperature control. Minimal amounts of sulfur are used at harvest and bottling and the cellar is very cold, inhibiting the development of malolactic. The single vineyard wines from the three Erste Lagen – Rosenberg, Spiegel and Stein – are on the full less until June or July before racking and bottling. The resulting wines are some of the very finest in Austria, straddling a juicy character with strong soil signatures.
Appreciated for superior wines made from indigenous varieties, Austria should be on the radar of any curious wine drinker. A rather cool and dry wine growing region, this country produces wine that is quintessentially European in style: food-friendly with racy acidity, moderate alcohol and fresh fruit flavors.
Austria’s viticultural history is rich and vast, dating back to Celtic tribes with first written record of winemaking starting with the Romans. But the 20th century brought Austria a series of winemaking obstacles, namely the plunder of both world wars, as well as its own self-imposed quality breach. In the mid 1980s, after a handful of shameless vintners were found to have added diethylene glycol (a toxic substance) to their sweet wines to imitate the unctuous qualities imparted by botrytis, Austria’s credibility as a wine-producing country was compromised. While no one was harmed, the incident forced the country to rebound and recover stronger than ever. By the 1990s, Austria was back on the playing field with exports and today is prized globally for its quality standards and dedication to purity and excellence.
Grüner Veltliner, known for its racy acidity and herbal, peppery aromatics, is Austria's most important white variety, comprising nearly a third of Austrian plantings. Riesling in Austria is high in quality but not quantity, planted on less than 5% of the country’s vineyard land. Austrian Rieslings are almost always dry and are full of bright citrus flavors and good acidity. Red varietal wines include the tart and peppery Zweigelt, spicy and dense Blaufränkisch and juicy Saint Laurent. These red varieties are also sometimes blended.
Fun to say and delightfully easy to drink, Grüner Veltliner calls Austria its homeland. While some easily quaffable Grüners come in a one-liter—a convenient size—many high caliber single vineyard bottlings can benefit from cellar aging. Somm Secret—About 75% of the world’s Grüner Veltliner comes from Austria but the variety is gaining ground in other countries, namely Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the United States.