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The wines of Erich and Walter Polz
Grassnitzberg 54a, 8471 Spielfield, Austria
Tel: +43 (0)3453/2301
wgp@polz.co.at Internet: www.polz.co.at


Austrian wines are pretty much an unknown quantity to most UK consumers. Apart from the relatively mass-market offerings of Lenz Moser, they rarely make a showing on the shelves of supermarkets and high street retailers. So last year I was intrigued to see the wines of Erich and Walter Polz make an appearance at Oddbins. I snapped up a couple of bottles (the 1998 Grassnitzberg Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc), and was pretty impressed. Curious about this producer, I caught up with Maria Polz at a tradefair in order to try a larger selection of their wines. Polz are located in South Stryria (Südsteiermark), which is a relatively small region in the south of the country, producing around 5% of Austria's wine. These distinctive wines are dry and aromatic, causing South Stryia to be dubbed as Austria's Alsace.

 The family-owned Polz estate has been developing in recent years and they now have around 35 ha of vineyards that are owned or leased, yielding an average of 40 hl/ha (pretty low). The estate produces three tiers of wines, and those tasted here are the single-vineyard wines that represent the pinnacle of production. I was seriously impressed by this range. There's a clear regional identity running through the wines, which nonetheless also express varietal character. They are all dry, with good concentration and firm acidity. Particularly interesting were the Sauvignon Blanc (this is commonly grown in Styria) and Morillon, which were both very elegant, expressive wines. The Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay are also superb, and these are the wines available in Oddbins. Prices are very reasonable, at under £10 -- well worth checking out if you after interesting, savoury dry whites.

Grassnitzberg Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) 1999
Fermented and matured in large (2000 litre) French oak barrels, this is complex stuff. A pale yellow colour, with an enticing, spicy nose, the palate is rich and honeyed with some spicy complexity. A superb example of Pinot Blanc at its best. Very good/excellent

Grassnitzberg Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) 2000 (barrel sample)
Elegant and a little lighter than the 1999 at present. Fresh, lemony nose with some spicy, honeyed notes. The concentrated palate is full and spicy. This needs some time to show its best, I suspect, and will probably be lovely. Very good+

Grassnitzberg Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) 1999
Quite deep coloured, with a lovely rich nose that shows honeyed, spicy notes and some minerality. It's full flavoured and fruity on the palate, with a nice rich texture and more of those honeyed, spicy elements. Good acidity. Very good/excellent

Grassnitzberg Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) 2000
Just bottled, this is apparently a little bit closed up. The nose is a bit muted, but it has a lovely rich-textured palate and good concentration. I'd expect this to improve with a year or so in bottle. Very good+

Grassnitzberg Chardonnay 2000 (barrel sample)
This is fermented and matured in French oak barriques, and undergoes malolactic fermentation. Youthful nose with creamy, nutty intensity and mineral notes. Full flavoured palate with a nutty barrel-ferment character, high acidity and mineralic, spicy finish. Lovely, fresh, savoury stuff. Very good/excellent

Grassnitzberg Chardonnay 1999
Fresh toasty, nutty nose with a herby, creamy edge and some mineral character. The palate is full, savoury and nutty; it's rich-textured but still retains good acidity. Impressive stuff that successfully balances impact of flavour with classy elegance. Very good/excellent

Hochgrassnitzberg Morillon 1999
Morillon is an Austrian synonym of Chardonnay, which Polz use to identify this wine that is made for long ageing. It's fermented and matured in large oak barrels and does not undergo malolactic fermentation. A good yellow colour, this has a crisp, lemony nose with a nutty richness. The palate displays nutty, buttery fruit; it's a concentrated wine with good acidity that is rich, full and mineralic. Very good/excellent

Hochgrassnitzberg Sauvignon Blanc 1999
An impressive Sauvignon: savoury and potentially long-lived. The nose is rich, fresh and herby, with some herbaceous character and a lovely nutty intensity. Rich, full character on the palate with good density of mineral extract and nice acidity. A stunning interpretation of this sometimes one-dimensional grape variety. Very good/excellent

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