Although a small county, Austria creates some mighty fabulous wine. Most people think of Grüner Veltliner and white wine when they think of Austrian wine, but red wine makes up about 30% of Austria’s wine production.
In terms of wine diversity, the country consists of four main regions. These regions are divided into sixteen districts. Austrian wine is very diverse with lovely aromatics and nice acidity. The country began moving from a white grape dominated focus to producing reds in the 1980s.
The eastern side of the country near Vienna produces most of Austria’s wine including Grüner Veltliner and other white varieties. In an area just south of Vienna, the weather is warmer, making the climate ideal for cool-climate red wines that have more body and aging potential.
Recently Claus Prechtl from the Winemonger presented Austrian Wine at a luncheon for LA Wine Writers at Napa Valley Grille. Winemonger specializes in wine from Austria. The luncheon focused on discovering the diversity and current state of Austrian wine.
The Austrian varieties sampled included Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Grüner Veltliner in the whites and Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Saint Laurent in the reds.
Grüner Veltliner in Austria is like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in France. The variety emphasizes zesty acidity and herbaceous qualities.
Blaufränkisch is a late-ripening dark-skinned grape that produces wines with distinct tannins and reveals a spicy character with blackberries and cherry. The grape crosses Blauer Zimmettraube and Weißer Heunish.
Zweigelt, a cross between St Laurant and Blaufränkisch is a grape known for its soft tannins and cherry flavors.
Saint Laurent is a dark-skinned aromatic grape derived from the Pinot family with flavors of cherry and raspberry.
Austrian Wine – The Whites
Neumayer Engelberg Riesling 2016 Traisemtal, Austria: Considered the smallest growing area, the soils of this region are different. The soils, which consists of limestone and primal stone solids, promotes a unique quality to the Riesling. I found a softer, cleaner, and purer expression of the fruit. The aromas and flavors displayed citrus, especially lemon with lots of nice acidity and minerality.
Pollerhof Vom Loess 2017 expresses the soil of the area in a unique way. The label includes a sample of the soil the grapes cultivate. It is almost like a sandpaper relief on each bottle, giving you an extra sense of place. The wine blends Sauvignon Blanc with Gelber Muskateller and Traminer and delivers a crisp, fruity wine.
Lichtenberger-Gonzalez Grüner Veltliner and Co 2017: This wine is an example of biodynamic farming and blends Grüner Veltliner with Pinot Blanc and Welshriesling. The grapes cultivate in soils of both muscle chalk and limestone. I found it to be a wine of place, very rounded with a predominant flavor of apples.
Ebner Ebenauer Grüner Veltliner Bursting 2016 represents a Gruner from old vines, 50 years old. The grapes grow in loam. This wine delivers flavors of apples with bright acidity.
Austrian Wine – Rosé
Umathum Rosa Rosé 2016 and 2018. Both Rosés are bottled in Burgundy Bottles rather than the clear bottles that commonly showcases Rosé. The grapes for these Rosés grown in three different climate zones. The 2018 blends Saint Laurent with Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch in almost equal proportions while the 2016 emphasizes Zweigelt accompanied by similar proportions of Blaufränkisch and Saint Laurent. Both Rosés delivered flavors of berries mixed with cherry.
Austrian Wine – The Reds
Both reds sample featured the Blaufränkisch grape. The Rosi Schuster Blaufränkisch 2017 differs in the fact the grapes grow in soils of clay and loess. I found this wine more rounded. The Moric Blaufränkisch Burgenland 2017 consists of 8 -50-year-old vines grown in soils composed of limestone, primary rock, and loam. Both wines were excellent examples of what the Blaufränkisch grape produces.
An Austrian wine tasting or meal must include ice wine made from Grüner Veltliner. We sampled the Zantho Eiswein Grüner Veltliner 2016. This wine evokes subtle nuances of apricot that are not overdone or too sweet, making this wine a delightful ending to a superb tasting.
Highlights of the Cuisine
My favorite pairing consisted of the Neumayer Riesling and Pollerhof Vom Loess Sauvignon Blanc with a Lobster Carpaccio with compressed apple, fried capers, and micro dill. The apple adds a subtle lift to the Lobster.
Pairing the two Grüners with a Chicken Milanese – Mitzuna, a salad with red onions and orange citrus vinaigrette gave a textural quality to the wine.
A Corvina with summer squash, plum sauce, and arugula fennel salad ideally complemented both Rosés.
In conclusion, if you are looking for bright wine with nice acidity and minerality, these Austrian wines are exceptional choices. Hopefully, more people will discover what Austrian has to offer, especially to those who like what I call the unique varieties.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer was hosted to the wine sampled. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.