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Yesterday I posted on my new view of Austrian wines coming out of the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Vienna. Today’s post highlights a handful of remarkable wines that stood out from the scores that I tasted.

Let me first debunk somewhat the popular myth of the Austrian wine classification obfuscation.

I’ve been reading about the difficulty of understanding Austrian wine labels and classification system. Certainly Austrian wine terminology is complex with four main wine regions broken into 16 districts and covering some 30 varietals, with cuvees (blends) added to the mix. But like everything with wine you lead with your taste and your head follows. The more interest your palate initiates the more information you seek. Honestly, it’s not hard to understand once you have reason to.

And since 80% of Austrian wine is white and 35% of that Gruner Veltliner, it quickly breaks down to how you feel about the two main white varietals (Gruner Veltliner and Riesling) and the few niche but interesting reds.

I need to say that as a new convert to Austrian whites, they are something to be relished. Crisp and full bodied, dry yet aromatic. And beautifully mineral, reflecting individually on each vineyard where the grapes are grown.

I tasted over 50 different wines from maybe 6 or so regions during my five-day trip to Austria. A few really stood out. Although mostly white, there are a handful of interesting red wines in Austria. Not many. Small quantities…but unique and worth searching out.

Please see Part 1 of this post for my thoughts on organic and biodynamic Austrian wines. Thanks to Julia Sevenich from Austria for compiling this list of Austrian organic wines. She is an astute expert of wine and Austrian wine, specifically.

My top picks to check out. There are many more but this is a good place to start.

Gemischter Satz

This was one of my most pleasant discoveries. Gemischter Satz is an old Austrian tradition and fascinating. They are ‘field blends’ made from a group of varietals that are grown and harvested and vinified together. It is the idea of terroir over grape and I’m sold. Tasting a place as it grows naturally is my idea of pure wine.

The very best one I tasted was Buchertberg White from Gottfried Lamprecht of the Herrenhof Vineyards from the Styria region of Austria. Organic in the vineyard and in the cave.

Gottfried is 27 years old and a rising star in my opinion. Interesting individual, talented winemaker and an artist as well. Check out his blog.

Gruner Veltliner

Gruner Veltliner is Austria’s indigenous white wine footprint. And Gruner Veltliner, at it’s best, is full-bodied and a sponge for minerality and supporting acidity.

Most of the Gruner’s I tasted were from the terraced hillsides along the Danube. Rough, rugged, and deeply mineral terrain. As I moved from place to place, each Veltliner was unique, expressive of a micro-terroir.

Reasonable priced wine. Food friendly. Sipping easy. I’m sold.

The best Gruner Veltliner I tasted (and there were many good ones) was from Blauensteiner Leopold. It was an Essenthal 2009.

Riesling

I tasted many Rieslings, and many were excellent and showed the characteristic long-food friendly finish. As a group though, the Gruner Veltliner were superior to my palate.

The best Riesling I tasted was biodynamic and from Nikolaihof. It was the Steinriesler 1999. Stony. Pure. Alive in the glass. To my taste, remarkable.

St. Laurent

St.Laurent is a relative of the Pinot Noir. I fell for this variety hard. Compared to Pinot Noir’s from France, it is darker. Richer. More full bodied with clear tannins and good acidity.

Both of my favorites were from the Thermenregion and of the ‘Classic’ style. This is a grape worth getting familiar with.

-Heinrich Hartl Vineyard. St. Laurent grape. Classic style. 2008 vintage.

-Johanneshof Reinisch Vineyard. St. Laurent grape. Classic style “Vom Steinfeld”. 2008 vintage.

Blaufrankisch

A new-to-me red varietal. I’m enthusiastic about this grape It’s a cross between the Gouais Blanc and an unidentified/unknown variety.

The Blaufankisch is rich with strong tannins and good acidity to carry the fruit. It’s one of those varieties that while completely new, feels familiar. Winter is coming and Blaufrankisch is something perfect for cold weather and comfort food.

My favorite from this trip is below.

-Trapl Vineyard in the Carnuntum region. Blaufrankisch grape. “Prellenkirchen” (organic). 2007 vintage.

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Photo is of ancient Oak barrels in the cellars of the Domane Wachau in Durnstein on the banks of the Danube. To see a photo of the ceiling of that cellar, click here.