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Robin Garr

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine vocabulary - Federspiel (Weingärtner 02 Riesling)

by Robin Garr » Fri Jul 21, 2006 1:09 pm

<table border="0" align="right" width="140"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/federspiel.gif" border="0" align="right"></td></tr></table>Wine vocabulary - Federspiel

One of the most intriguing things about wine, or one of the most profoundly frustrating, depending on your point of view, is the almost infinite level of detail involved in describing the stuff.

If you hold to the "profoundly frustrating" position and would really rather just get to the point, feel free to skim on down to today's tasting note.

Still here? Okay, then. Let's spend a few minutes today on a virtual visit to Austria's Wachau region, the beautiful, steeply terraced hillsides on the north bank of the Danube about an hour west of Vienna.

The Wachau, perhaps Austria's greatest wine region, is best known for its Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings. It's also the home of one of the most precisely limited categorical systems in the world of wine. The regional winery association, "<i>Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus</i>," has developed its own system for classifying wines based upon their "must weight" or sugar content of the wines at harvest, an indication of ripeness.

Specifically, the rich wines made from the ripest grapes (over 19 degrees KMW in the Austrian must-sugar measurement system) are designated "<i>Smaragd</i>" ("Shmah-rahg'd," which means "emerald" and is also the name of a local emerald-green lizard). The lightest wines from the least-ripe grapes (15 degrees KMW) are called "<i>Steinfeder</i>" ("Shtine-fay-der," literally "stone feather," a kind of grass). And the in-between category - as in today's featured wine, with at least 17 degrees KMW) - is "<i>Federspiel</i>," (meaning "falconry").

This hierarchy is a sort of first cousin to the German <I>Qualitätswein</i> system, and you'll often see the Wachau classification explained in those terms (<i>Smaragd</i> = Auslese, <i>Federspiel</i> = Kabinett and <i>Steinfeder</i> = Qualitätswein). But the system - and the nature of the wine - is sufficiently different to make that a bit misleading. To some extent, the German categories vary by sweetness while the Austrian wines (which unlike the Germans, legally must be fermented to dryness) vary in terms of body and alcohol; but there are too many exceptions for this to be a useful road map. Still, Hugh Johnson likens Smaragd to "a <I>dry</I> Spätlese," and by that standard, "dry Kabinett" is probably as good a translation for "<i>Federspiel</i>" as any.

But there's no need to over-analyze. Today's tasting is a 2002 Federspiel from Freie Weingärtner, a fine, affordable Austrian Riesling that's both food-friendly and refreshingly quenching on a hot summer day.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/wach0524.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Domäne Wachau 2002 "Terrassen" Wachau Riesling Federspiel ($11.99)

This wine from Freie Weingärtner shows a clear, light brass color. Characteristic aromas of apple and pine add a distinct, minerally touch of Riesling "petrol." Mouth-filling flavors follow the nose, fresh and clean; steely acidity wraps it all up in a long finish. U.S. importer: Vin Divino Ltd., Chicago. (May 24, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> A versatile food wine with lighter meats, seafood or a range of vegetarian dishes. It was fine with alder-smoked salmon accompanied by wasabi-laced mashed potatoes.

<B>VALUE:</B> Difficult to beat for value in the $10 to $12 range.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Riesling is one of the most ageworthy white varieties; even with this lighter-styled Federspiel, you needn't worry about cellaring it for years.

<B>PRONUNCIATION:</B>
<b>Wachau</b> = "<i>Vah-How</i>," with a guttural German "ch."
<b>Federspiel</b> = "<i>FAY-dehr-shpeel</i>"
<b>Riesling</b> = "<i>REECE-ling</i>"

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
The winery's content-rich Website is entirely in German, but even if you don't speak the language, it's worth a visit for the photos alone.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Look up prices and locate sources for Weingärtner Wachau Riesling on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Michael Pronay

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine vocabulary - Federspiel (Weingärtner 02 Riesling)

by Michael Pronay » Sat Jul 22, 2006 6:59 am

Just a few remarks. "Smaragd" is not pronounced "Shmah-" but "Smah". To say that the three categories "vary in body and alcohol" is right, here are the brackets:

Steinfeder: up to 11%
Federspiel: 11 to 12,5%
Smaragd: 12,5% or more

In theory, a grower has the choice of category with a wine at 11% or 12.5%, but in practice the lower category is chosen.

One rarely sees Smaragds at 12.5%, with two notable exceptions: Nikolaihof frequently turns out smaragds at this level; and in 2004 there was quite a number of riesling smaragds from other producers at 12.5% as well.

Finally, "Federspiel" doesn't mean "falconry" but but an object used there: "shill" or "lure" (in German "Lockvogel"), a wooden bird-look-alike with some feathers, used by the falconer to lure his bird back.
Ceterum censeo corticem esse delendam
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Michael Pronay

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine vocabulary - Federspiel (Weingärtner 02 Riesling)

by Michael Pronay » Sat Jul 22, 2006 7:08 am

Just one more remark: Although riesling is quite ageworthy, check the closure type of your Federspiels. Synthetics were (and still are) quite popular with many producers, but they are unsuited for anything to be aged over 12 to 24 months after bottling (which usually takes place in spring after the harvest).

For smaragds, bark cork is compulsory, something which is heftily discussed over here. Why they don't admit screwcaps is beyond just about anybody's mind, culminating in what a prominent sommelier said: "The Kremlin under Brezhnew was more flexible than the gentlemen from the Vinea board."
Ceterum censeo corticem esse delendam

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