I have written previously on tasting an Austrian wine on my Lunch at The Ledbury blog. This was a 2011 Saint Laurent, Johanneshof Reinisch, Thermenregion, Austria. What got me into Austrian wines initially was the opportunity to taste them when I go skiing at my favourite Austrian ski resort, Lech in Vorarlberg, Austria. I started off with a Pinot Noir vom Schloss by Graf Hardegg. This is a lovely light wine and generally a good start point with a familiar grape variety – I remember looking at the wine menu and not recognising many grape varieties that were there. But when you eat a meal in Austria, and stick particularly to the more traditional Austrian cuisine, you find that it is distinctively divided into lighter and heavier dishes: hence for the lighter, the very good white wines, the Grüner Veltliner being the most dominant grape variety, but there are also lesser known varieties, specifically in Vienna, the Gemischter Satz which is actually has to be a blend of a minimum of three different grape varieties. For the heavier dishes, mainly meat/game dishes, Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch come to mind, the Ried Hallebühl from Weingut UMATHUM, a mix of these two grape varieties, warm and full bodied, with a palate that seems to carry on and on. And as the wine breathes the depth changes, as it seems with all Austrian reds that I have had the opportunity of trying so far. I am not a connoisseur of wine, I just like tasting wine and really have no in depth knowledge of it. However I have found one thing that is notable that I am not sure if you find that common with wine in general, but with Austrian wines, as they seem to be experimenting a lot, and the blend of grapes seem to change considerably from year to year. I also see that they are embracing the screw top bottle as well though they do also bottle by cork for some of their more special varieties. I have just had the opportunity to try a red by Claus Preisinger, his Basic 2009. Apparently a traditionalist, so the 2009 shows, 90% Zweigelt and 10% St Laurent – though touted as an everyday drinking wine, it is considerably heavier but extremely smooth and has definitely that distinctive taste of “Zweigelt”. On checking current stocks on his website, I find that the 2012 blend of grapes is now 50% Zweigelt and 50% Blaufränkisch (his 2008 was a 90% Zweigelt and 10% Blaufränkisch by the way). I definitely would like to try this as a comparison to the 2009. And incidentally he has a rather novel individual website design!
As you can see, my knowledge of Austrian wines is still extremely limited, but I look forward to expanding it, at least in the taste area!