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Steinzeiler: a milestone in the history of Austrian red wine…


Steinzeiler’s Success Story

Comprehensive vertical tastings of a red wine are normally devoted to the prestigious crus of Bordeaux or Burgundy—it’s even a rare occasion when such a retrospective focuses upon an Austrian white wine. As far as I know, there has never been a wide-ranging tasting like the one the Kollwentz family held in September in Vienna’s Palais Coburg, which put a single Austrian red wine in the spotlight.)

From the vintage 2011 reaching back to 1969, an eighty-person throng of winelovers from all corners of Austria, Germany and Switzerland convened to rejoice in the complexities of Kollwentz’s fabled red wine Steinzeiler. What nobody had counted on was the fact that alongside the well-known excellence of the recent vintages of Steinzeiler, the mature examples were also a great pleasure to taste. Father Anton and son Andi Kollwentz have a wonderfully extensive library of older vintages at their disposal—only thus was it possible to offer so numerous an audience several decades of wines from their own cellar. And since a complete and uninterrupted vertical would involve too many wines, the Kollwentz family tasted the wines in advance and selected those showing the best; with this their guests were assured of an unforgettable evening.

Up until 1985 Anton Kollwentz bottled a monovarietal Blaufränkisch under the name Steinzeiler. This name is the designation for a very old vineyard site on the Leithaberg between Grosshöflein and Müllendorf; first mentioned 1569 in official records, it exists now only in fragmentary parcels. Today, Steinzeiler is a protected trademark of the Kollwentz family, used for the estate’s top red wine.

From 1986-1990 the wine was called Cuvée Römerhof; after that point it bears only the name Steinzeiler, and represents Kollwentz’s finest quality. From the very best parcels in the Kollwentz Blaufränkisch vineyards Ried Point and Ried Setz, only the best grapes from old and deeply rooted vines are chosen for this cuvée; vines which now produce only small yields of extremely high quality. With the Blaufränkisch, Kollwentz blends—depending upon the vintage—small portions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zweigelt.

In its youth, Steinzeiler shows an intense dark violet colour. Its aromatic spectrum is characterised by dark berries, toasty aromas and a delicate vanilla highlight. Very convincing on the palate, the wine exhibits robust and ripe tannins, powerful berry-aromas, spices and elegance, with a long finish. It is matured in new French barriques, a style of vinification with which one is certainly familiar for 25 years now in the house of Kollwentz. After 30 months aging, Steinzeiler is bottled without fining or filtration. Optimum drinking maturity for Steinzeiler typically falls between five and eighteen years—although this epochal tasting in Vienna serves to underscore the significantly greater cellaring potential of this wine.

In weaker red wine vintages, like most recently 2010, Andi Kollwentz—together with his wife Heidi in charge of the winery since 2004—doesn’t bottle a Steinzeiler.

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