According to manager Vincent Bache-Gabrielsen, that’s the secret behind the revitalization of Saint-Estèphe’s Château Lilian Ladouys.
If Bache-Gabrielsen’s name feels familiar, it’s because he also manages Château Pédesclaux, the Pauillac property that the Lorenzetti family purchased just one year after picking up Lilian Ladouys, and which their team also revitalized. If you’re sensing a theme here, don’t congratulate yourself, because, bluntly stated, the theme is pretty friggin’ obvious. And – spoiler alert! – the results are basically the same: an ailing Bordeaux producer weaned off of life support, and now celebrated as doing the rarest of all Bordeaux wine tricks: over-delivering for its price point (you can find their main red for well under $40/bottle).
Backtracking for a bit of history: the Château Lilian Ladouys property dats back to the 1560s, and was revitalized once before in the late 1980s. Like skinny ties and jams shorts, that `80s endeavor was ill-fated, as Ladouys found few buyers for its at-the-time much-elevated prices. Periods of what Bache-Gabrielsen called “irregular quality” followed, until the Lorenzettis saw potential in Ladouys’ Saint-Estèphe terroir and decided to buy it, with the understanding that to turn things around “we have to work!”
While 2009 saw immediate improvements that Bache-Gabrielsen termed “interesting,” it wasn’t until the soils began to really improve in 2010 that the team felt that Ladouys was turning the corner. They’ve since been engaged in the selling an acquisition of various plots in the region, replanting to maximize proper rootstock usage, and favoring gravelly soils over limestone in an effort to significantly up the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in their blend. About 2/3 of their property has since been exchanged in some form or another, and as of 2018 they now have about 80 hectares of vineyards from which to draw, with half of it devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon (the rest being Merlot, Petit Verdot, and a tiny portion of Cabernet Franc), and 80% of it on gravelly soils.
“It’s really different from Pauillac,” Bache-Gabrielsen told me during a live video tasting, “the subsoil is the same, but you have more clay here, and the limestone is much deeper in Pauillac.” This suits their new house style, which is focused on taming extraction and emphasizing aging potential. “We tend to make epicurean wines,” he explained, ” approachable young but that cab age well. We try to balance the power of Saint-Estèphe with freshness….”
In the Austrian region of Krems, they know a thing or two (or two dozen) about winemaking; few wine-growing areas have its kind of historical depth, even when measured by European standards. Grape production in Krems dates back to the 3rd Century AD (during the reign of Probus); mentions of specific vineyards can be fond as far back as the 11th Century; and Krems itself officially became a town in 1305 partly because of the reputation of its vineyards.
Unfortunately, that impressively lengthy resume timeline doesn’t mean that they know how to properly combine cinema and map rooms in Krems, as I learned during a masterclass tasting held at Winzer Krems, the Kremstal’s long-standing co-op.
…can it do *this*??
First of all, they have “4D” theater at Winzer Krems (that combines audio, 3D visual, and tactile/aromatic effects), the kind that most of us have encountered only at science academy museum spots in U.S. major cities. At first blush, that format seems a natural fit for a mini wine movie; in practice, it’s a bit disappointing in terms of translating what’s in an on-screen glass of vino. Winzer Krems also has an impressive map room, which shows the Kremstal in impressively sized detail.
Somehow, despite having both of those elements, they amazingly and inexplicably do not offer a recreation of the greatest map room scene in the history of cinema. Sorry, my Austrian friends, but it’s a very, very difficult thing for us cinema buffs to blithely gloss over such an egregious oversight. Fortunately, Kremstal has an ace up its sleeve: it offers some of the country’s better examples of Grüner Veltliner Reserve…
Apologies, right off the bat, for the headline clickbait: not only are we not talking about Champagne, we’re not even talking about sparkling wines. In fact, we’re really only talking about one grape – Grüner Veltliner – from one spot: Austria’s Traisental. Because, well, sometimes I can just be that kind of dick on my own website (for the curious, here’s a similar treatment of Austria’s Thermenregion, with me probably also being a bit of a dick).
This won’t be a waste of your time, however, especially if you love white wines, because the small-but-mighty (a mere 800-or-so hectares, dominated by small growers who farm 5-10 ha each on average) Traisental has some impressive geographical credentials that offer (and mostly deliver) the promise of some killer Grüner.
Have 13C monastery, will travel
First, there’s the Traisen river, the recession of which created many a white wine grape’s favorite soil type: limestone deposits. Next, the loess soils here are primarily decomposed stone, with high amounts of chalk. The region’s slopes allow cooler air to move down to the valley, which mitigates frost. If all of this is sounding familiar, it’s because we can more-or-less say the same things about Champagne, making Traisental among the more unique spots in Austrian wine country.
At the stylish and historic (and difficult to pronounce) Stift Herzogenburg monastery (standing tall since 1244, folks), I tasted through about one billion (that figure may not be accurate) Traisental Grüners during my recent media jaunt to Austria; below, my friends, are the highlights (head’s up – I’ve no USD prices on any of the following, which might just be a 1WD first)…
Back in May (I know, I know…), I was a media guest for the 2019 Austrian Wine Summit, during which I was lucky enough to participate in a tour “along the Danube,” visiting and tasting through Austria’s classic wine producing regions.
It was pretty much as awesome as that sentence makes it sound.
Even so, I’ve (obviously over-)hesitated to jump into the coverage of that jaunt, mostly because such media group travels rarely lend themselves to overt story-lines. You visit; you taste; you all scramble to take pictures and find coffee; you eat; you drink; you move on to the next visit.
You also learn; in some cases, quite a lot, even if the stories being told lack the obvious dramatic flair of conflict. And so I think for our humble little coverage of Austria here, the stories will be the regions and wines themselves; many of which you almost certainly won’t have tried, because many lack appropriate representation in the USA (sorry!).
Our first stop: tasting at one of Austria’s oldest wine estates, Freigut Thallern, in Thermenregion. Bordering Vienna and the Wienerwald woodlands, where a mere two thousand or so hectares of vineyards are divided into a whopping forty-two different community villages, Thermenregion’s average plots are understandably small – and the average yields even smaller (in fact, the lowest in all of Austria). You’ll find a thermal fault and plenty of thermal springs here, but interestingly no volcanic soils. Another interesting tidbit: Thermenregion’s white wines (which dominate in the region’s north), tend to see a bit of skin contact during vinification, an historical remnant used to help preserve the wines for travel. Speaking of the wines…
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