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Monday 10 January 2011

Domäne Wachau Beerenauslese Terrassen 2008

If Austria's wines are something of a hidden gem, then its dessert wines are doubly so, since Sauternes, German stickies or Tokaji are often the first wines that come to mind when thinking of something naturally sweet.

However, Austrian dessert wines are my personal favourite and frequently superb; as Chris Kissak puts it in his Wine Doctor blog "[Austrian dessert wines] are, from the best winemakers, some of Europe's greatest sweet wines, and deserve a space in any cellar that already bears a bottle or two of Sauternes, Vouvray or Tokay".

However, generally they come from the Neusiedlersee region on the border with Hungary where the morning mists from the shallow Lake Neusidl (which later burn off during the day) make perfect conditions for botrytis (also known as noble rot).

That makes this Beerenauslese from Domäne Wachau rather unusual as it is from the Wachau, a region much more associated with dry whites, especially Grüner Veltliner and Riesling.

Where the Neusidlersee region is warmed by southerly winds from the Pannonian plain and reliably makes desert wines every year, Wachau is much cooler due to northerly winds; as a result, dessert wines here are rarer and, inevitably, much fresher.

This wine is made in very limited quantities from a blend of grapes (30% Grüner Veltliner, 20% Riesling, 20% Rivaner, 15% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Blanc) grown on the steep terraces that line the Danube where, happily, frequent fogs and humidity from the river provide ideal conditions for the development of botrytis.

The tag "Beerenauslese" roughly translates as "selected harvest of berries" and is about half-way up the sweetness scale of Austrian dessert wines, usually including grapes affected by botrytis.

It has a rich, heady nose of botrytis, superripe tropical fruits, pineapple and guava on the palate and the concentration of marmalade; it is both mouthfilling and mouthwatering, long, elegant and balanced with refreshing acidity that makes it feel quite light and not cloying.

It is almost a complete dessert in itself, but matches with lighter, cream-based and fruit-based desserts such as a creme brulee or tarte au citron.

Domäne Wachau is a co-operative based in the beautiful village of Dürnstein where wine-making dates back to the 12th century; the co-operative (which dates from more recent times) has a wine-making philosophy of quality without compromise, an emphasis on finesse, authentic regional character, precise definition and clear expression.

I would say they've succeeded.

€14.90 from Domäne Wachau - provided for review.


 Domäne Wachau - http://www.domaene-wachau.at/Start.48.0.html?&L=2

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