We’ve seen wines matured underwater, in deserts, old mines and now, with Pino 3000, there is a wine that is matured in barriques at 3048 metres up an Austrian mountain. Sounding like an 80s pop band, Pino 3000 is a wacky Pinot Noir blend of wines made in Germany, Italy and Austria which are then blended and left to mature in their lofty perch. EU legislation forbids it being called Pinot Noir (naturally) but the effect of making the wine has had quite an impact on the winemakers as Geoffrey ‘Broadsword’ Dean discovered when he took the cable car up the mountain to Das Central.
“During Covid when the gondola was not operating, the only way to get to the restaurant to top up the barrels of Pino 3000 was to climb the mountain on foot,” writes Dean.
Joachim Heger, one of Germany’s most celebrated winemakers, sat back as we talked at 3,048 metres (exactly 10,000 feet) by a glacier in the Austrian Alps and mused that “this exercise has been really, really interesting as it has changed my philosophy on winemaking.” He was not referring to a day’s skiing, but to a highly unusual experiment between himself and two other leading winemakers from Austria and Italy – Paul Achs and Wolfgang Tratter.
The story of their creation – a label named “Pino 3000” – is a bizarre one but worth telling. In 2010, the wine-obsessed owner of the Das Central hotel in the Austrian ski resort of Sölden, hatched an ambitious idea. This was to procure a three-country assemblage of premium Pinot Noirs from Baden, Burgenland and Alto Adige and mature the blend in barriques in their ‘Ice Q’ restaurant at 3,048 metres on the Gaislachkogel Mountain before bottling it. Under EU law, they could not call it Pinot, so they dropped the T and settled for Pino 3000 rather than the less catchy Pino 3048.
Being well-connected, Angelika Falkner, the hotel owner, had little difficulty in persuading Heger, Achs and Tratter to sign up to the concept, with the three providing a brace of barrels each from their 2011 harvest. These were transported to Tratter’s Alto Adige winery, St. Pauls, where he blended the three wines in tank, racked them back into barrels and drove them over the border to Sölden and up the mountain to the restaurant. After a year’s maturation there, the barrels were taken back to Alto Adige, where the wines were bottled and then returned to the restaurant for cellaring there.
Always keeping a fatherly eye on the barrels at the restaurant has been the Das Central general manager, Michael Waschl, a wine fanatic, who deserves much credit for regularly topping them up, especially during Covid when the gondola was not operating. The only way to get to the restaurant was to climb the mountain on foot. He did so umpteen times.
Every year since 2011, the triumvirate of distinguished winemakers has provided a couple of barrels of their Pinot Noir, with Tratter handling the blending. The Das Central Hotel invites them at the end of every skiing season to their annual 3-day wine and gourmet festival called “Wein am Berg” (“Wine on the mountain”) along with a bevy of Austria’s top winemakers, who bring a selection of their wines. It is, therefore, a celebration not just of the Pino 3000 label, various vintages of which get tasted, but of many of Austria’s best wines.
Heger, whose Baden Pinot Noirs are much sought after, says the tripartite blend has taught him a lot. “My own production has benefited from this joint venture,” he declared. “Why? Because I am coming more and more to a fresher style. In the beginning, we started with a higher percentage of new oak but now we use less – just one new barrel out of four, with one a 500-litre tonneau.”
Achs is no less positive. “There is slight micro-oyygenation in the barrel, while the cooler conditions help to bring fruit and elegance,” he said. “The other good thing is that the amount of sulphur dioxide addition is less. The SO2 levels are quite low as the wine is very stable – about 40 mg/l free, and 80-85 mg/l total depending on the pH. It’s very important the residual sugar is below 2 g/l, while we aim for alcohol of 13-13.5%. It’s been a lot of fun and very interesting. I provide fruit from nearly always the same blocks at maybe 150m. Joachim’s fruit is from lower, while Wolfgang’s is much higher. The big challenge is climate change as if it gets too warm the grapes can ripen a bit quick.”
Because the wine comes from three countries, Pino 3000 cannot even have a vintage on the label under EU law. Instead, each year is listed on the back label as a lot number: so L11 for 2011, L12 for 2012 etc. A tasting of 2011 revealed a very light colour, an elegant wine with appealing raspberry and cherry fruit with lovely soft tannins and notable freshness. The 2020, which was tasted ex-barrel, had gorgeous red fruit and very suave tannins with real finesse. In short, the oldest and the youngest of the Pino 3000s both showed particularly well as did other mid-decade vintages.
To taste Pino 3000, though, connoisseurs will have to visit Sölden and buy it with a meal at either Das Central or the Ice Q restaurant on a summer or winter holiday. Or they can do so at the next Wein am Berg festival from April 20-23, 2023. For wine lovers, the latter option is a brilliant opportunity to spend three days and nights in the company of some of Austria’s top winemakers. These include the likes of Stefan Tement, Kurt Feiler, Albert Gesellmann, Axel Stiegelmar (of Juris), Johannes Gross, the Sattler brothers (of Sattlerhof), as well as Brundlmayer general manager Andreas Wickhoff MW, and Rebecca Heger, the new chief winemaker at her father Joachim’s Baden estate.
Anyone visiting the Ice Q restaurant should also pop next door into the Elements 007 James Bond cinematic installation. This was designed by leading Austrian architect Johann Obermoser in collaboration with the art director of recent Bond films, Neal Callow. The state-of-the-art construction, built into the summit of the Gaislachkogl Mountain, focuses on the movie, ‘Spectre’, the Alpine scenes of which were shot a stone’s throw below. Complete with a tech lab, action hall, screening room and legacy gallery, Elements 007 offers a fascinating insight into the production secrets of the Bond franchise.
Six wines that stood out from tastings during the Wein am Berg Festival
Ried Steinriegel Chardonnay 2019, Familie Gesellmann, Burgenland
Alluring grapefruit zest notes with white stone fruit and some citrus. Very fresh acidity with attractive wood spice and nutty nuances. Refined with long and persistent finish. 12.5% abv. (UK distributor TBA).
Solitaire 2018, Feiler-Artinger, Burgenland
Blaufrankisch-led blend with 13% Merlot. Attractive blackberry and cherry fruit with silky tannins and structure from 50% new oak. Terrific intensity with fabulous length. 13.5% abv. (Tanners & Waitrose Cellar)
St. Laurent Reserve 2017, Juris, Burgenland
Garnet hue with appealing red cherry fruit and spicy notes typical of the St. Laurent grape. Herbal and floral nuances with minerality, freshness and velvety tannins. A touch of salt on a lengthy finish. 13.5% abv. (Savage Wines, Northleach).
Ried Golser, Altenberg Blaufrankisch 2018, Paul Achs, Burgenland
Seductive black cherry fruit with spicy notes and white pepper on the nose. Overt but high quality, well-integrated tannins with a fresh line of acidity. An elegant wine with intensity and length. 14.5% abv. (Seeking UK representation).
Cuvee Kerschbaum 2015, Paul Kerschbaum, Burgenland
A high quality blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Merlot (40%) and Blaufrankisch (20%). Smoky forest aromas with glorious black and red fruit, along with tobacco and spice notes. Comfortably absorbs 100% new oak. Fine, well-meshed tannins and a lengthy finish. 14.5% abv. (Seeking UK representation).
Ried Grassnitzberg Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Weingut Tement, Sudsteiermark DAC
Green pear and nettle aromas with mineral lime notes on the palate. Mouth-watering freshness with a crisp, dry finish. An alluring Sauvignon. 13% abv. (Top Selection, Wandsworth).