November 19, 2010 Claus Preisinger
Claus Preisinger Pannobile
zweigelt (80%), blaufränkisch
Talk about a subtle label. If I were caught in a snowstorm, I’d be hard-pressed to read it. Luckily, there’s been no sign of the white stuff yet. In fact we have been bathed in glorious sunshine for much of this November. Fine invigorating autumn weather for a splendid bottle of Austrian red.
The wine is from Neusiedlersee, the northern sub-zone of Burgenland and not far from the border with Hungary. To be more specific, in and around the town of Gols. A major influence here is the Neusiedl itself, a very large but very shallow lake, stretching 36 kilometres. Its daytime water temperature nears 30° C during mid-summer, allowing nighttime breezes to pick up the heat, broadening the grape ripening period considerably. The area generally has a long, warmish fall (I can relate to that), ideal for the late-ripening blaufränkisch grape.
Claus Preisinger has vineyards on 44 parcels of land, totalling 14 hectares. He’s young, energetic, and very much terroir-driven. His approach is natural, straightforward, low-tech, and biodynamic. “I take whatever the grapes bring,” he says, “and then I try to put that right in the bottle.” Which, in less capable hands, might not mean much. So add to that list of descriptors: passionate and talented. Quality of wine trumps all.
95% of his production is red. Local varietals predominate: blaufränkish, St. Laurent, zweigelt (a grape created 90 years ago by crossing the previous two). Preisinger has also had considerable success with pinot noir. A spanking new, ultra-modern winery, but one that blends unobtrusively into the landscape, attests to the fact that Preisinger is both expansive in his thinking, and rooted in tradition. His wines are aged in used oak, for example, to ease the tannins without allowing it to outweigh the natural character of the varietals.
Preisinger is keenly aware of the importance of promotion, of setting an interesting mien in the marketplace. Corporate and packaging design (by the firm Eberstaller), while subtle, is distinctive and arresting. Until recently the Austrian wine industry in general had a considerable public relations problem, dating back to the 1980s, with overproduction, mediocre quality, and, worst of all, the notorious scandal when it was revealed that some winemakers had been doctoring their production with an extraneous chemical. A new image was vital.
Innovation in promotion extends to several other wineries in and around Gols. Nine of them have formed an alliance they call Pannobile. The name derives from a combination of ‘Pannonia’, the old Roman name of the region, and the noble nature of the wines they seek to produce. Pannobile strives first for wines true to the attributes of the region and its varietals. It veers far from anything blandly universal.
Each September it releases a collection of one bottle of Pannobile red from each producer, and, for some producers, also a bottle of white. This comes two years after harvest. These wines are the foremost wines of a producer’s range.
Pannobile is a class act all around. And how might the red wines be packaged? Together in a Black Box of course.
Here is Preisinger’s contribution to the Black Box of 2005 wines.
Claus Preisinger Pannobile 2005
Deep ruby in the glass. There’s a cultured depth to the wine that surfaces on several levels. It speaks of sour cherries with a peppery tang, though never easy-going, never frivolous. Nicely grounded in earth tones, a touch of leather. The tannins sit comfortably in place; the acidity brings a good momentum. Well balanced. Fresh, yet with a sustained measure of sophistication. An honest wine, one to eagerly revisit. $$