Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Notes from an Austrian Wine Tasting

Willi Klinger, Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, was recently at Camarata at Paulie's to teach a seminar on the 7 Elements of Uniqueness in regards to Austrian wine. He said the wines of Austria are defined by an aromatic freshness combined with full physiological ripenesss. David Keck, M.S. was integral part of the discussion and shared his thoughts on the wines as well.

The unique elements that help make Austria an exceptional producer of wine are: 
1) The cool climate which helps to create the crisp, aromatic style.
2) The land which sits at the same latitude as Burgundy and has, in addition to the typical river valley and hillside growing areas, vineyards in the capital city of Vienna. They also boast a diverse range of soils to suit the array of grapes.
3) A signature grape, Grüner Veltliner, which has become a by-the-glass restaurant favorite. In addition to this, they have a number of other grapes, both indigenous and international, that can be made in diverse styles.
4) A wine culture that has existed and evolved for 2,000 years. The quest for quality is showcased not only in the wines but in the innovative and modern new wineries.
5) The typical smaller winery still prevails, information is passed through family members who have worked together for generations. In addition to a quest for quality, the people just enjoy what they do, says Willi Klinger. 
6) An overriding respect for nature exists not only in the wine industry but throughout the country. 10% of the vineyards are organically farmed and 3/4 of them are part of a government supported minimum intervention program.
7) The food friendliness makes wine pairing easier. The wines of Austria typically maintain good natural acidity and work well with a variety of cuisines including from China and other Asian countries that often conflict with more mainstream varietals. 

The White Wines:

2015 is considered to be an excellent vintage in Austria and the first three wines were from this year.


  • Ott Bernhard "Am Berg" Grüner Veltliner 2015 - Sourced from Niederösterreich or Lower Austria, this wine is a lighter style of Grüner Veltliner from a biodynamic producer with only 11.5% abv with typical white pepper notes and a savory finish. SRP $18
  • Christ Wiener Gemischter Satz 2015 - This wine is a field blend of grapes, co-fermented into a refreshing, light wine perfect with assorted hors d'oeuvre. SRP $ 24
  • Tinhof Neuburger 2015 - From a biodynamic producer in Burgenland, this Neuburger wine is a medium-body, softer wine with fresh aromas of apricot and raw almonds with a lingering mineral finish. SRP $24
The next three wines were all Grüner Veltliner from the Kremstal DAC. They all had a similarity, showing classic Grüner Veltliner characteristics and according to David Keck M.S., they all share a "pretty, filigree character."

  • Malat Höhlgraben Grüner Veltliner 2013 - White pepper, green almond with a light savoriness. SRP $27
  • Stadt Krems Wachtberg Grüner Veltliner Kremstal Reserve 2013 - This wine is sourced from the rocky Wachtberg vineyard on the Danube, it has white pepper aromas and flavors with a savory note and a pronounced nuttiness in the lingering finish. SRP $40
  • Stift Göttweig Gottschelle Grüner Veltliner Kremstal Reserve 2012 - Also sourced from a single vineyard on the Danube, the Gottschelle, this wine was a bit softer and rounder due to the slightly warmer year. It has white pepper aromas and flavors with green almond and a savory finish. SRP $40
Dry Riesling from two different areas and vintages and one Sauvignon Blanc. Willi Klinger named 2013 as the classic vintage in Austria for Riesling. 

  • Müller-Grossmann Steiner Point Riesling 2015 - Light, fresh. Dry, clean, linear, very floral. An elegant wine. SRP $24
  • Holzapfel Vorderseiber Riesling 2011 - The Vorderseiber vineyard area is at a higher elevation in Wachau. This was a warmer year for the area. This was a riper style, a rounder, richer wine with some petrol minerality. SRP $50
  • Sabathi Hannes Kranachberg 2013 - Sourced from the Kranachberg vineyard in Südsteiemark, the only Sauvignon Blanc area in Austria, this wine has apricot aromas and flavors, beautiful balance and a saline minerality in the finish. SRP $55

The Red Wines:

  • Umathum Zweigelt 2013 - This was a cooler year for reds resulting in a light, fruity red with an herbal sage note and a touch of smokiness in the finish; fresh and easy-drinking, this would make a great Thanksgiving Day wine. SRP $21.50
  • Rosi Schuster Sankt Laurent 2012 - An excellent year for reds, this wine is very dry with cherry aromas and flavors, somewhat pinot noir-like but more robust. SRP $ 24
  • Markus Altenburger Leithaberg Blaufränkisch 2012- A lusher style red wine, David Keck M.S. described this Reserve wine as "a fleshy, richer style' of the variety from a monumental vintage. SRP $ 35
  • Iby-Lehrner Mosso Cuvée 2012 - This dry red is a blend of Blaufränkisch, Merlot and Syrah. SRP $16

The Sweet Finale

  • Wenzel Beerenauslese Riesling Eiswein 2006 - Fresh ripe peach aromas with a lingering honeyed finish, an elegant ending. SRP $ $38

Wines tasted on October 13, 2016.