Departing from tradition isn’t always a good move. But in this famed Austrian region, Martin Muthenthaler is one of a handful who are changing the way things are done and are showing the world the true potential of this incredible area. Offering value and a true expression of site, most importantly his wines are a dream to drink.
Martin Muthenthaler started making his own wines from his family’s vineyards in 2006. Located in a side valley off of the Danube River, his beautiful, terraced vineyards are farmed organically. Martin’s close friend and iconic Wachau producer, Peter Veyder-Malberg, helped guide Martin and influence his direction in the early years. Neither producer works within the standard Wachau classification. Instead, they focus on balance and expression of site, an approach that I find creates an overall better expression when the grapes reach the bottle.
The winery and cellar are split across three garages beneath Martin and his parents’ house; the minimalistic winery consists of a collection of large oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. Martin invests most of his time and effort in the vineyards, aiming to achieve the highest quality fruit each vintage. Over the last few years, I’ve seen his wines progress from strength to strength, with the quality and complexity building with each vintage. The winery is still young and older examples are hard to come by, but the underlying structure and balance of the wines instills confidence that Martin’s wines have the potential to age and improve with a few years in the bottle.
Martin’s wines are still flying under the radar and critical reviews are scarce so below are my thoughts on the wines.
2016 Martin Muthenthaler ‘Spitzer Graben’ Grüner Veltliner - Bootleggers Price $45
2016 was a tiny harvest for Martin, with volumes down as much as 70% for some of the single vineyard wines. Though quantity may be down, the quality of the wines did not suffer. Spitzer Graben is the name of the valley where the vineyards and winery are located and the Grüner Veltliner is a great entry into understanding what Martin’s wines are all about. With fresh acidity, tart citrus and white peach, combined with the signature herbal spice character this is a wine to drink over the next few years.
2016 Martin Muthenthaler ‘Ried Bruck’ Riesling - Bootleggers Price $99
The 2016 Ried Bruck Riesling is where things get serious. The wine shows texture, body, intensity, whilst coming in at about 12% alcohol. The concentrated crushed rock, yellow peach and apple character of the wine gives a nod to how this wines is going to develop in the bottle. If you’re going to open this wine today I’d recommend decanting and serving in a larger Burgundy shaped glass to enjoy the full range of aromatics.
Pair these Wines With…
The wines both pair brilliantly with veal schnitzel, or delicate seafood dishes. The Riesling in particular has the body and intensity to work some richer dishes and creamier sauces.
*back vintages and other wines from the winery are available. Please contact us for further details.
Drive for an hour and half northwest from Vienna along the Danube River, and you’ll find the Wachau, arguably Austria’s greatest wine region. Picturesque, steep-terraced vineyards line the river banks, standing as both a labour of love and a testament to the locals’ unwavering dedication to crafting wine of the highest caliber. Only working Grüner Veltliner or Riesling, Wachau winemakers produce a range of styles, from light and ‘quaffable’, to Botrytis-affected, rich and powerful. These wines are simply outstanding in value.
In 1983 Vinea Wachau introduced a voluntary organisation whereby members would adhere to a set of guidelines, one of which was creating a quality ladder based on alcohol: steinfeder (less than 11.5%), federspiel (11.5-12.5%), and Smaragd (more than 12.5%). This was useful classification at the time where achieving higher levels of ripeness could be a challenge due to generally cooler weather conditions.Today though, the top Smaragd wines can push 14.5%. As a result of the ease of achieving ripeness, a few select producers have stepped away from the system, representing a different expression then what many might think of as ‘Wachau’.