I've had a little 187ml bottle of 2005 Kracher Trockenbeernauslese in my wine fridge for the last six months or so... a brief blip on the radar of this wine's potentially long life. Until last week, this bottle was just another curiosity, a beautiful golden thing that I'm saving for a special occasion when something sweet and luscious and divine is in order.
Then, last week, I heard the news that Alois Kracher had passed away at the god-awfully early age of 48 years old. I didn't know this man, but my curiosity about Austrian wines led me to research him and discover what I wish I had known all along--that he is largely responsible for the fact that I've even had access to so many great Austrian wines lately.
If you've heard of the mess the Austrian wine industry faced in the 80s, great. If you haven't, even better. It's just another example of how a few people's actions can have an unexpected and appalling effect on an entire industry and the hardworking people who built it. Alois Kracher was the opposite of those few scoundrels--a hard-working man whose passion and dedication to his craft and fellow winemakers helped erase sour memories with the sweetness of his personality and the ambrosia in his bottles. True, I never had the pleasure of meeting Alois Kracher, therefore I cannot personally attest to his sweet personality. But if you read the likes of Jancis Robinson, Howard G. Goldberg, and James Rodewald, you'll get the sense that this was no ordinary man. And how many other winemakers do you know who would willingly wear a winemaker cheese hat--with a smile?
I'm debating about that Kracher TBA in my fridge. I feel it would be a fitting tribute to sip a little glass in his honor... and perhaps also a way to glimpse the man's personality through his creation. But I know it has a long, long life ahead of it. And while I know it has a lot to offer now its youth, I don't want to cut its life short. I want Kracher's wine, at least, to live to the ripe old age it deserves.