Marion Ebner got off to a flying start as a winemaker when she was just sixteen and she has never looked back. Here she is with her husband Manfred.
The Nose knows when she’s on to a good thing and at the Austrian tasting one a quick inhale and swill of Ebner-Ebebauer’s 2010 Osterreich Zero Dosage, Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc in a line up of Sekt (see my previous blog) was sufficient for me to trot off to find out more about this estate and see what else they had to taste.
The 15 hectare estate is in Northern Austria near the Czech boarder, land farmed by Manfred Ebebauer’s family for generations. Manfred and his wife Marion took over the family estate in 2007 and soon made a stir.
Marion Ebner is an exciting young winemaker. She began her career at just 16 working for Fritz Wieninger, but made her name as a negociant. She bought some Grüner Veltliner fruit from Schloss Gobelsberg which she aged in oak. Grüner Veltliner is not usually aged in oak and it went down a storm. Melusine was success and she has not looked back.
I tasted six Grüner Veltliner from the estate and was impressed. Grüner Veltliner is really Austria’s flagship grape – a hook for the national identity. Of course Austria makes great Riesling, but Riesling is not an easy sell and Austria is in competition with Germany and Alsace. Meanwhile Grüner Veltiner is a quality grape variety with a distinct identity. It is spicy, but not in a florid or citrus way…. savoury spice and slightly peppery. It is rather full bodied with a rich texture, moderate acidity and alcohol around 13-13.5%. It makes a good food wine and has long been a fixture on the wine list of self respecting restaurants the world round.
Marion is making terroir wines, but is pushing the boundaries and experimenting in the winery. We’ve mentioned oak, but the nose was twitching at the mention of skin contact. Skin contact can – in the right hands – add a tannic bite to white wine. The tannins counteract the fruitiness. Grüner Veltliner can be quite full and viscous the tannins balance this and provide a certain grip on the finish.
Skin contact: She de-stems the Grüner Veltliner into 500kg vats, cling films the top and sticks it in a cool room at 9 degrees for a varied length of time depending on the vineyard and the style. She uses a pneumatic press – very gently, given the skin contact. Traditionally Gruner Veltliner is aged on lees in stainless steel and some of Marion’s wine goes into stainless steel. While others are aged in 500l barrels with the balance in stainless steel. There is no temperature control as the old winery is cool.
Marion is playing with ripeness, skin contact, lees and oak and exploring the potential of Grüner Veltiner beyond the obvious. The Nose find the results intriguing.
A bit about the 2016 vintage. Marion says “2016 was great except the horrible late frost which reduced the crop to just 25-30%. There is alway rain during harvest and we have to stop and wait until the sugar graduation is back, but that’s our life as winemakers. We harvest into 25kg boxes so no problem at all – check out our Instagram account ebner-ebenauer – there you see how we work.” She describes the vintage as “very elegant and mineral.”
2016 Weinviertel DAC Klassik, Grüner Veltliner
A pretty wine with alluring aromatics. This is a fairly straightforward spicy Grüner Veltiner, nicely balanced. (£16)
*2016 Niederosterreich Klassic, Grüner Veltliner Reid Hermansschachern
Limestone soil. This parcel is harvested just below spätlese ripeness – usually picking around the beginning of October, depending on the vintage. This has 10-12 hours skin contact. This is less aromatic, but straight, mineral, fresh and has a salty finish. There is more concentration here, but it is tightly contained. I like the delineation and the minerality. (£22)
2016 Niederosterreich Reserve, Grüner Veltliner Reid Bürsting
This has a bit more skin contact 24 hours and 50% in 500l French oak. This has more power and density. Good freshness and some tannic bite to balance the spiciness. (£25)
2016 Niederosterreich Reserve, Grüner Veltliner Reid Sauberg
The soil is clay and loess (a fine grained silty soil) and the fruit has 24 hours skin contact and 50% oak ageing in 500l french oak. This has a certain muscular density. The body is fuller. There is a good freshness.
*2016 Niederosterreich Reserve, Grüner Veltliner “Alte Reben”
Gravel stone soil. Skin contact for 24 hours and 70% in 500l oak. This has freshness, energy and a powerful savoury minerality. The typical peppery spice is here. This is a full-bodied compact wine with good layering. I like the sappy savoury finish. (£30)
2016 Niederosterreich Reserve, Grüner Veltliner “Black Edition”
From a single vineyard, but an unashamedly winemaker driven wine. The de-stemmed fruit has 48 hours skin contact and at pressing Marion takes all the cloudy juice, not just the clear first press and it goes into 500l barrels which are cold in the old cellar. It’s so cold it takes 7 months to ferment. After this it receives quite a lot of bâtonnage – 10 months – every day for 3 months and then once a month. As the lees are in suspension they need no SO2. Unsurprisingly this is a rich and full-bodied wine with a firm tannic backbone. There is a spicy, honeyed richness and a powerful finish. This should age very well indeed. This retails for approx. £50, but currently not in stock.
Stockist in the UK