Several important wine critics have indicated that the Austrian white grape variety gruner veltliner presents amazing potential for cultivation in Australia. My sommelier friend James Dossan and I sit down to chat about the origin of the grape, the classic styles made in Austria, and then proceed to taste through a range of different wines from Austria, New Zealand and Australia.
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Stadt Krems Kremstal Gruner Veltliner 2011
Ripe perfumed floral notes with a broad and opulent palate of fresh peach and generous acids.
Stadt Krems Wachtberg Erste Lage Gruner Veltliner 2010
Concentrated floral elderberry minerality, delicate and soft yet full-flavoured fruits, and focused yet exhilaratingly subtle acidity on the palate.
Stift Gottweig Gottsweiger Berg Gruner Veltliner 2011
Very bright but dense and rich, broad and soft on the palate with good drive and ripeness.
Stift Gottweig Silverbichl Reserve Erste Lage Riesling 2010
Quite bold in its aromatics and texture, and had nicely balanced fruit and savoury elements.
Stadt Krems wines
A mixture of 2011 and 2010 vintage wines were included in the white wine tasting, and again the 2010 wines stood out for their concentration of acidity and fruit, and yet their balance purity and elegance.
Comparing the Gebling Erste Lage Gruner Veltliner between the vintages showed that whilst the 2010 had a slightly smoky spicy nose with a slightly grassy tropical palate, the 2011 was more soft and broad with stone fruit approachability.
Gebling Reserve Riesling 2010
Very vibrant in the floral and tropical citrus aromatics, had wonderful length and minerality, and superb ageing potential.
Over lunch we tasted a few of the red wines which come from the Burgenland vineyards, and typical for Austria they were soft yet full with black fruits and delicate spice notes.
Sepp Moser cellars
The 2011 gruner veltliner wines all exhibit very green spicy fruit aromatics and great purity and freshness on the palate.
Alte Reben Gruner Veltliner 2010
Much more ripe tropical stone fruit nose, with more volume and fruit sweetness on the palate
Privat Sentfenberger Pelligren Erste Lage 2010
A bold nutty oily fruit concentration, and was actually closer to a riesling in style.
Dornleiten Riesling 2011
Very delicate with a nice floral and lime sherbert nose, but looking a little green at the moment.
Senftenberger Piri Riesling 2011
Had a lot in common with the GV from the same site, showing earthy minerality with a sharp berry and quince fruit character.
Privat Riesling 2010
A very heady and creamy honey aroma, wonderfully rich and ripe but still very fresh and mineralic.
Pinot Noir 2009
Very earthy, meaty and mushroomy, with depth and complexity, but it was very difficult to see any fruit and was a little clunky.
There is something quite magical about Vienna. Not only is it a beautiful and historic city but it is also a thriving metropolis, home to 2. 4 million people. Walking around the central part of the city there are any number of tourist sites; the cathedral, the Belvedere Palace, the numerous museums and theatres. You would hardly believe there are operating vineyards and wineries within Vienna, which unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to visit. By all accounts they are very traditional, making field blend wines from any number of native varieties. Vienna is a very multicultural city, which is not hard to understand when you consider that it is the gateway to the East. Something I found very interesting was the high concentration of Japanese restaurants in the city centre, even more than in Dusseldorf which has the highest concentration of Japanese people in Europe. Vienna is famous for its music, as celebrated composers like Mozart and Strauss lived here. For as little as €3 you can see one of the daily performances at the historic Opera House. Having been to a number of performances of Opera Australia back in Melbourne, one of the things I wanted to do was to see some opera in Europe, and I was thrilled to enjoy Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” over the weekend before returning to Niederosterreich to visit some more wineries.
|Ruins above Weingut Nigl in Kremstal
Niederosterreich is Austria’s largest and most important wine-producing area, covering just over 27,000 hectares of vineyards across eight distinct regions from the Wachau until Carnuntum. The majority of the premium wine comes from three of these regions along the Danube River; Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal, with the top wines being made from fruit grown on steep and terraced vineyards. There are over 4,000 different producers in Niederosterreich, but the average vineyard owner only holds a few hectares of vines. The largest producers are often cooperatives or wineries owned by the state, and many of these produce large volume wines for the Austrian market. The wine consumer in Austria is very patriotic, consuming 80% of domestic production at a level of 30 L per capita per year. Austrians actually consume as much as they produce, so the 20% of production that is exported is replaced by imported wine, mostly German.
|Modern art along terraced vineyards above Unterloiben
Although it’s nowhere near as luxurious as some of the rental cars I’ve been driving on my trip so far, it is so nice to have my own car and not worry about the daily costs involved. The 1995 Volkswagon Golf I bought for €500 was in reasonable condition but through a friend I had someone take a look and replace a few things. Otherwise it wouldn’t have even survived the eight-hour drive down to Wachau, let alone all around Europe this year. It is also great being in another new country, far away from the previous place so that the scenery looks very different. I will say that the Niederosterreich region on the banks of the Danube River reminds me a little bit of the Rheingau region of Germany, but the people and most importantly the wines are quite different. About a third of the vineyards are planted on flatter slopes, and the rest is planted on the steeper terraced slopes where you find the better parcels on primary rock with less loam. There are two major varieties; riesling and gruner veltliner, and I am here to find out more about them.
|Domäne Wachau in Durnstein