By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 13 October 2018
Modern Austria offers some of the best quality wines in Europe produced from the lowest yields, which deserve to be better known outside their own country.
Often associated with its dry whites from Gruner Veltliner and Riesling, with their vivid freshness and ripe fruit potency, Austria’s wine scene is now changing. The new generation of drinkers are demanding more reds and the growers have responded with some astounding good juicy tangy examples – from international favourite Pinot Noir to their own native Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and St Laurent grown across its wine regions from Vienna to Burgenland.
Kamptal: EXTRA BRUT RESERVE NV Fred Loimer (12%)
Austrian fizz is not well known, but they have been making it since 1842 and today make seven million bottles, mostly drunk by the Austrians themselves. Loimer uses biodynamically grown grapes, a blend of Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner, Zweigelt and Pinot Noir, creating the fizz by the traditional Champagne method: ‘Reserve’ on the label indicates this. Very stylish, yeasty notes with vivid pure citric flavours and a very dry fnish.
Weinvertel: GRUNER VELTLINER NEULAND 2016 Herbert Zillinger (12%)
(£9.99 reduced from £14 www.therealwineco.co.uk)
A great price for one of Zillinger’s highly acclaimed Gruner Veltliners. Grown on the Czech border in northeast Austria, Zillinger makes a zippy peppery clean light version of this unusual grape. If you fancy spending a little more, his Horizont version is even spicier, smokier and richer.
Kamptal: GRUNER VELTLINER KAMPTLER TERRASSEN 2015 Willi Brundlmayer (12.5%) ***STAR BUY***
(£19.99 Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh; £21.75 Berry Bros & Rudd)
If you had to pick one producer who consistently makes superb Gruner Veltliner vintage after vintage it would have to be Brundlmayer. Kamptal Gruners have a clear spicy-fresh precise character, flinty with lime and pear fruit and minerally undertones. Brundlmayer cleverly combines aromatic minerally fruits from higher schisted granite terraces with riper fruits from lower loess terraces.
Burgenland: GREINER 2007 Schrock & Kracher (14%)
(£18 reduced from £24 www.alpinewines.co.uk)
Heidi Schrock & Gerhard Kracher, who live on opposite sides of Neusiedlersee lake in Rust and Illmitz, have joined forces to recreate Welshriesling in the way it was once traditionally produced. Late picked grapes in November with 20% botrytis, fermented out dry and aged in acacia. Amazing aromas with marmalade notes, honeyed, rounded – but elegant and dry. Really unusual. A wine to sip and savour.
Burgenland: CLASSIC BLAUFRANKISCH 2016 Hans Igler (13%)
(£10.50 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
The Igler family produce such good value examples of the juicy tangy Blaufrankisch, one of Austria’s most planted grapes. It tastes a bit like a youthful Syrah crossed with Gamay. Smooth rounded ripe fruits and fine tannin, easy to drink on its own or serve it slightly chilled with a platter of charcuterie. Watch out for Waltraud Igler’s excellent version of Zweigelt too.
Burgenland: DORGLAGEN ST LAURENT 2014 Gerhard Pittnauer (12%)
Loved the sour cherry and blackberry flavours in this light juicy tangy vineyard blend of the St Laurent, a grape which is related to Pinot Noir. It has a similar structure to Pinot, but with more spicy peppery undertones – it would make a good match with lamb or duck. It is a tricky grape to grow, so it is not popular with Austria’s growers. Pittnauer make one of the better St Laurent examples, another good example is St Laurent Grand Select made by Vienna-based Fritz Wieninger.
Vienna: PINOT NOIR SELECT 2016 Fritz Wieninger (13.5%)
(£24 Fine Wine Co Musselburgh)
A juicy delicately spicy version with a lightness of touch and minerality which reminds me of Burgundy. Wieninger is currently the leading light in the Vienna wine region, the only capital in the world with a significant number of vineyards. His family have a long tradition here and he has managed to continue despite urban development pressures with 52 hectares on either side of the Danube.
Wagram: PINOT NOIR RESERVE LIMITED EDITION 2015 Anton Bauer (13.5%) ***STAR BUY***
Anton Bauer is currently one of Austria’s best Pinot Noir specialists, who trained in Burgundy before returning to his small family estate. 2015 was a particularly good vintage for Austrian reds. Deep cherry and raspberry fruits, slightly herby undertones, velvety tannins. Very pure and complex, elegant and well made.
Weinviertel: STEINBERG ZWEIGELT 2015 Herbert Zillinger (12.5%)
The modern Zweigelt grape, created by the Austrians in 1920 by crossing Blaufrankish with St Laurent, is now one of Austria’s most widely grown grapes. When young it has a pronounced cherry aroma, mellow palate and light spice, developing earthy peppery notes with age as in this single vineyard Zweigelt made in the dynamic Weinvertel region on the Czech border.
Burgenland: RED PITT 2015 Gerhard Pittnauer (13%) ***GOOD VALUE***
This is a really appealing blend of two Austrian grapes, Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch, softened with the lush Merlot grape. Soft smooth elegant tannins, crunchy sweet red fruits with a lovely spicy peppery kick to the finish. A good price too for an Austrian red of this quality.
Burgenland: WELSHRIESLING TROCKENBEERENAUSLESE 2003 Josef Lensch (12.5%)
(£27.60 hf bt www.alpinewines.co.uk)
For a sweet wine of this intensity and maturity, this is a remarkable price. Josef Lensch is perhaps more famous for his restaurant housed in ancient buildings on the famous Neusiderlersee lake in Podersdorf village – but he makes superb rich honeyed toffee-flavoured dessert wines from nobly rotted grapes.
Join Rose’s Eggs & Amphorae wine tasting on Friday 23 November in Edinburgh £42 www.rosemurraybrown.com