Kracher: synonym for noble sweet wines in perfection
Wine Professional, Amsterdam, 8 January, 2019
Kracher: synonym for noble sweet wines in perfection
By Cees van Casteren MW
For the 60th anniversary of Wine Estate Kracher from Burgenland in Austria, we tasted exceptional sweet wines from three generations of the family Kracher. Gerhard’s grandfather started the winery in 1945 at the age of 17. Without any experience, as the family at that time had a mixed farm, including less than half a hectare of vineyards. They were very poor, Gerhard told us. His grandfather wasn’t really interested in mixed farming, he just wanted to grow grapes, and gradually transformed mixed farming into viticulture. In the meantime, they operate
His father, Alois Kracher, travelled a lot, worked extremely hard to promote Austrian wine in general and noble sweet wines in particular. His father complained about the 80s, he said was a terrible time to sell Austrian wine. After the scandal absolutely nobody wanted to hear about Austrian wine, no one in the world was interested in Austrian wine. Even if he got people to taste his wines, and they were surprised and impressed, they had no interest to buy, even if they loved the taste. Nonetheless, he created a new style of dessert wine, in which the fruit character, ?nesse and balance of the wine was far more important that just mere sweetness.
A turning point in the history was 1988. Alois Kracher had this expensive but (in hindsight) fabulous idea to organize a Kracher versus D’Yquem tasting in London. Actually he promoted it as a D’Yquem tasting and in very small letters ‘versus Kracher’ below. That turned out to be a fantastic idea, everyone showed up, it was a blind tasting and each flight was won by Kracher!! They still do a tasting each year, under the name of the Botrytis Forum! Another big help came in 1991.
The 1991 vintage brought Kracher his ?rst international acclaim, with Parker’s rating of 95 points. It was the only Austrian wine Parker would include in his ratings that year and it firmly established Kracher in the US and the world. Kracher would become synonymous with cult sweet wines all over the world. He was relentlessly eager for the innovative, and created a number of delicatessen products that would feature his sweet wines, from blue cheese to wine jelly, grappa, vinegar and even chocolate. He developed lasting friendships from China to California, and was tireless in his efforts as an ambassador to promote Austrian specialities.
And now, suddenly, Kracher exists 60 years! Gerhard is going to make a celebration tour throughout the world in 2019 to celebrate this milestone. The very first of these anniversary tastings was in Amsterdam, at wine show the Wine professional, in the Amsterdam Convention Centre (RAI).
Gerhard prefers to taste from old to young as the sweetness gets less during years of bottle age and finesse greater. We started with a young wine to get our taste buds calibrated for noble sweetness, but immediately after this first calibration wine we started with the 1981 TBA Welshriesling.
About the winery (from the website)
The Kracher Winery lies in the Seewinkel area of Austria´s Burgenland. Here, through the evaporative periods of Lake Neusiedl, the evening fog and the warm Pannonian climate, continuous warm-humid weather patterns are dominant and, therefore, allow for Botrytis cinerea to be generated. This is what provides the basis for the fantastic sweet wines such as Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese.
From the grape varieties Welschriesling, Chardonnay, Traminer, Scheurebe, Muskat-Ottonel and, from time to time even Zweigelt, Alois Kracher created each year 10 to 15 different Trockenbeerenauslesen wines in two different styles.
Zwischen den Seen (“in between the lakes”) are the wines which are matured in large wooden barrels or steel tanks, and undergo long yeast contact in order to deliver freshness, fruit und primary grape aromas into the bottle. The wines of the Nouvelle Vague line are marked by barrique ageing with air exchange during maturation. Vivid and lively in taste, depth, spiciness and length are these wines notable characteristics.
The special love with which he treated the different grape varieties, along with his tireless discussions and efforts that encompassed both tradition and innovation, plus his courage to walk - representing a small family business - amongst the big wine dynasties of the world brought Alois Kracher countless awards and vast recognition. Not the least of the tributes was his being honoured by Great Britain´s renowned Wine Magazine with the coveted "Wine Maker of the Year" title for an impressive seven times - in 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2008.
Today, Gerhard manages the winery with the help of his life-in partner Yvonne. The range offered by what is undoubtedly the most widely known Austrian wine estate features the world-famous Trockenbeerenauslesen as well as Beerenauslesen, Auslesen, Eiswein (ice wine) and small amounts of dry white and red wines.
One point of explanation about the numbers which are sometimes mentioned in the so called collection wines: from No 1 to No 7 or more. The higher the number, the more residual sugars in the wine! No 1 usually below 200gr/L, and No 7 usually around 300gr/L. HOWEVER, the numbers are no indication for quality! They are just a reflection of vintage and winemaking, reflecting sweetness ultimately. A remarkable fact is that Kracher has never missed a TBA since the early fifties!
Beerenauslese Cuvée 2017 (TSW90)
Spicy, acidity, one of the best vintages ever had, great fruit intensity, pear, honey, creamy, tropical fruits, pine apple (similar to vintage 1998)
TBA Welshriesling 1981 (TSW94)
Vintage of Gerhard, real milestone at that time which brought international recognition, smell of dried apricots, slight tannic, still very fresh, Gerhard drinks one bottle each birthday and he says this wine hasn’t changed a thing in the past ten years. Will recork soon. Some apple syrup, great balance, not really sweet impression.
TBA No3 Scheurebe Zwischen den Seen 1998 (TSW95)
Restraint nose, fantastic vintage, he loves to smoke cigars and according to Gerhard this is the ideal pairing for cigars with Pink Floyd in the background -even the dog likes it! Guave, apricots too, jammy, not sweet, great acidity, length, acacia honey, seductive.
TBA No6 Grande Cuvée Nouvelle Vague 2001 (TSW94)
Chardonnay is the basis for the power of citrus (fermented and aged in barrique), welshriesling showing cooked quince aromas, honey melon, perfect combination. The Welshriesling stays in stainless steel by the way.
TBA No3 Welshriesling Zwischen den Seen 2002 (TSW91)
Between the lakes: a style where the primary aromas should be the focus. 2002 a bit colder than 2001 and prior vintages, slightly similar to 1995 (also cold), bit more acidity, lot of rain late in season gave lots of botrytis, yet freshness, elegance, harmony, 200gr/L is on the low side for this tasting; will go to 400gr/L RS today, and none of them are cloying.
TBA No3 Traminer Nouvelle Vague 2004 (TSW94)
Gerhard loves Chateau d’Yquem and his father loved the style as well; they made this wine to the example of Sauternes with micro-ox of the barrels, much richer than some of the other TBAs, fuller, rounder, caramelly, mocca, apricotty too, smokey..
TBA No7 Grande Cuvée Nouvelle Vague 2005 (TSW93)
Roses and spices, herbal, smokey character (Gerhard is longing for foie gras now), full bodied, impressive mid palate herbal in the palate as well, salty finish (which feels in the mouth like acidity, caused by the evaporation of the lake which has a high content of minerals according to Gerhard).
TBA No3 Welshriesling Zwischen den Seen 2006 (TSW95)
Very creamy, very attractive, round, smooth, peachy, longest ageing potential of most of his wines tasted today, last vintage he made together with his father (died in 2007), always special..
TBA No5 Muskat Ottonel Zwischen den Seen 2008 (TSW90)
Lychee, fennel, anise, creamy, round, great acidity, although a bit leaner than the Welshriesling and bit shorter in finish.
No1 Rosenmuskateller Nouvelle Vague 2012 (TSW89)
One of the oldest varieties in the world, dark black berries, reminds Gerhard of Christmas, ibizkus, perfume, attractive but for me lacking the depth and complexity of the previously tasted wines.
No12 Nouvelle Vague 2015 (TSW94)
Blend of Welshriesling, Chardonnay and Scheurebe, so highly concentrated that the yeast couldn’t resist and gave up already at 4% alcohol. That means that it cannot be called ‘wine’ but partially fermented grape must.. Yet, this is delicious, seductive, creamy, silky, and great acidity in long finish (>400gr/L!!)
Gerhard Kracher about added yeast in wines:
There is a lot of nonsense about ‘natural yeast versus cultured yeast’. I made several times the same wine in different vats: one vat I added cultured yeast, in the other vat the alcoholic fermentation went spontaneous. I then served both wines to several colleagues and journalists. And never ever anyone could distinguish between them, or point out which one had been inoculated, including those colleagues who had been extremely vocal against cultured yeast. It says more about them than about using yeasts in fermentation.