So, today was day one of Vievinum (actually it was preview of a preview but hey, I was there, I clocked time, so it’s a day) and I had a chance to indulge in some an absolutely fantastic tasting. The Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB), has a level of organisation that could make Swiss clocks work hard to mark time. But more than just punctual, they have an uncanny ability to be precise, comprehensive, and yet very efficiently concise. Nothing is left to chance, not even the weather one is often tempted to imagine, and attendees can devote their entire time and attention to one solo task: tasting and learning about the wines of Austria.
This year, at he special red wine tasting, the format was very interesting. A large hall laid out with tasting sets, and a small tome that listed the various flights that could be tasted. All then left to do was to request one of the many sommeliers to bring the flight of your choice, which they did efficiently so, and you could make your tastes. No rushed tastings, no hurried sniffs and spits. A relaxed calm and quiet environment, most conducive to tasting and evaluating wines all at your own pace. A comprehensive array of all the red wines that
Austria has to offer, neatly arranged into flights by grapes and then by region so as to provide a good overview and at the same time, a detailed insight, into how Austria is faring in this field.
Now, to be honest, I have been visiting the country for a good few years now, even spent some time here and never once have I believed that reds was their forte, or even something acceptably smart an idea. They do stunning whites, stick with it – was pretty much my not-spoken-out-aloud advice. Then this year, I found myself in a room with oversized paintings of nothing but multi-coloured palate knife strokes and all the reds one can imagine: a well nightmare given the prejudice I held. And then, something happened. As I worked my way through, I realised something, a humbling realisation at that: Austria now had reds wine to offer that could charm even the most ardent of non-believers of their prowess with red grapes.
The Pinots were an interesting lead in, always fruity and with softness of structure, nothing too complex, in fact some perhaps even lacked it, but the good ones managed to hold attention without ever being too frivolous or, at the other end of the scale, too daunting. Sankt Laurent was darker, richer, more berry-ed, responding better to the riche oak styles than the Pinot had. But it was still not entirely clear as a style and anomalies led to some ambiguity: is it fruity, is it complex, does it need oak, a little, or none at all, what about the extraction, and alcohol…all these cropped up in my head. Some wines were good and are listed below. Zweigelt was always light, fruity, and utterly enjoyable, even though the fruits remained an indistinct sized berry of generally a red robe.
But then, the Blaufränkisch, oh the Blaufränkisch (Bf)…what can I say?! Each flight only served to feed into the temptation to leave out no
flights of Bf that were on offer. Leithaberg DAC is now my preferred region to try them but Burgenland had lovely ones too. Gentle, fruity, rich, sometimes expressive like a Grenache but never with that kind of alcohol, the wines were like a Pinot but a notch up in straightforward expression. The tannins always gripped in retrospect and this lent good complexity to the wines. I could go on, suffice to say that this is the future of red wines from Austria and I am so glad to be able to see the metamorphosis live and vibrant.
This is not definitive in any manner: it is merely a selection from the flights that I managed to taste. Even skipping lunch didn’t grant me enough time to cover them all. In short, there will be other great producers out there and other blogs may (or may not) reflect them, depending on where my nose takes me.
Zweigelt: Christoph Artner
Pinot Noir: Malat, Prieler, Gerald Tschida (most expressive nose for a Pinot), Juris, A. Gesellmann (stunning and layered), Panta Rhei Schwarz Velich
Sankt Laurent: Schloss Gobelsburg, Juris
Blaufränkisch: Toni Hartl (one amazing discovery), Markus Altenburger, Hans & Christine Nittnaus, Giefing (Among the most memorable labels), Gernot & Heike Heinrich, Ernst Triebaumer, Moric (Always a favourite), Uwe Schiefer, Paul Achs, Gerhard & Brigitte Nittnauer (Exemplary expressiveness), Panta Rhei Schwarz Velich
Cuvée (various blends, often comprising a mix of Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Cabernets, Merlot, and Syrah): Anita & Hans Nittnaus, Judith Beck (Funky label), K+K Kimbauer, Josef Leberl, Wagentristl (Vivacious and fruity), Toni Hartl (wine called Inkognito), A. Gesellmanm (Bela Rex is always awesome), Juris (Jana Paulina)
I am attaching some labels below in a sort of a gallery, not all mentioned here have a label here and some are wines where I liked the label and have chosen to include them here. Once again, in case you missed it, Austria is not just about white wine, not anymore! Now, kangaroos, ubiquitous only by their utter absence, are the only thing that keeps us from confusing the two countries!