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Austrian Dinner and Masterclass 26th March 2013

I will cheerfully admit I am a huge fan of Austrian wines. When a winemaking teacher tipped me off to the existence of Gruner Veltliner it opened up a whole world of textural, aromatic white wines that are almost more fun to smell than to drink (almost but not quite!). After years of enjoying Austria’s Riesling and Gruner the importer decided to challenge us with reds. Yep, reds from Austria. Made from native grapes that suit the climate. And they are very darn good too. I even heard a whisper of some Austrian sparkling eventually coming into the country at some stage too.

So when the importer asked if I would like to showcase some of the Austrian wines I was dead keen.

Austria can be just as confusing as Germany when it comes to decoding what the labels mean. At least they almost always list the variety used on the label. From experience the best thing you can do is get to know the producer and their style after that it is just a matter of working out which is vineyard name, what is marketing speak and what is quality level. The notes from the night can be view here and as always the best way to learn is by doing, so you can purchase the wines here. Feel free to email to chat about an introduction pack for similar.

Champagne Jacquesson Cuvee 735 At the time of the dinner we had no access to Austrian sparkling wine. Champagne would “have to do”. I loved the crisp and refreshing nature of the 735. Very zesty, a hint leesy but perfect for a warm night to lead into the aromatics. Jacquesson make some great Champagne that have flavour and interest as a drink but often get forgotten sadly.

Bracket One. Gruner Veltliner – textural wines with power and complexity. Great transmitter of terroir.
Stift Goettweig Grüner Veltliner Gottweiger Berg DAC 2011 Soft, floral, spice (pepper), musk, savoury and dough. The palate was zesty and clean. This wine shows the mid-weight Gruner style, it was so well balanced I found myself emptying the glass sooner than I meant to.

Prager Grüner Veltliner Hinter Der Burg Federspiel 2011
Using 100% stainless steel the Prager team want the purity of variety and terroir to shine. This was noticeably lighter than the other three in the bracket. I enjoyed the pure, fresh, grapey, floral, Clean and doughy notes. The acid was more noticeable in this wine as were the phenolic structure and there was even a hint of the Gruner bitterness too. This made it a very refreshing drink.

Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Axpoint Smaragd 2011
Riper, peach, melon, zesty fruits, mineral/chalk, hint of funk and grapefruit. Great mouthfeel and balance makes this wine a joy to drink. This wine was a bit of a talking point. A lot of people loved the power in the this wine but a few people found it a bit challanging. It really showed the progression from light through to full Gruner.

Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Loiser Berg 2000 Being able to try an older bottle really puts the wines into context. It is said that old Gruner takes on similar characters to aged White Burgundy. There was plenty of toasty, honey, zesty and tuna characters. The wine still had the purity of floral and grape/grapefruit perfume and the texture was amazing. Just a great example of how well the wines age.

Bracket 2. Riesling – dry wines with drive and purirty.
Domaine Wachau Riesling Terrassen Federspiel 2011 This is “just” the entry level. Wow! Sweet fruits, waxy, grapey, green apple. Very crisp, long and satisfying. The wine was just everything that great Riesling should be. Such an enjoyable drink.

FX Pichler Riesling Loibenberg Smaragd 2011
I must confess a love of Pichler wines. This wine did not disappoint. Pure, spicey, grape and powerful. There was hints of exotic fruits as there was probably a touch of botrytis in here but that only made the wine more complex. Lots of mid palate stuffing in this wine. A hint of saline but just dripping with ripe stone fruits. This is a keeper for sure.

Emmerich Knoll Riesling Vinothekfuellung Smaragd 2011
A mouthful to say and to drink. A blend made for wine bars (Vinothek) in a slightly fuller and more forward style. Lots of spice, red apple and a mixture of overt fruits best summed up as “like a hippy commune”. The palate was full and satisfyingly harmonious. Great for drinking now. Will probably improve with time but I’d never find out.

Bründlmayer Riesling Heiligenstein Lyra 2001 
A great producer and vineyard from a hotter year and this wine certainly provoked discussion. I loved the silky mouthfeel and fresh toast and cured limes. It was however at the end of its life and definitely needs to be drunk. Some people loved it, some thought it was too old. I think I’d like to restaste to be sure 😉

Bracket 3. Native reds – What are they like? Closest I can come is a divine blend of Nebbiolo, Syrah, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir. You just need to try them.
Pittnauer St. Laurent Dorflagen Villages 2011 St Laurent is thought to have descended from Pinot Noir a long time ago. This is an entry point to the variety and was full of smokey, blood oranges, dirt, mineral and meaty. The palate was tart, with red fruits, soft and tasted of the earth. Fine tannins and a hint silky. I think this variety suits the foods we eat in Australia.

Pittnauer St. Laurent Altenberg 2007
The next step up, a single vineyard example. Darker, fuller and with more pronounced mineral and earth. The palate showed lots of cherry cola and had such a great feel and balance. A very impressive wine that would hold its own next to a lot of more famous Old world wines.

Moric Blaufrankisch Burgenland 2011
Blaufrankisch offers a step up in weight and intensity compared to St Laurent. This village level wine was full of sweet fruits, plums, hint of prune and currants. Although very primary there is a lot of depth and glimpses of savoury notes. The palate is full but not heavy and there is a nice perfume that carries through the wine.

Moric Blaufrankisch Neckenmarkter Alte Reben 2007
Single vineyard from high altitudes. This was a serious wine. Rhone like earthy/limestone and dried meats, red and blue fruits and a fair weight on the mouth backed up with great tannins. I’d love to see this wine with more time in the bottle as it was quite compact at the tasting.

Emmerich Knoll Grüner Veltliner Beerenauslese 2007 500ml To finish we had the pleasure of this sweet wine. Luscious, balanced and seamless. There was a plethora of tropical fruits and floral characters. The perfect way to draw a close to a lovely evening that showed off how good Austrian wines are.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Austrian wines or if you are curious to know more please get in touch.