Just got back from the vineyards of Franz Pratzner in Naturns, in Alto Adige. His 12 acres of vineyards are steep slopes overlooking the Venosta Valley at about 2,000 feet above sea level. It reminds me of some of the steep vineyards in Germany’s Rhiengau and Mosel. But the soil of his vineyards is more like the Rhienpfalz, with deep loamy earth with some schist.
Pratzner’s wines, which he sells under the label of Falkenstein, would give any top-notch Austrian dry white a run for its money. And he represents a new generation of small grapegrowers who are making exciting wines and at very good value. As my buddy sommelier Marco Unterhauser of Hotel Oberwirt in Marling said, “The price for Pratzner’s wines are about one-third of the top names of Austria’s Wachau, and equal quality.” I wholeheartedly agree.
The Falkenstein wines show wonderful precision and class. They are dry, racy wines with plenty of body and character, yet they remain fresh and lively. His best wine is his Riesling, which he bottles with a screw cap as well as cork. The 2006 shows a fabulous nose of fresh apricots and minerals with hints of Brazilian limes that follow through to a full body with intense fruit and a lively finish. Based on my non-blind tasting at the winery, I consider it outstanding. He also makes wonderful Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and a Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder).
Alas, his production is very small, with about 40,000 bottles total produced each year. So, it’s next to impossible to find, particularly in the States. But such a wonderful Riesling, at about $20 to $25 a bottle at US retail, is worth the search.
And I plan to discover many more wines from Alto Adige like Pratzner’s in the next few months. The region is now making the most exciting whites in Italy, even more so than Friuli. So stay tuned!
Gil Schwarz — Las — July 28, 2007 4:44pm ET
James Suckling — — July 29, 2007 10:38am ET
John Miller — Windsor, CA — July 29, 2007 5:34pm ET
James Suckling — — July 30, 2007 4:49am ET
Julie Mushett — Miami, Fl — July 30, 2007 10:35am ET
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