Alto Adige Valle Isarco Kerner Stiftskellere Neustift Abbazia di Novacella 2005. Alcohol 13%. Vias Imports Ltd. Vias Imports
The winery and the wine.
One of the great joys of having a neighborhood wine retailer is the ability to obtain wines you've just read about. Recently Robin and Hoke introduced me to Kerner, and I tried half a dozen local retailers -- none stocked it. But a few days ago, I stopped by the Endless Vine to celebrate not falling off the roof as I did a bit of re-framing. I bought a glass of wine, and a few minutes later Mike stopped by with a bottle of this wine. He said the importer had given him a sample bottle for me to taste, and we spent five minutes tasting and enjoying a wine new to both of us. Mike refused a tip -- he thought the wine was good enough to stock a case and see how it would move.
Pale straw yellow with green highlights, clear hue, lovely fruit aromas and tastes, mostly in the sweeter citrus area, fresh, pure impressions, no oak, full bodied, quite amazing for a white, much like a Chardonny's mouth feel; pleasant tastes, a bit sweet, very mild acidity, short finish. I really wonder what this particular Kerner would match with -- the acidity was so slight that I don't think it would enhance sea food. Mike and I agreed that it would go well with a cold antipasti platter where it would meld the variety of flavors and textures together -- especially that full mouth feel. 3*.
Robin Garr: Kerner is an unusual but highly promising modern grape, a cross between the noble Riesling variety (a white wine) and the much less familiar grape that's variably known as Schiava, Vernatsch, Trollinger or Black Hamburg (a red grape). Kerner was first bred at the the Weinsberg/Württemburg State Wine Institute in Baden, Germany, in 1969, making it one of the world's most recent commercially viable varieties. Within a generation it had become Germany's third most-planted grape after Riesling and Sylvaner and may eventually move into second place. It is also popular in Northern Italy's Südtirol (Alto Adige) and has been planted in South Africa, England, British Columbia in Canada and Michigan in the U.S.
Jancis Robinson speaks highly of Kerner, declaring it "commendably close to Riesling in flavour except with [its] own leafy aroma and very slightly coarser texture." In contrast with the custom of naming new varieties after grape scientists, she adds, Kerner honors the memory of a 19th century composer of German drinking songs.
There's a big difference stylistically between the style of Kerner from the Alto Adige and the predominant style coming from Germany. Kerner may be prolifically planted in Germany now, but most of the Kerner goes into less exalted bottlings than the Riesling grape. And much of that Kerner (especially in the Pfalz and Rheinhessen) comes out as innocuous QBA and low-priced Pradikat wines. Not to say that Kerner can't produce decent wines. It can. And the sample Robin chose shows that. But I've seldom been impressed by a Kerner from Germany---there's that 'coarseness' that Robinson mentions; it almost always shows to me. I have had some decent---though not spectacular---dessert styled wines from German Kerner. They tend to express well in Auslese and Beerenauslese wines, the ones that require riper fruit and higher sugars. It's an interesting grape variety, and worth exploration. Good choice.
I also found some excellent notes from Arnt Egil Nordlien about this winery.
Abbazia di Novacella (or Kloster Neustift) is a monastery above Bressano in the northern end of the Valle Isarcko, close to the border of Austria. On the 28th of March 2006, the commercial director of the firm; Marco Scartezzini was in Norway to present some wines from the Abbazia. The vineyard-sites are located at four different places. The Novacella; which makes up the vineyard around the monastery. Here you find the grapes giving white wine; sylvaner, müller-thurgau, kerner, gewürztraminer, pinot grigio, veltliner. The Marklhof estate and vineyard is situated in Colterenzio. Here Abbazia di Novacella vinify all their red wines and plant Schiava, blauburgunder, Moscato rosa and sauvignon blanc. The third site is Kofleitenhof above Bolzano, where they harvest Schiava for St.Magdalener and the last site Mariaheim, west of Bolzano where you will find Abbazia di Novacellas lagrein-vines.
Mostly it is the white wines that are available in the norwegian market, so the tasting would focus on these wines. The Novacella-vineyard is one of the most northernly in Italy and the grapes planted are mostly one you associate with Austria or Germany. The soil here is morenic with some sand. The altitude is 600 meters and above. Besides their normal range of wines Novacella has a range named Praepositus where they have selected the best grapes from old vines (average 40 years). They make a Preapositus sylvaner, kerner, gewürztraminer, Pinot nero riserva, lagrein riserva, moscato rosa and soon also a sauvignon. So to the wines:
Brixner Sylvaner 2004 Novacella
Straw/greenish colour. Typical steel. Clean nose, quite leafy and greenish with some stone. Uncomplicated and nice sylvaner-nose. Medium bodied and again the lightly greeny sylvaner-fruit with a slight bitterness in the finish. A little mineral. Medium acids and length. Some alcohol in the finish. Nice sylvaner.
Brixner Kerner 2004 Novacella
Colour same as above. Semi-aromatic and more floral nose. Lightly balsamic, but also more depth, more mineral and interest here. Powerful in the mouth. Better acids and again better depth and more interesting fruit. Floral and quite aromatic. Again the alcohol is quite high. When I ask Marco Scartezzini says between 14-15%. Interesting kerner.
Praepositus Sylvaner 2004 Novacella
A little deeper colour. Still greenish. While the regulars had only steel this has had a few months in old and large bottes. The nose shows more honey than the regular sylvaner. But still the leafy, greenish and slightly stoney character. Fuller in the mouth, but perhaps lower acids in the balance. Mer interesting than the normal sylvaner and a step up in quality. Again quite high alcohol. Very good sylvaner.
Praepositus Kerner 2004 Novacella
Colour same as the wine above. Nose more flowery and aromatic, but also more minerals. This is very fine indeed. Powerful in the mouth, more concentration and extract. Also higher alcohol (15,5%), but better balance here than the normal kerner. Fine minerals, fine flowery semi-aromatic fruit. Good acids. On the young side. Can really kerner be this good? Very interesting.
Praepositus Gewürztraminer 2004 Novacella
More yellow colour. Aromatic and spicy gewürztraminer-nose. But more leefy, greenish. No sweet lichi-notes. Slight roses. Powerful and more fatness than the kerner with obvious less acids. Dry gewürztraminer with quite a spicy profile and without the sometimes too heavy perfume. But less mineral depth than both the kerner and sylvaner IMO. 15,5% alcohol. Good.
Praepositus Sylvaner 2002 Novacella
A little more yellow colour. Shows a little more evolved. Nose shows the leefy, greenish, stoney side of sylvaner, but with some petrol creeping up and an added complexity. Medium bodied, fine, mature and complex in the mouth. Better balanced with less obvious alcohol here. Good length. Very fine sylvaner that drinks well now.
Praepositus Kerner 2000 Novacella
Colour same as wine above. Complex nose; very mineral; oily, petrolly. Fine evolved aromatics. Faded flowers. Great depth. Full-bodied and better balanced than the 04. Less alcohol, but more extract. Good concentration, very fine fruit, complex and quite evolved. Good acids and length. This is a great wine and clearly the wine of the evening. Who new kerner could be this great.
Gewürztraminer 1997 Novacella
The first vintage for the Praepositus-range was 1998. So this is pre that area. Yellow colour. Again the spicy/aromatic gewürztraminer-nose, but here more evolved with more earthiness and greenish ,leafy notes. Full-bodied and quite fat entrance. But fruit does not show as much depth. Fine balance, spicy, but not very aromatic gewürztraminer. A little step down in quality from the other gewurztraminer. Good.
Praepositus blauburgunder riserva 2002 Marklhof
Aged 13 months in barriques (30/70 new/used). 14% alcohol. Red colour. Nose shows toasted oak, red fruits. Medium bodied. Fine red fruited, but with obvious toasted oak. Too much for me. Fine acids and a quite bitter finish with some greenish hard tannins. Will aging it make it better balanced? I don't think so. A disappointment after the fine whites.
Praepositus Moscato rosa 2004 Marklhof
Red colour. Aromatic moscato-nose. Very typical spicy with hints of red fruits and some anise. Full-bodied and quite sweet (100 g/L. residual sugar) in the mouth. High alcohol (14,5%). But well-balanced and fresh style with fine acids. A nice moscato rosa that is quite serious. Yields for this wine was only 8-10 hl/ha.
To me there is no doubt the whites were the real intersting wines this night. Especially the kerner; that so often is the basis for a lot of totally uninteresting juice. But here in the hands of the Abbazia di Novacella it really showed the quality it is capable of producing. The wines are also said to have a potensial to age well. The sylvaner is also interesting; typical and good. It is probably a wine to drink earlier. The 2002 fine and on top on the tasting. Unfortunately I did not find the blauburgunder to have the same great quality as the whites. The moscato rosa is very fine for it's style. If you like this rare grape it is one to seek out.
Arnt Egil Nordlien