Johannes Hirsch is making some of Austria’s best Grüner Veltliner and Riesling from his winery in Kammern, which has beautiful views looking to the famed Heiligenstein and Gaisberg vineyards.
Here since 1878, the Hirsch family used to practice mixed farming, with wine being made alongside growing other crops. This carried on until the 1970s when Josef Hirsch, Johannes father, began focusing more on wine. He began with 2.5 hectares of vines, and then began supplementing this with astute parcels. He bought cheaply, because the top sites weren’t in demand because they were hard to work. To buy on the Heigenstein now would be ruinously expensive. Hirsch began focusing on terroir, not grape variety, and in 1999 launched their first terroir wines.
They also adopted screwcaps early on, and in 2002 they were the first to bottle an Austrian single-vineyard wine under screwcap.
We visited with Johannes Hirsch and his wife Sandra, but before tasting we had an extensive tour through the vineyards. The estate has grown to 31 hectares under vine.
The Heiligenstein was built in layers 770 million years ago, and has conglomerate rocky soils. Gaisberg, the other large hill, is composed of pure gneiss and is 336 million years old. The higher up parts of both hills are terraced and this is where Riesling does best. Grüner Veltliner is typically planted below the terraces. For example, Lamm gives famous spiciness to Grüner Veltliner from conglomerate sandstone found in the predominantly loess soils.
Gaisberg is quite complex as a terroir with six different soil types, but at the top it’s just the pure gneiss. Heiligenstein was recently split into three different zones.
Views from the Heiligenstein, where Riesling rules:
Farming is certified biodynamic, but their sustainable approach to farming goes back a lot further. Josef began using compost from his neighbour’s goats and buffalo manure. The Hirsch family gave this cheese manufacturer grazing land and got the manure in return.
This is the Gaisberg vineyard: loess soils with some rocks:
Hirsch Ried Gaisberg Grüner Veltliner 2022 Kamptal DAC
Crystalline rocks. 13% alcohol. Beautiful crystalline detail here with some white pepper and minerals, showing pear richness and great precision. Textural and detailed. 94/100
Hirsch Ried Gaisberg Riesling 2022 Kamptal DAC
Mica schist. 13% alcohol. Pure and linear with sweet citrus fruit and a hint of green apple. Quite generous and smooth with nice weight in the mouth. 92/100
Hirsch Ried Grub Grüner Veltliner 2022 Kamptal DAC
Loess soils. 13% alcohol. Very fine texture to this wine, which shows purity and a sweet core of citrus, with some pear richness. Quite textural with a smooth finish. 92/100
Hirsch Ried Gaisberg Riesling 2021 Kamptal DAC
Spice and lime on the nose with lovely intensity. The palate is vibrant and energetic with great precision and a spicy, stony mineral quality. Bright lemony fruit with good energy and a frill of spice and some pear richness. 93/100
Hirsch Ried Gaisberg Riesling 2019 Kamptal DAC
Fresh and vibrant with a lovely spicy mineral core. This is pretty with lemony fruit but also good minerality and layers of flavour. Fresh with some energy and some pear and white peach fruit. Such an expressive wine, with delicacy but vitality. 94/100
Hirsch Ried Gaisberg Riesling 2017 Kamptal DAC
Lovely focus here with some apricot and pear richness, with lovely lemon and lime fruit. Very expressive. Complex with a really spicy twist to the fruit and some pear and pith notes on the finish. 94/100
Hirsch Ried Gaisberg Riesling 2016 Kamptal DAC
This shows a lovely freshness with bright lemon and pear fruit. This has nice presence with a fine spicy twist. Stony, juicy and mineral with layered spicy complexity. Quite a mineral wine. Still youthful. 95/100
Hirsch Ried Gaisberg Riesling 2015 Kamptal DAC
Some cream and nice spicy texture adding interest to the lemon and lime fruit. Has concentration and energy, and is developing in interesting ways. Has a hint of toast. 93/100
Hirsch Ried Lamm Gruner Veltliner 2022 Kamptal DAC
Loess over the top of conglomerate. Fine and fresh with lovely energy and focus. Stony, mineral and finely spiced with bright pear and citrus with a touch of white pepper. So lovely. 94/100
Hirsch Ried Lamm Gruner Veltliner 2021 Kamptal DAC
A bright style with pepper and minerality, showing some pear, a touch of apple, and some citrus. Very fine with lovely energy. Bright with some exotic notes in the background. 94/100
Hirsch Ried Lamm Gruner Veltliner 2017 Kamptal DAC
There’s some depth here with sweet pear and citrus with nice texture and weight. Slightly honeyed with nice spiciness. Very expressive with lovely depth. 93/100
Hirsch Ried Lamm Gruner Veltliner 2016 Kamptal DAC
Lovely brightness with a touch of apricot, and lovely fine spices and with pear and even some peach. Very expressive with some pear and white peach. Very stylish with depth and complexity. 94/100
Hirsch Ried Lamm Gruner Veltliner 2024 Kamptal DAC
Supple with nice weight: pear, green apple, some lemon. Quite pure and crystalline with lovely balance. Has softness and drinkability. 93/100
Hirsch Ried Heiligenstein Riesling 2022 Kamptal DAC
Permian sandstone. 13% alcohol. Some depth and texture, with sweet citrus, a subtle creaminess in the background, and a pure lemon and pear finish. Has some weight and smoothness, but brightness too. 92/100
Hirsch Ried Heiligenstein-Rotfels Riesling 2022 Kamptal DAC
Permian sandstone. 13% alcohol. Generous, lively and bright with a core of sweet citrus fruit. Nice weight and focus here with a spicy edge to the limey fruit. 93/100
Hirsch Ried Heiligenstein-Rotfels Riesling 2021 Kamptal DAC
Very fine and limey with nice precision, showing a touch of pepper and juniper with lovely citrus fruit core. Crystalline and beautifully detailed with lovely precision. 95/100
Hirsch Ried Renner Grüner Veltliner 2022 Kamptal DAC
Loess, crystalline rocks. 13%. Lively and bright with sweet citrus and pear fruit, showing some generosity. Ripe, open, expressive with nice weight. 93/100
UK agent: Indigo Wine