2018 WEINGUT ENGEL ‘Basalt’ Welschriesling
Region: Styria < Austria
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming; Vulkan (volcanic soil) old vines on a basalt rock; spontaneous fermentation in neutral oak barrels then 12 months on the lees in neutral barrel, no temp control; bottled unfined/unfiltered with no added So2; zero-zero; 12.5%
Winemaker: Simon Engel
From Styria, Austria, neighbor to Kobatl, Simon Engel started his winery in 2006. Prior to that, the land was a small mixed agricultural farm with pumpkins, corn, fruits and pigs. With only 2000 m² of vines, in the spring of 2006, Simon started to produce wine in his garage, specializing in Riesling, Traminer and Chardonnay. Now he has 10 ha vineyards, all on volcanic soils, all organically farmed. He started producing natural wine in 2015 with fermentation in clay eggs.
Welschriesling (no relation to Rhine Riesling) is a fairly non-descript white grape grown throughout Eastern and Central Europe. The Austrians love it - here it is popular as a spritzer, cut with sparkling mineral water or club soda. That's because it's usually kind of middle of the road, not a ton of character, so go ahead and water it down. Except in Simon's hands, from his extreme volcanic soils, the grape shines and becomes the show stealer. His 'Basalt' bottling, so named because the old Welschriesling vines literally sit on black volcanic rock (called Basalt), is hazy and supremely mineral driven. There is pretty fruit -- slightly tart yellow apples, crisp pear, white flowers and bright citrus -- but it is the salty, rocky minerality that lingers. We also love the look of the bottle -- sleek and black, like the Darth Vadar of wine, reflecting the racy, taut nature of juice inside. The whole package is racy, livening up your crisp white wine game.