I only met him three times, and on each occasion his passion, common sense, and love of life made an indelible impression. Winemaker Alois "Luis" Kracher passed away at the age of 48 on Dec. 6 in his beloved Austrian town of Illmitz. What he accomplished over the past few decades was extraordinary. Almost single-handedly, he put Austria back on the global map of quality wines. Kracher focused on sweet wines and produced some of the world's greatest varieties from chardonnay, welschriesling, scheurebe, traminer, and muskat ottonel grapes. He accomplished this from vineyards with exceedingly low yields and an attention to winemaking detail that flowed from his training as a chemical engineer. Kracher's finest vintages include 2002, 2000, and 1998. Following are tasting notes from some of those wines.
2002 #2 Chardonnay Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague
This sweet white dessert wine offers aromas of pineapple, apple jelly, and brown spice. The palate is creamy and thickly rich, full of spiced apple, honey, and butterscotch, and the finish solid but overtly sweet. Projected maturity: now-2020+. $92-$130
2000 #1 Traminer Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague
Dusty, smoky aromas are intermingled with spicy apricots in the nose. Medium- to full-bodied, bold, and lush, the wine reveals oak-laced peach flavors and a slightly rustic finish. Projected maturity: now-2018. $90
1999 #4 Muskat Ottonel Trockenbeerenauslese Zwischen Den Seen
Raspberry-, orange blossom-, and cherry-scented, this is a thick, tangerine-flavored fruit bomb. Its oily character covers the palate with jellied kumquats, mandarins, and tangerines. The flavors linger in an extensive finish. Projected maturity: now-2025+. $150
2000 #6 Grande Cuvée Nouvelle Vague Trockenbeerenauslese
Spices, new French oak, and super-ripe pears can be discerned in this magnificent wine. Candied apples, jammy apricots, red currants, and hints of citrus are found throughout its flavor profile and extensive finish. Drink it over the next 25 to 30 years. $140-$160
2002 #5 Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Zwischen Den Seen
This wine displays aromas of sage, peppermint, grapefruit, and honey. Startlingly bright and juicy at first, it builds to intense flavors of grapefruit, candied citrus rinds, honey, and sweet herbs. The feel is creamy, yet at the same time the wine remains invigoratingly sharp, with a reverberating finish. Projected maturity: now-2015. $118-$175
Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.