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Schloss Gobelsburg: philosophical investigations on the pleasures of Gruner Veltliner


“Then I brought up this question: When you say, Men do desire pleasure, what is this use of “pleasure?” Is it contrasted with pain? Pain is localized, for instance.

He went on with one of the nicest bits of analysis I heard… He started: Pain is a sensation. Pleasure is not. Why are the senses classified together? Obviously they are not a bit alike. Smells, odors, aren’t a bit like sounds. Then he gave this account. With respect to all these, you can time them precisely with a clock. “Now you see; now you don’t. Now you hear it; now you don’t.” By the clock you can tell. Now pleasure isn’t like this. The logic of the word pleasure is quite different. Clock the pleasure. When did the pleasure begin, when did the pleasure end, etc?”

“Wittgenstein conversations 1949 – 1951”, p 63, Oxford. Wittgenstein

 

Each Gruner Veltliner is a puzzle: in Austria, the spicy white is an everyday wine enjoyed in the same way as Chardonnay; but, here, Gruner Veltliner is still an exotic treat.

Schloss Gobelsburg is a benchmark in the Austrian style of Gruner Veltliner, so I joined the customers of Berry Bros & Rudd in their St James Street cellars ready to test my assumptions.

Like all outstanding winemakers, Michael Moosbrugger has done all the philosophical hard work for you; what is left in the glass is pure visceral pleasure. The Schloss Gobelsburg vineyards in the Danube had been owned by the monks since medieval times and the power of contemplation continues.

Each wine is like a philosophical answer to a question.

One of the questions he posed: How much can a winemaker really reduce manipulation of the wine? Can a winemaker really do nothing – does the terroir really speak for itself?

To test his question he went back to the Schloss Gobelsburg monastic wine library to look at how wine was made before 1850 and the industrial revolution. Before then, a winemaker had the same ideas for making wine that existed in Ancient Roman times. In Roman times, wine was based on the Platonic idea of breathing and oxygen. Wine was an organic thing, an embryo that needed to grow and breathe with periodic moments of oxygen to bring the wine to life. The winemaker was only a midwife. Today with modern technology and understanding, the philosophy in the cellar is more about protecting the aromas and reducing fragile components: which results in a wine that is cleaner, streamlined and fresher.

The answer to his theory: 2008 Gruner Veltliner, Tradition. This is wine made in the pre-industrial style. Compared to the other Gruner Veltliner wines we tasted, this wine was deeper gold in colour, richer and more savoury. It had an incredible depth but already seemed more developed than other Gruner Veltliner shown from the 2009 vintage.

For the people at the tasting, the 2009 Gruner Veltliner, Lamm was the favourite. From volcanic and sandstone soils it had a very refined palate, peppered with floral notes. Precise and completely in balance like an expensive watch. But it was the 2009 Gruner Veltliner, from the region of Grub, that really held my attention: like an abstract cologne of white pepper on the nose with fresh fruit on the finish. It had a distinctly modern, abstract, cool personality as if it belonged in the museum of modern art. I admit this will not be to everyone’s taste, but still, very thrilling.

Prepared for Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, I came away from the night with the impression of the shimmering gold of Klimt. Pepper. Yes there was strict pepper, but also a lush golden character. Ending with the incredible sweet wine, 2008 Gruner Veltliner Eiswein, tasting of caramelised pear with amazing aged Comte cheese characters, only confirmed my belief that great Austrian wine can be an intellectual as well as a pure sensual pleasure.

The tasting ended at 8.31pm, but the wines shined well into the dark, rainy night.

Food matched: Wild Mushroom & truffle strudel, Herb spaetzle with Gruyere fondue, Fois gras parfait on toasted brioche, Weiner Schnitzel with sauce gribiche, Austrian sausage with mustard.

 

Images: “wittgenstein illustration 2nd reading branch, 1973” Mel Brochner; “Adele Bauch-Bauerm 1907” Gustav Klimt

Thank you to David Berry Green, Berry Bros & Rudd and winemaker Michael Moosbrugger for the opportunity to taste these incredible wines from Schloss Gobelsburg. Tasted 16.02.11.

6 Comments

  1. I was very impressed with the Schloss Gobelsberg wines at the Austrian tasting, and I checked with the wine maker what the ambient temperature would have been at the time of the wine making – obviously to go back to pre industrial wine making there would have been no temperature control. He confirmed that they had ambient temperatures of around 5 degrees or less. Which to my mind goes a long way to helping to explain how lure the tradition tasted, very minerally with little to no oxidation. I thought it was an exceptional addition to their wines.
    Annoyingly the rest of the tasting threw up a lot of Gruners that just tasted identikit, lots of very low temp fermentation esters, all esteric pears and melons. On discussing this with Patricia Stefanowitz MW we were wondering whether there was an element of cultured yeasts coming into play. All kept neatly uninteresting under screw caps..

  2. Yes, I was astounded by the incredible lengths Michael had gone to test this idea. It does not surprise me to hear he had the temperature at the correct ambient level considering the amount of research and original thought he had done. JM

  3. tim hall says

    It's not quite clear whether by 'ambient' Donald, you mean temp in the cellar or in the vat. If vat, we're not talking fermentation here at 5C, perhaps only pre-ferment cold soak of the fruit if that is what was done. No fermentation would develop and complete at 5C. Do you mean 15? That would be pretty cool (but not exceptional nowadays)for white ferments.

  4. Jamie says

    Great write-up of wines I like a great deal. Had the pleasure of visiting Michi a few years back where he explained the idea behind tradition – it was my favourite of the wines

  5. Hi Tim, the ambient temperature I was referring to was in the cellar, there was no temperature control during the ferment, other than the chilly cellar temperatures.

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