April 1, 2011 Weingut Willi Opitz
Weingut Willi Opitz Opitz One
Willi Opitz has to be more than a bit of a showman. Who else would have the pizazz to name his flagship wine “Opitz One.” The Mondavis were not impressed, thinking it rather too similar to their own “Opus One.” Winemaker Opitz eventually reconsidered, renaming it “Mr. President” for those bottles destined for the United States. He had in the interim sent a case to Bill Clinton and in time the ex-president stopped by the winery while on a visit to Austria. All innovative marketing. As is the Opitz wine business link to British Airways and McLaren Mercedes F1 racing team.
The man is nothing if not one to stretch the limits of the business of wine. Let’s not forget his 1995 CD release “The Sound of Wine,” a recording of his wines undergoing fermentation. (A substantial hit in Austria apparently.) Opitz undertook the project because when he was a boy his grandfather had told him that “fermenting wine speaks to you of everything it has experienced during its year in the vineyard.” (We could think of it as the acoustic, organic equivalent of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”) Special note should be taken of track 3: “Opitz One (Red Trockenbeerenauslese)”. In winemaking terms, the hit single.
Opitz One is a late harvest, botrytis-laden red dessert wine, made from the Austrian native grape zweigelt. The key factor in its production is air drying on reed mats for six months, a process developed by Opitz himself. The mats are made from reeds harvested from the nearby Neusiedlersee. In fact it is moisture from this huge, shallow lake that gives rise to the grapes’ noble rot.
Willi Opitz’s foray into winemaking came in the 1980s, as a hobbyist. By 1995 he had given up a career as a mechanical engineer for full-time adventures among the vines. Today the vineyards still only total 17 hectares. While the 80,000-bottle annual production is made up of over 30 different wines, it is the Opitz dessert wines that have gained the most attention.The grape harvest used in the premium bottling yields an incredibly slight 7 hectolitres per hectare, something which Opitz equates to “milking mice.”
But what milk, what mice!
Weingut Willi Opitz Opitz One 2006
A wine to stir the dessert wine lover’s soul. A charming cherry-orange hue emitting aromas of strawberries and rhubarb. But it is the palate that reaps the most rewards — an elegant coating, intensely flavoured, its sweetness lost to the seamless interplay of dark fruit and minerals. Fruit compote taking on a refined alcoholic complexity. Totally delightful with Castello blue cheese and plum chutney. $$