Impressive variety and quality in both white and red wines from Austria
Austria is a wine country that deserves to be discovered by a wider audience. Elegant, stylish white wines and, perhaps more of a surprise, exciting and characterful red wines of high quality. A number of wine producers from Austria recently visited Stockholm and presented their vineyards and their wines to Swedish press. BKWine’s Magnus Reuterdahl reports.
A Tuesday in early March spring is approaching while I am on my way to the Grand Hotel to attend an Austrian wine tasting. I’ve been to Austria many times and I like Austrian wines, but I am more in love with their red wines than the whites. Austria makes wonderful white wine and fabulous sweet wines, but what really gets me going is their red wines.
The wine-growing areas are located mainly in the east of Austria, close to the border to the north-east of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the south-east of Hungary and Slovenia. The wine regions go under names such as Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), Burgenland and Styria (Steiermark). These are then divided into several smaller parts. Some of my favourites are Leithaberg, Neusiedlersee and Eisenberg, all in Burgenland.
A day like this when importers showcase both Systembolaget’s regular assortment, the “on order selection” and their restaurant range side by side (well, almost anyway) with internet wine shops, as well as producers looking for importers, there is plenty to try and to taste. There are also several winemakers on site presenting their wines.
I concentrated on some of the favourites I have encountered in Austria, as well as some that were completely new to me. It was mostly reds but some whites too.
For the white wines the most famous grape varieties are gruner veltliner and riesling. But you also find a lot of pinot blanc (weissburgunder), pinot gris (grauburgunder), muscat ottonel, welschriesling and sauvignon blanc. Red wines are made from blaufränkisch, pinot noir (blauburgunder), sankt laurent (a pinot noir clone), zweigelt (created from blaufränkisch and St. Laurent) and others. Zweigelt is incidentally also a really good rosé grape.
When you are travelling and looking for wine you will stumble upon some fun wines and winemakers, and if you’re lucky you may get to know them too. I met Franz Schneider who runs Artisan Wines in Halbturn, a little east of the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland. Franz is a young winemaker with a 5.5 hectare vineyard. He makes wines full of personality, elegance and charm. The “Pure” series is a bit simpler, single grape variety wines made to be drunk now, with food or as “social” wines. He also makes a range of wines that are more complex and uncompromising called “Halbturn” and “The Artisan”.
Another favorite is Nittnaus. Anita and Hans Nittnaus make biodynamic wines from two different locations in Burgenland. The simpler range, entry-level is perhaps a better word, comes from Heideboden. This area is located at the southern end of the Lake Neusiedlersee, a relatively flat elongated area with soil composed mainly of sand and clay. The more complex and more mineral-driven wines that I really love come from the hills in Leithaberg on the west side of the lake. Here the soil is slate, quartz and limestone. Really good wines!
You have to “rinse your palate” now and then. Just when it was time for that I happened to walk past the Domaine Wachau that makes fabulous white wines, both riesling as gruner veltliner. Personally, it is their grüner that gets my taste buds singing. 2011s and 2012s do not disappoint. Elegance, freshness, lots of “stone”, herbs and white pepper. It’s hard not to love them.
I return to Burgenland and Leithaberg, this time to Birgit Braunstein. The family has had vineyards and produced wine for more than 400 years, so there’s a tradition. Again, it is fresh wines with a lot of personality, complex with a lovely minerality. A minerality reminiscent of sea and salt that can be found in almost all the wines in this area. It gives them an extra dimension. Today’s favourites: 2009 Blaufränkish Leithaberg and Oxhof Blaufränksich (zwei…) give me a happy face.
Pittnauer keeps me in Burgenland. They make really fun wines with really smart labels. The wines are a bit like the labels, artistic and personal. Gerhard and Brigitte Pittnauer mixes quality with playfulness and create very nice wines.
Finally, another wine from Burgenland, one that stands out from the pack: Hannes Reeh. This is far more international in style, a little bit of what you might call a “Parker wine” (after wine critic Robert Parker who is a very influential writer when it comes to putting a finger on the American wine market). There are lots of fruit, power and oak barrels. This is not my personal preference in style but Hannes Reeh manages to find a balance that makes them not at all bad and if you like body-building wines then this good.
Of course, this is only a selection of the wines on show and some of the wines I tasted. It is, however wines that I think are exciting, personal and good. Other producers present that are also really good are for example Krutzler, Brundlmayer, Heinrich, Hans Igler, Loimer, Umathun and many, many more.
Magnus Reuterdahl writes on wine on BKWine Magazine and is an avid wine blogger. You can read more of his thoughts on Magnus Reuterdahls wine blog, or follow him on twitter where he goes by @reuterdahl. In daily life Magnus is an archaeologist.
This post is also available in: Swedish