Pinot Noir allegedly creates wines for the heart, while classic Bordeaux blends give the intellect something to chew on. Extending that paradigm a bit, Roter Veltliner – and especially this Roter Veltliner – is a wine for the cruciverbalist, or lover of puzzles. Why? First because it bears no relationship to its widely known namesake Grüner Veltliner. Second, the pinky-red skins apparently doesn’t influence the colour of the wine. And then there’s the steinzeug (stone vat) part – and the unexpected 3% bonus in this bottle. Intrigued?
First, a little about Soellner. Toni Söllner and Daniela Vigne farm five hectares of vines biodynamically in Lower Austria’s Wagram region, which butts up to Vienna and lives in the shadow of its more famous neighbour the Wachau. They’re champions of Roter Veltliner, an ancient Austrian variety with rosy cheeks and an assertive fruit character. Its parents are unknown, but what is known is that there is no genetic relationship with the more ubiquitous Grüner.
Soellner Irden (translating as Earthen) is an orange wine treatment of the variety, with 80% of the grapes fermented with skins (for about a month) in antique stone tanks, and the remaining 20% sans skins but also in stone. It’s bottled in the increasingly popular ceramic jars made by German firm MKM. I assume they must have patented the design, since they appear to have a total monopoly on production. Anyone familiar with Sepp Muster’s Erde, Werlitsch’s Freude or Heinrich’s range of skin fermented whites will experience a sense of deja-vu.
Apart from looking decidedly alternative – pretty much secret code for “this is a funky natural wine” – these bottles conceal an unexpected bounty. They’re the wrong size. Sold as 750ml containers, they are oversized and must be filled to around 770ml, to avoid too much oxygen in the headspace. This was confirmed by the team at Heinrich, and by my own attempt at double decanting into a regular glass bottle (Let’s just say it was messy). An extra 20ml might not sound like much, but it adds up to 40 lost litres over a run of 2,000 bottles. An annoyance for the producer, but a blessing for the eager consumer. Especially if they love this wine as much as I do.
More about those 1,000 litre stone tanks: Toni Söllner acquired them at a flea-market, and says they were made for a German distillery between the two World Wars. He explains that their production method was complex, taking around a year, and that they are irreplaceable and thus effectively priceless. I’m amused at how similar they look to MKM’s earthenware bottles. I wonder if they actually contain 1,030 litres?
Irden 2016 is the third vintage for this wine – the first were produced in 2011 and 2013. The colour is a delicate salmon-orange. Soellner assert that it’s due to the skin fermentation and not the colouration of the grapes per se. Everything about Irden is charming and deft, from the pretty floral nose to its extremely zesty green plum and whitecurrant fruit. Texturally, it is silken, chalky and decidedly refined. There’s a certain pungency, or herbaceousness which is hard to pin down, but quite characteristic of Roter Veltliner (at least in my limited experience). It’s a superb effort – an orange wine with real drinkability, class and lightness of touch – not at all what the broodingly dark bottle suggests.
Enough of the puzzles. For once, I’m writing about a wine that is easy to come by (at least in Europe). The chaps at 8wines.com sell Soellner Irden for €26.83, and can deliver anywhere in Europe and a few other places. Even better – subscribers of The Morning Claret can effectively buy this wine for close to half-price, as 8 wines are offering an exclusive discount of €12 on a first order of at least €100. Just subscribe to my rather irregular newsletter and you’ll receive the discount code via email. if you’re already a subscriber, keep an eye on your inbox. Here’s a link to all 12 orange wines sold by 8 wines, for those seeking further inspiration. I’ll be reviewing a couple more of them here.
DISCLAIMER: I have no commercial relationship with 8 wines and I receive no commission or payment for sales or for this review. They seem like thoroughly nice people, and definitely sell some great wines, but I do not specifically endorse their services and I have no responsibility for the orders. My bottle was supplied for review. I’m 100 points on that, of course.