Thursday, March 18, 2010

Austrian Wines: From Grüner Veltliner to Blaufrankisch

I now have an even greater appreciation for Grüner Veltliner as well as a new appreciation for St. Laurent. But that can happen when you taste about fifty Austrian wines, many of which are quality wines.

Winebow hosted a trade tasting of Austrian wines from producers including Stadt Krems, Rudi Pichler, Fritz Wieninger, Fred Loimer, Szigeti, Prager, Neckenmarkt, Paul Achs, Gernot Heinrich, and Gölles eau-de-vie. Three of the winemakers were also present, including Rudi Pichler, Fritz Miesbauer and Paul Achs. I sampled nearly all of the wines and overall was impressed with what I found.

Austria produces mostly white wines, about 70% of their production, but their red wines cannot be ignored. This was mirrored in the wines at the tasting, predominantly whites but with about 25% red wines. Most of the whites were made from Grüner Veltliner or Riesling, while Blaufrankisch led the red wines with Zweigelt in second place. There were a smattering of other grapes as well.

Overall, their wines, at all price points, were very good. There were plenty of enjoyable, inexpensive value wines as well as some more complex and compelling high-end wines. There were both delicious white and red wines. If anything, I would have liked to see more white wines made from grapes besides Grüner Veltliner and Riesling.

Grüner Veltliner is grown primarily in Austria, and wines made from this grape come in many different styles. Some wines are fresh and fruit, made for quick and easy consumption, while others have more minerality, spice, and floral notes. Still others can age well, showing great complexity. I love the range of flavor profiles of Grüner, finding them also to be very food friendly. There are plenty of excellent value wines, plus pricier but excellent wines.

I will highlight some of the more special Grüners, but note that nearly all of them were good. Check the winery websites to see the other Grüners they produce. I will also highlight a few other whites that most impressed me.

Weingut Stadt Krems (from Kremstal)

2009 Grüner Veltliner Kremstal: At about $15, this fresh and fruit wine is a good value. A very easy drinking style, would be perfect for the summer or to pair with food, from fish to chicken. Lots of citrus with slight bits of spice, it does give a light exotic taste.

Weingut Rudi Pichler (from Wachau)

2008 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Kollmutz Reserve: At about $75-$80, this was the priciest Grüner of the tasting. I also tasted five others, all less expensive, from their portfolio and really enjoyed them. But this was the wine that really blew me away. I don't believe I have ever had a Grüner at this level. Crisp, very complex, and with a long and satisfying finish. The taste was a harmonious blend of fruit, spice, minerality and herbal notes. Definitely a wine to savor, pondering over the myriad flavors in each sip. This was a "Wow" wine for me, and I think it is even worth its high price if you have the money to splurge.

2008 Weissburgunder Smaragd Kollmutz: Weissburgunder is another name for Pinot Blanc. I really enjoyed this wine as well, though it too was pricey, about $45-$50. Smooth, bright citrus fruit flavors and plenty of minerality. Complex, lengthy finish and interesting.

This might have been my favorite winery at the tasting, as I enjoyed everything they poured.

Weingut Wieninger (Located in Vienna)

2009 Rose of Pinot: At around $20-$25, this is not an inexpensive rose, but it certainly reminds me of some of the better French roses I have tasted. It is very Old World in style, which I favor, being dry with restrained red fruit flavors. It is crisp, with sufficient character, and a pleasing finish. Both a great summer wine as well as being very food friendly.

Weingut Fred Loimer (Located in Kamptal)

Of their seven wines, I enjoyed six of them, including the Grüner Veltliner Terrassen, Lenz Riesling and Rose Zweigelt. They were good but none stood out as being especially impressive. So though I do recommend them, I did not find any standouts.

Weingut Prager (Located in Wachau)

2008 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Liebenberg: At about $55, this is another pricey wine but it impressed me enough that it is worth the cost. Like the others, this is complex, with a fascinating mix of flavors and a very long and pleasing finish. I am most familiar with the less expensive, simpler Grüners, but have acquired a new appreciation for these more complex and compelling Grüners.

Weingut Heinrich (Located in Neusiedlersee)

2008 Red: This is a blend of 60% Zweigelt, 30% Blaufrankisch, 10% Sankt Laurent and sells for under $20. It is intended to be an easy drinking wine, and accomplishes that, being lush, with bright fruit (especially cherry) and some spice notes. A good food wine, with burgers to ribs.

2006 St. Laurent: This wine is made from the St. Laurent grape, also spelled known as Sankt Laurent in German. The highly aromatic, dark-skinned grape is related to Pinot Noir. This wine sells in the low $30s. It was impressive, a smooth, complex wine with plenty of dark berry flavors and a lengthy finish. It was heavier than a Pinot Noir, and reminded me more of a Cabernet Sauvignon, but with its own unique character. I definitely need to seek out more examples of St. Laurent.

2006 Pannobile: This is an interesting wine as the Pannobile label is not solely the decision of this wine maker. It is actually part of a project with 9 winemakers who have a goal of creating wines that are representative of their wine region. Any of the wine makers who wants to make a Pannobile wine, must submit it to the group and all 9 must then agree on it. The specific blend for each wine maker may change year from year. This wine is a blend of 60% Zweigelt and 40% Blaufrankisch, and should sell for about $55-$60. I do believe it lives up to its high price, being a deep, bold, wine with plenty of complexity. There is plenty of lush black fruit, balanced acidity, a lengthy finish and smooth tannins. This is definitely a wine to savor, or to pair with a filet mignon.

Weingut Paul Achs (Located in Neusiedlersee)

2008 Zweigelt: This wine had such an alluring aroma of sweet fruit and violets. It tasted delicious too, lots of ripe plum and black cherry flavors with very subtle herbal notes. It is more than just a simple wine, having some character and complexity, and worth its $22-$25 price.

2007 Pinot Noir: This is made from 100% Pinot Noir, only 500 cases were made and it costs around $75. So this is a pricey, high-end wine. The wine had a light red color, and an interesting nose of cherry, raspberry and spice. On the palate, there was delicous red fruit, spicy notes though no earthiness. It was smooth, complex and had a lengthy and satisfying finish. It was more akin to a Burgundy than a California Pinot Noir, but also somewhat different from a Burgundy too. It was more of a unique wine, though with sufficient familiarity. It was an impressive wine, though I am unsure whether the price is reasonable or not. I would need to taste this again to make such determination. I think it has the potential to be worth it, but would recommend you taste it before buying it if possible.

Interestingly enough, when I later reviewed my own wine cellar, I found only a single Austrian wine there. That definitely needs to change and I hope to soon remedy the situation.


Constance C said...

Glad you enjoyed it! It was great getting to know you and experiencing these wines with you :)

Richard Auffrey said...

It was a pleasure to meet you at the tasting too. Hope to see you again at future events.