By Sam Johnson
Sam brings you a story natural beauty, music, scandal and revival… he also tells you why you should start getting excited by Austrian Wine and its groundbreaking new makers, keen to show off what the country has to offer.
When you think of Austria, you think of snow capped Alps and glüwein on the piste; a land of quaint alpine lodges, where insubordinate nuns sing in the rolling meadows of the hilltops, while the faint sound of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute Overture’ can be heard drifting up from the quiet town below. Thinking of their wine, you may even think of cheap, thin and acidic, mass-produced antifreeze…
But gone are those days! Now is the time to reconsider your view on the export of this once overlooked wine producing region, in a big way!
The State of Austrian Wine Today
2003 gave us the new DAC system (Austria’s equivalent of the Italian DOC) and through greater levels of control in Austrian winemaking, Austrian wine has not only recovered from its horror period in the 1980s, but also gone from strength to strength.
Now producing on average way over 250million bottles a year, the majority of Austria’s wine production is focused on three lesser-known varieties and well as more familiar names such as Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay:
- Grüner Veltliner
Often likened to Sauvignon Blanc, it makes crisp, dry and fresh white wines that are un-oaked. Its delicate citrus flavours intertwine with peach and a waft of dry, spicy, white pepper that works brilliantly with simple grilled fish dishes.
The most planted red variety in Austria, Zweigelt is a lighter style of red wine that more often than not is un-oaked. Sometimes lacking a little depth initially, Zweigelt opens up to develop concentrated notes of raspberry and black cherry.
If you’re looking for something a little heavier then Blaufränkisch is the way to go. Age-worthy, with big tannins, its wines retain a lovely acidity and freshness with notes of blackberry, cassis and sour cherry.
So whatever it is that you’re looking for, why not to reach for an Austrian Wine next time you come to pick something up? There really is something for everybody!
Who’s Behind It?
A big part of the rebirth of Austrian Wine is down to a new generation of winemakers in the country who are embracing new ideas and techniques, and striving to produce better wines at every turn. One example would be Arnold Holzer at Eschenhoff Holzer, who after taking over the winery at just 22 years of age, has gone on to produce some stunning examples of both Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt that are not only low in sulphur, but also embrace modern packaging and label design reminiscent of the hyper trendy Craft Beer scene.
Another producer that we are really proud to work with is Weingut R&A Pfaffl. Pfaffl are a really top end Austrian producer who make the lovable and affordable ‘Dot’ series, all the way up to the stunning Passion Reserve Riesling (a personal favourite of mine), which although at a premium price, is just simply a delightful glass of wine!
The Pfaffl family are at the forefront of vineyard and cellar management techniques in Austria and are a worthy overseas flag-bearer for their nation. So we were super excited to send Will, our Assistant Manager, out to Austria to take a look around the winery and taste through their range to make sure that we are stocking the best of what’s out there! Take a look at some of his photos below. (I know… It’s a hard job that he’s got, our Will!)
In the 1980’s it would have been impossible to think that such quality could come from the ashes of one of the great wine scandals of the 20th century, but yet here we find ourselves. Austria’s new generation of winemakers are tearing up the European wine scene, refusing to be ignored, and they have the grape-based goods to back it up. That alone is a reason for you to stop passing them over, give them a whirl, and get excited!
Next week: “Glassware: is it really worth it?”
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