Geoffrey Dean
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Liquid treasures from one of Austria’s greatest cellars

Wine writer Geoffrey Dean has the enviable job of tasting a selection of liquid treasures from one of Austria’s greatest (and largest) cellars at Hotel Jagdhof in the Stubai Valley, including a glorious glass of Lynch-Bages 1947.

Nestled in the quaint Alpine village of Neustift in Austria, Hotel Jagdhof’s cellar boasts 25,000 bottles of wine

Tucked away in the Stubai Valley, south of Innsbruck, the quaint Alpine village of Neustift is hardly a location where you would expect to stumble across one of Austria’s greatest wine cellars. But on venturing into Hotel Jagdhof you will find one of the most extensive family-owned collections of fine wines in central Europe. And some very old wines at that too. The good news is that twice a year, in November and January, the hotel lays on a long weekend of dinners for interested connoisseurs to drink some of these great wines.

Your correspondent was fortunate enough to attend one such dinner in late January at the 5-star hotel, when 20 vintages of Château Lynch-Bages between 1945 and 2000 were unfurled over dinner. More on how the older wines tasted later, but first a little more on what’s in this remarkable cellar, how it came to be, and who is responsible for looking after it.

The cellar is looked after by the hotel’s head sommelier, Albin Mayr

Armin Pfurtscheller, owner of Hotel Jagdhof, started the cellar in 1990, using his family’s connections to buy in a string of classed growths from the Medoc. All of the five first growths are represented, with some ancient bottles of Mouton-Rothschild going back as far as 1937. Right bank icons like Cheval Blanc, Petrus and Lafleur are all to be found, as are Le Montrachet, La Tâche, Richebourg and Grands Echezeaux from DRC.

Super Tuscans are also very much in evidence, with Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Tignanello in abundance, while Gaja heads an impressive selection from Piemonte. Vega Sicilia (with fourteen different vintages of Unico to choose from) flies the flag for Spain, while select vintages of Screaming Eagle and Penfolds Grange provide some champion New World representation. I could go on…

Pfurtscheller recruited one of Austria’s leading sommeliers, Albin Mayr, to oversee the cellar’s development from 1994 to 2005. After a lengthy spell in Italy, Mayr was lured back to the Jagdhof in 2017 and given complete responsibility for the cellar. This is a considerable role, as Jagdhof’s restaurant sells a staggering 25,000 bottles of wine every year.

“I buy in that same number each year, and the bottle population in the cellar varies between 18-25,000 at any one point,” Mayr told db. To accommodate such a large number of wines, the hotel built a second cellar in 2003, the first having been constructed in 1990.

Mayer is assisted by Pfurtscheller’s son, Alban, whose passion for wine was enhanced by a three month stint working at Château Figeac a few years ago. Every bottle of the St-Emilion estate’s wines between 1987 and 2015 are in the cellar, along with the 1945, 1950 and 1959 vintages.

But what of the Lynch-Bages? There were 20 vintages from the Pauillac fifth growth on pour, spreading over half a century from 1945 to 1995, and broken down into five flights. The first fight all came from the 1940s: 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1949. The uneven-numbered years formed a triumvirate of great post-war vintages, with the 1949’s fruit the best preserved of all.

Among the stars of a recent Lynch-Bages vertical tasting was the 1947 vintage

Starting with the 1945, this looked the oldest, as it was much lighter coloured. Severe May frost that year led to a very low yield off vines that were mature after negligible replanting during the Second World War. The small crop helped to enhance the concentration of fruit that possessed exceptional ripeness thanks to a very hot, dry summer.

Still in remarkable condition, the 1945 we tasted had glorious fruit with great concentration and notable intensity of flavour. Its length was a clear feature, and its fresh acidity and superbly integrated tannins held it all together. A slight cloudiness was not an issue.

The 1947 had no deposits like the ’45, and was as clean as a whistle, with pronounced intensity of flavour and a very long finish. Voluptuous fruit, vibrant acidity and gloriously integrated tannins made this a wine to be cherished.

The 1948’s tannins were dry and quite clingy, but the fruit was still very much apparent, and its length impressed. Being stuck between two great years in 1947 and 1949, it was largely ignored by the trade but was still a good vintage.

Of the three memorable years from that decade, the 1949 was the winner by a short head. Complex, with excellent concentration and an extremely long finish, it was also an elegant, refined wine with stunning fruit. Its still overt but fine tannins were superbly meshed.

Finally, what of the five wines from the 1950s we were treated to? These were 1950, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1959. The last was the pick of the quintet, with the 1953 not far behind but suffering from drying tannins. It was still a very impressive wine with wonderful concentration and a long finish.

The 1959, from what was proclaimed by many pundits at the time as ‘the vintage of the century,’ lived up to its billing. Pinot Noir-like in its colour, it had such freshness and intensity with pronounced acidity and beautifully integrated tannins. It was also fabulously long.

The 1950 and 1952 showed much better than might have been expected of two largely unheralded vintages, while the 1955, an under-rated year at the time, had lots of character with fine tannins and a long finish.

Hotel Jagdhof’s next vertical tastings in October will include Cheval Blanc, Figeac and Guado al Tasso, Matarocchio. For details visit: www.hotel-jagdhof.at 

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