Summerer • Langenlois • Kamptal

The town of Langenlois could be called the hub of much of the wine world in Austria. About an hour from Vienna, it is just down the road from the Wachau and the Kremstal to the west, and just east is the Wagram and the beginnings of the Weinviertel. It is in a kind of bowl in the Kamptal. (Tal, remember, means ‘valley’, and that valley, and the little stream, the Kamp, which flows through it, seems utterly removed from the immense flood that half-drowned a number of the wineries I deal with a few years ago – see Hirsch and Mantler.) It’s an odd little town, surrounded on all sides by vineyards. There are few trees in the town, so that, if you walk onto the main square in mid-day in Summer, it feels almost like one of those desert towns in the Mohave. I’ve never felt quite comfortable there, even though a number of my favorite wineries are either in or else around the town. Bründlmayer, Gobelsburg, Hirsch (just outside), Hiedler, Loimer – all are part of a thriving wine scene. There is a new, Frank Geary-like (but not by him) wine museum, along with a fancy hotel and restaurant. One evening Willi Bründlmayer (one of the great souls of Austria) took us out to dinner there. The wine cellar is a glass case that one can look in and decide what you want to drink. Willi and I were doing that, and I picked out a wine from a producer unknown to me out of curiosity. There was also a slightly older wine from Summerer that I thought might be good. I looked at Willi for advice, and he, who is the perfect gentleman and would never say something disparaging about a colleague, paused, and said, very quietly, ‘I think the Summerer would be much better’.

Rupert Summerer, and his wife, Elizabeth are young, energetic, and attractive. They live in the center of Langenlois, in a typically old Hof, which they have remodeled and made quite beautiful. They have land in one of my all time favorite vineyards, the Steinmassel (or Steinmassl). One of the cardinal rules, when you’re looking for a new estate, is how the whole range tastes, not just the plums. Even though you’re only going to buy maybe four or five different wines, it is important that they are all attractive, all desirable. That, if possible, I’d buy every wine tasted if I could. It was like that here. The Rieslings were sleek and perfumed. In a great Veltliner vintage (2004), the Rieslings had nothing to fear. My sense, in fact, is that this is a ‘Riesling’ estate, in that they have a very special hand with this noblest of all grapes. It will be interesting to see if this continues in the future. And the Veltliners are classic, a little bit of creamed corn along with a fine, peppery base. If anything, they seemed closer to Wachau wines than their neighbors. As usual, this is hardly a ‘new’ winery – it was founded in 1679, and, if I understood correctly, has been in the same family ever since. 60% of the production is in Veltliner, about 20% in Riesling, and another 20% is red, mostly Zweigelt. The estate has about 20 hectares in production. The winery itself is modern and simple. All wines are bottled with glass corks, which, if you haven’t seen them, are very classy looking and quite easy to use. Of my estates, Poller also uses mostly glass closures, and Ott is entirely ‘Stelvin’ screw caps. The cork industry must be getting nervous – as well they should.

Summerer’s wines are crystal clear and clean. The grapes are grown mostly in Urgestein (primary rock), and reveal wines with strong minerality. In style, they are the opposite of Ludwig Hiedler, which is delightful, since they share some of the same vineyards and produce marvelous wine in their very different styles. Kamptal wines generally are broader and more powerful than most Kremstal wines. They can be as burly as the biggest monster from the Wachau, but they seem earthier than their Wachau cousins. But Summerer’s wines are clear and a bit austere, unlike many of their colleagues. I have found that they appeal strongly to a particular kind of wine drinker, one who prefers lean wines with substance, and wines that go with food. In that, they are excellent restaurant wines.

Except for the great Heiligenstein vineyard, Summerer’s holdings are a list of the finest vineyards in and around Langenlois: Steinhaus, Schenkenbichl and Käferberg for Veltliners, and Steinmassl and Seeberg for Riesling. There are also simpler wines that are quite wonderful, labeled Langenlois and Urgestein. As far as I can tell, this is an estate which is on the upswing, with lovely, young, committed people making better and better wines every year.