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Posts Tagged ‘Austrian wine’

In the Wachau valley – embroidering the grandiose Danube river in the North-West of Austria – the grapes share their carpet of land with lush apricot trees in a perfect harmony.

Wachau - apricots and vines

Wachau and Danube river

The siblings have a tolerant relationship with apricots ripening in July and later, when the pickers are rested, the grapes take on the workforce in a September harvest.

Speaking about harmony, the Wachau wine region is famous for its white Rieslings and Gruner Veltliners accompanying dishes from apricots in a precise match.

In July when every local restaurant adds to their menu the sinfully tasty apricot dumplings you have the unique opportunity to savour the ideal marriage between the apricots and Rieslings.

A local summer favourite is an Austrian version of the Bellini in which here the sparkling wine [often the fresher Gruner Veltliner] is mixed with lightly sour and sweet apricot juice. Great aperitif as well as great friend with the apricot dumplings. My creative taste buds were right this time – I would call this match the desert of summer gods.

Wines in the Wachau are of three categories according to their level of alcohol:

1) STEINFEDER – under 11.5 % alcohol

This fine and fruity wine is light and refreshing in the summer or and ideal light aperitif.

2) FEDERSPIEL – between 11.5 and 12.5% alcohol

Highly popular style since it is a great match with food. Elegant, fruity and mineral tones go well with fish [especially sweet water fish] and lean meat dishes.

3) SMARAGD – over 12.5% alcohol

Complex, aromatic, intense wine with great ageing potential. It should be drunk with heavier food, so creamy Austrian sauces, red meet, game, deserts and other intense dishes are perfect with it.

I have tasted a number of wines from all three categories. Two particular wines blew my mind: The first was a Riesling Jochinger Pichl Federspiel 2009 made by Josef Jamek in Joching, where a lovely hotel Jamek with restaurant and winery are located. Its mineral tone is perfectly balanced with sweetness of the Riesling – outstanding harmony with refreshing nose – must try!

Janek winery, hotel and restaurant in Wachau in Austria

Janek winery, hotel and restaurant

The second was a very interesting Riesling from F.X.Pichler – Riesling F.X. Pichler “Unendlich” 2005 is Mr.Pichler’s top wine, perhaps the reason for calling it “eternal” or “endless”. Not everyone will love it, but if its unique flavours enchant you then it will be a love forever. I have tried it in the magnificent two Michelin starred restaurant Landhaus Bacher in Mautern. They definitely deserve their two stars as the food and staff will make your evening unforgettable while the ambiance is not at all stuffy. Just beware, you are in Austria where smoking is allowed in the restaurants, so if you are a non-smoker, then book ahead a non-smoking table in a separate lovely room. You will be pampered by their locally sourced food – mushrooms, sweet water fish, vegetable, apricots, … – and also well advised about an ideal wine to suit your palate. An interesting pearl at the end; their young chef Thomas Dorfer was voted the best chef by Gaut Millau in 2009 – worth a trip.

You can whet your appetite with these pictures.

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No, I don’t want to advice you to become a thief or to point at a commercial introduction of a new product where the opportunists pretend how much they like the wine just to get more for free.

Instead, I want to take you to a wine bar inside the Julius Meinl supermarket in Vienna.

Julius Meinl am Graben isn’t just one of the grocery stores, it is the first one and attracts food and drinks lovers from all Vienna for its first class selection of foods, drinks and the tastiest delicatessen you can’t even imagine.

In the wine section you will find top Austrian wines but also stairs taking you down into a cosy and modern wine bar. There you can enjoy the signature Austrian wines by glass while dipping and picking from the various tasty tapas and even sushi and sashimi of the highest quality.

Delicious tapas plate at Meinl's Weinbar

 

Meinl’s Weinbar was packed with guests even in the middle of the day. Wine and champagne lovers were indulging in their liquids with shopping bags resting by their feet – a nice break from monotonous grocery shopping.

Vienna: Meinl's wine bar

 

Back in Britain. Are you for introducing this concept to our supermarkets here?

I don’t think that Tesco would surprise you with some outstanding wines. However, what about Waitrose or Marks and Spencer? They have some nice bottles on offer so why not to have a glass?

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High quality wine by the glass? Usually, you would have to visit one of the top gourmet wine restaurants or bars where you would pay a fortune for them. Not in Vienna.

Traditional Heurigen are a blessing for wine lovers visiting the Austrian capital as well as for locals. These legendary wine shops, which are sometimes also wine bars, with a traditional Austrian ambiance are run by Viennese wine growers. You can get a very nice glass of Grüner Veltliner for as little as 1,50 € or a tasting session of six varieties from 7 €.

“smart” wine tasting board

Compared to the Middle Ages when the wines sprawled out right into the centre of the town, today you must head to the outskirts. In the North you find fine Riesling, Chardonnay and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) pampered by the limestone soil. The most popular and also more touristy area there is Grinzing.

If you want to escape the crowd then head to the South. Black earth soils favour strong white wines and opulent red cuvées (blends).

In a bone-chilling December I couldn’t explore any of the open vineries, so popular during the summer as you can enjoy wines outdoors with a spectacular view on Vienna.
During the winter you have to look for places with their own warm premises where you can taste the whole evening and in some even get a bite to eat.

I’ve visited Steinklammer, located in the Southern area of Mauer. This Heuriger has over 310 years of tradition and their staff is very helpful.

Steinklammer heurigen

Steinklammer heurigen

Their lovely wooden inn was perfect for an icy evening. Starting with a glass of white Grüner Veltliner, high in acidity and tasting like a ripe green pear, I was a bit disappointed as it was perhaps too young for me.

Nevertheless, I moved to a Riesling, Reisberg, 2008 smelling like elder flower , which with its balanced and refreshing citrus aroma enticed me to taste more.

I moved to reds and went for a tasting of six varieties for 9€. They were served on a long wooden tray with six fitted cuts for glasses.

The most interesting was Cabernet Franc 2002. Sweet at the beginning reminding me a black currant juice and later moving to deeper tones of casis.

Similar to this was Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 as it was quite fruity as well, but more distinct tannins in the mouth.

Cuvée Titan 2005 was a blend of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Its unique taste of raisins and griotte was a pearl in a shell. Now I could happily leave this cosy Heuriger lucky enough to have a friend to take me home in her car. No way I would be able to drive after such a feast!

Still I was far from tasting all. In Vienna you can explore a wide variety of the typical “Gemischter Satz”, which is a wine made from different grape varieties planted next to each other and even harvested together.

Viennese are not afraid to experiment, but not on the account of the quality. Their wines will surprise you.

I bet, that most of you will know mostly the white Austrian wines as they make for 70% of the total production. That said the remaining 30% of reds are worth trial, at least for me they were a pleasant surprise. Let me know if I am wrong.

Look at the list of Heurigen in Vienna at Weinausostereich and some facts about viticulture in Austria.

 

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Explore Gruener Veltliner, zweigelt and other Austrian red and white wines for winter and christmas on the 12th of November at 6.30pm at Kipferl.

Kipferl in an Austrian delicatessen shop in East London recommended to me from my Austrian friend, so it must be authentic!

A £5.00 entry includes the wine tasting and snacks.
The address: 70 long lane london EC1A 9EJ
tel: 020 7796 2229

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