Austria – The best wines you’ve probably never heard of…

I’ve recently put some time aside to appreciate some of the lesser known, and perhaps unappreciated wine regions of the world. I’ll be kicking off this journey of discovery with a brief delve into the wines of Austria.

With the Danube river in Austria marking one of the most northern settlements of the Roman empire, it is hardly surprising that wine has been produced here for thousands of years. Even before the Romans there is evidence of wine production with the native Celts from 700BC.

Despite its history and pedigree, the Austrian wine industry has suffered it’s share of setbacks. Most recently the scandal of 1985, where it was found that a handful of producers were adding diethylene glycol (a common ingredient in antifreeze) to their wines in order to increase body and texture. The resulting action of this scandal has seen the introduction of the most stringent quality control systems ever seen, making todays wines some of the finest in the world.

Like most wine enthused countries, Austria has rich diversity and complexity when it comes to wine production. To keep things simple I’ll be sticking to a couple of whites, a couple of reds and something sweet.

A couple of whites…

Allram – GrÜner Veltliner, Hasel, Kamptal (2016)

Grüner Veltliner or “green veltliner” sits at the pinnacle of Austrian wine production as the most widely planted grape variety in the country. These wines typically bring a great balance of refreshing acidity and rich minerality.

This particular example is from the Kamptal DAC in the Niederösterreich region, commonly referred to as ‘Lower Austria’. Here, Grüner Veltiner is the main grape you will find, but also keep an eye out for high quality Riesling that the region has to offer. Other high quality sub regions include Kremstal, Wachau, Wagram, and Weinviertel.

Now, about the wine… A big nose of apples, pears, lime, gooseberry, white pepper, fresh grass and hay gives an indication to this wines big personality and complexity.

The palate doesn’t disappoint, showing lime and grapefruit citrus flavours develop into more rounded hints of apricot and ripe pear. Theres a touch of cream on the finish from extended lees contact, and a deep ‘crushed rock’ minerality throughout. Pairs great with pork Schnitzel!

Weingut R&A Pfaffl – Wien. 1, Vienna White blend (2018)

Our second white is a Viennese whirl of a blend. The vineyards are situated in the region of Wien (Vienna) on a plateau overlooking the city itself. A meeting of fruit and fragrance from Riesling, the spice of Grüner Veltiner and the body of Pinot Blanc make this a wonderfully balanced and complex wine.

The nose gives fresh lime and spicy white pepper with gentle aromas of peach and lychee to compliment. Bright acidity balances out the spice on the palate. Lime citrus cuts through along with riper peach notes on the finish. Brilliant minerality and very aromatic. Great either as an aperitif or paired with fish and white meat dishes.

A COUPLE OF REDS…

Johanneshof Reinisch – Zweigelt, Thermenregion (2017)

A cross-breed between Saint Laurent and Bläufrankisch, the Zweigelt grape is Austria’s most planted red variety. This example is from the Thermenregion area of the Niederösterreich region, situated just south of Vienna.

Black cherries and earthy aromas on the nose with a touch of smoke and vanilla, not too dissimilar from a Pinot Noir profile. More cherries on the palate with crunchy cranberries. There’s a slight, almost chargrilled, bitterness well balanced with bright acidity to bring this wine together. Can be served slightly chilled, 30 mins in the fridge before drinking would be ideal. A great pairing for beef or game dishes!

Allram – St. Laurent Reserve, Gaisberg (2014)

We’re back to the Kamptal DAC for a prestiges Gaisberg single vineyard St. Laurent. This wine offers the powerful character and depth expected from one of the renowned single vineyard’s of the region.

A brilliantly pronounced nose of ripe blackcurrant, cassis and smokey raspberry, alongside baking spices and pepper really pulls you in. The palate is bright and fresh with blackcurrants, slightly sour black cherry, smokiness, black pepper and slate. There’s a touch of vanilla on the finish, which is long with great depth and minerality.

This really is a special occasion sort of wine, complex and truly appetising. A fantastic example of the St. Laurent variety!

Something sweet…

Tschida – Beerenauslese, Sauvignon blanc, Burgenland (2015)

To finish off, we have a bright gold Beerenauslese from the quaint winemaking town of Illmitz on the right bank of Neusiedlersee, situated in the winemaking region of Burgenland.

Beerenauslese, which literally translates to “selected harvest of berries” is up there with the worlds finest sweet wines.

Pronounced nose of honey, pineapple and dried apricots. More honey on the palate with, sweet yellow apples and gooseberry. Hints of honey blossom on the finish, with a great balance of sweetness and acidity.

A wonderful desert wine, perfect for an after dinner aperitif or pair with blue cheese or sweet fruit tarts.

Conclusion…

Even though we’ve only dipped a toe into what Austria has to offer, this hopefully gives a solid starting point for exploring the countries rich wine culture. With Austrian wines becoming increasingly more common in the UK, I implore you to pick up a bottle or two. I promise you wont be disappointed!

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