2019 Wenzel 'Under Flor' Furmint
Region: Neusiedlersee > Burgenland > Austria
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming, loess and loam soil, open vat fermentation then spends 18 months under the yeast cap in barrel, after which the wine is carefully separated from below for additional elevage in neutral barrel; bottled unfined/unfiltered with no sulfites added; zero zero; 12% ABV
Winemaker: Michael Wenzel
Another wild and wonderful wine from Austria, where the hills are literally alive with the sound of music!
Since 1647, the Wenzel family has worked the land near the town of Rust, on the western side of Lake Neusiedl, in Austria's Burgenland region. They've been pioneers in winemaking in the region -- the first to have a bottling machine, making the radical change of wine for sale in barrels to individual bottles, increasing the wine's value on the market and, in turn, the family's income. The current winemaker, Michael Wenzel made his first official harvest at his family's estate in 1995, and after a few years working in New Zealand, Australia, and California, he returned to take the reins (although his father is still an active part of the process). After years of a traditional approach to winemaking, Michael hit a crossroads, feeling that the winemaking process was becoming stale and boring to him. So, in 2008, he shifted his focus to autochthonous varieties (especially Furmint), low sulfur, native yeast, and organic farming. He says that over the past decade he has noticed major positive effects in the plants and soils, especially that the vines are able to store and draw more water from the soil -- a boon for an area that doesn't get much rainfall during the growing season. And we've noticed that he's making some pretty great natural wine, unique and refreshing for this part of Austria that is still pretty stodgy.
But stodgy is not how anyone would describe this experimental bottling, part of Wenzel's super natural series of wines with skin contact and the least intervention, meaning no added So2. A first for us, this is Furmint done under 'flor' in the Sherry style. Because Michael feels that Furmint works better in an oxidative environment rather than reductive stainless steel, and in this case he has taken it even one step further to let it develop under a veil of yeast, playing up the savory and food friendly qualities of this aromatic white. It is complex and geeky but not weird - bright, floral and salty, with the slightest hit of hazelnuts, this is a wine to pair with cheese and nuts for aperitvo, or a dinner with all the fall fixings.