Austrian Wines: World Class Whites and Unique Grapes

I meet lots of great people through this blog and it always amazes me how small the wine community in Dallas truly is. One person, who I actually have gotten to know on both a personal and professional level, is Jeff Irish, Wine & Spirits Broker for Magnolia Wine Co.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I first met Jeff long before my blogging days as he is the brother of a dear friend of mine.  He’s always impressed me with his wine knowledge, quest to bring smaller wineries and wines off the beaten path to Dallas and his willingness to teach others about wine.

We talked about his passion for Austrian wine and my lack of knowledge about this region.  Jeff generously agreed to come to our couple’s wine tasting group and bring some great wines representative of Austria.  But, we had a few surprises in store for him as well ….

Jeff started with an overview about Austrian wine.  I was surprised to hear that this region makes less than one percent of the world’s wine production.  In fact, there is more wine made in the Loire Valley than all of Austria.  These wines have been made for over 900 years using many of the same methods.  The industry was turned on its head in 1985, when a few producers added diethylene glycol, an antifreeze agent, to enhance body and sweetness and justify higher prices.  This resulted in Parliament enacting very strict wine regulations that modernized many of the age-old wine making processes.  

Gruner

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Irish

We started with three Grüner Veltliners, one from Franz Etz, one from Stift Göttweig and one from Ludwig Neumayer.  Grüner is an easy drinking wine (especially in hot Texas summers) and Jeff said Texas really seems to be warming up to these wines.

  • Franz Etz 09 Grüner Veltliner – a crisp white with notes of floral, pair and green apple.  Nice, easy to find and affordable.  Comes in a full liter bottle that is pretty cool.
  • Stift Göttweig 08 Grüner Veltliner – lots of Asian pear and literally blessed by Benedictine monks from the Stift Göttweig monastery.
  • Ludwig Neumayer 08 Grüner Veltliner – I tasted lemon and herbal notes.  This was the most elegant of the three tasted.

___with some age_

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Irish

We then moved to Rieslings.  We started with a 2008 Josef Hogl Riesling Federspiel Bruck.  I tasted green apple, honey, caramel, tropical fruit and peach with lots of minerality.  Some sweetness, but the wine ended with a dry finish.  Our host couple, Marcus and Shannon, who have to have one of the most interesting and obscure collections of vintage wine from Europe that I’ve ever seen, brought out a fascinating wine for comparison – 1993 Freie Weingärtner Wachau Riesling.  This one was very different than the first – much more mineral in nature with hints of green apples and citrus, but sadly was probably past its prime.

Umathum 08 Zweigelt

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Irish

We returned back to try Moric 08 Blaufrankisch, our first red wine.  I tasted vanilla, raspberries, dark fruit, sandalwood, pepper and lots of earth.  Of the reds tasted, this was my least favorite.  Our next one was the 08 Umathum Zweigelt.  I tasted blueberry, smoke, spice and lots of bright fruit. 

Austrian Feiler Artinger

 

We ended the official part of the tasting with the Feiler-Artinger 06 “Pinot Cuvee” Ruster-Ausbruch, a dessert wine, with big notes of caramel and marizipan.  Sublime with an almond cookie.

At that point, Marcus decided to bring out some Austrian treasures from his collection.  We tasted several wines to get a comparison of what happens when Austrian wines age. 

Austrian Weingut

Our first wine was a 2000 Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Auslese Ried Loiser Berg.  I liked this wine and tasted lots of caramel, maple syrup, cassis with touches of citrus.  We then tasted the same wine from 1983.  It was remarkable – the caramel notes were there, but not as prominent and this was a wine that benefitted from its age in the bottle.  Very nice!

We then sampled one last wine – similar in nature, but from France.  The 85 Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux showed citrus, figs and big spicy notes.  A perfect ending to a fabulous night of touring European wines from a backyard in Dallas.

The Lineup

 

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Irish