Weingut Prager Achleiten Riesling Smaragd is made from 100 percent Riesling.
Franz Prager, co-founder of the Vinea Wachau, had already earned a reputation for his wines when Toni Bodenstein married into the family. Bodenstein’s passion for biodiversity and old terraces, coupled with brilliant winemaking, places Prager in the highest echelon of Austrian producers.
Smaragd is a designation of ripeness for dry wines used exclusively by members of the Vinea Wachau. The wines must have a minimum alcohol of 12.5%. The grapes are hand-harvested, typically in October and November, and are sent directly to press where they spontaneously ferment in stainless-steel tanks.
Achleiten sits east of Weißenkirchen and is one of the most famous vineyards in the Wachau. The steeply-terraced vineyard existed in Roman times. Some sections have just 40 cm of topsoil over the bedrock of Gföler Gneiss, amphibolitic stone, and slate. “Destroyed soil,” as Toni Bodenstein likes to say.
Austrian Riesling is often defined by elevated levels of dry extract thanks to a lengthy ripening period and freshness due to dramatic temperature swings between day and night. Wines from Achleiten’s highly complex soils are famously marked by a mineral note of flint or gun smoke, are intensely flavored, and reliably long-lived.
Riesling’s high acidity makes it one of the most versatile wines at the table. Riesling can be used to cut the fattiness of foods such as pork or sausages and can tame some saltiness. Conversely, it can highlight foods such as fish or vegetables in the same way a squeeze of lemon or a vinaigrette might.
The 2020 Ried Achleiten Riesling Smaragd offers a well-concentrated, fleshy and spicy stone fruit aroma with crunchy and flinty notes. It needs some time to get rid of the stewed fruit flavors, though. Full-bodied, fresh and crystalline, this is an elegant, complex and finely tannic Riesling that needs some years rather than a carafe to polymerize the tannins and gain some finesse. Tasted at the domain in June 2021.
At Prager, I could not determine that 2020 would be inferior to the 2019 vintage; on the contrary, the 2020 Smaragd wines fascinated me enormously in their clear, cool, terroir-tinged way. A 38% loss had occurred mainly because of the hail on August 22, although predominantly in the Federspiel or Riesling vineyards. There was no damage in the top vineyards such as Ried Klaus, Achleiten or Zwerithaler. "Interestingly, the vines are in agony for about two weeks after the hail. There was no more growth, no development of ripeness and sugar," reports Toni Bondenstein. The Veltliner then recovered earlier, while even picking a Riesling Federspiel in October was still a struggle. "Why Riesling reacted more intensively to the hail, I don't know myself either," says Bodenstein. Whole clusters were pressed to preserve acidity and to compensate for the lower extract, and compared to 2019, the 2020s were left on their lees longer. In June, however, the 20s in particular showed outstanding early shape.
-Wine Advocate 94 Points
Light yellow-green, silver reflections. Yellow stone fruit nuances with a mineral underlay, notes of peach and mango, a hint of tangerine zest, mineral touch. Juicy, elegant, white fruit, acidity structure rich in finesse, lemony-salty finish, sure aging potential.
-Falstaff 95 Points