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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Austrian Wine Masterclass at London International Wine Fair‏

At the recent London International Wine Fair, I was keen to hear an Austrian wine masterclass from Darrel Joseph, a US journalist living in Vienna and specialising in the wines of central Europe.

Darrel has the relaxed and reassuring but authoritative style of a TV news anchorman and he took us through a range of 9 Austrian dry white wines from Lower Austria (confusingly in the north - the name refers to being "lower down" the Danube) and Styria in the south which, due to altitude, is actually much cooler than Lower Austria.

We started with a Steirische Klassic Sauvignon Blanc from Tement; fermented in stainless steel, it had a herbaceous nose and palate with crisply focused linear acidity.

Next was Grüner Veltliner from Dürnberg in the Weinviertel - this large area was historically a bit of an oenological backwater for Austrian wines, a source of easy-quaffers at best, but the introduction of a regulated appellation, Weinviertel DAC, in 2003 has led to vast improvements in quality.

Hailing from the northern edge of the Weinviertel, near the Czech border, where there cool air from the forests meets warm air from the Pannonian plain, the wine had a typical nose of elderflower and white pepper.

On the palate it had bright acidity, some tropical fruit good body and some minerality from limestone soils.

A Grüner Veltliner from Kogl in Kremstal, grown on a mixture of loess, loam and gravel, was riper and fuller. It felt more rounded and fleshier on the palate, but with pure, fresh fruit.

A Riesling from Müller, also from Kremstal, grown on primary rock had a stony minerality and, due to the coolness of the 2010 vintage white peach, greengage and stone fruit on the palate.

A GV from Jurtschitsch-Sonnhof, the Dechant Alte Reben, was from 60 year-old vines grown on loam and loess. This showed less varietal character on the nose with just hints of puy lentil and celery.

However, aged for three months in large oak barrels, it was rich, fat and mouthfilling with good fruit and a depth of flavour.

The GV Berg from Markus Huber is grown on a steep limestone terrace in Traisental where the breezes keep the grapes dry and pest-free - it was fresh but mouthfilling with a depth of flavour and a buttery texture from aging in large, old acacia barrels.

The Riesling from Rabl, from 40 year-old vines grown on gneiss and limestone at altitudes of over 300m was ripe, rounded and fleshy with peach and yellow plum fruit.

Darrel pointed out a slight cellar mustiness which I have noticed before on whites from this area, but did not get on this wine - it comes, I learnt, as a result of spontaneous natural fermentation from the yeasts on the grape skins.

The final white from Lower Austria was a Riesling Donatus from Kurt Angerer - rounded on the palate, it showed elderflower and white peach, with a pureness of fruit from fermentation in stainless steel, an intensity and focus, great depth and a minerality on the finish from the granite and gravel soils.

The final wine was a Sauvignon Zieregg from Tement in Styria - very different from the lower Austrian wines, this was pale in the glass and had a flinty smokiness on the nose from the shell limestone sub-soil.

The palate is concentrated with aromatic verbena and linear acidity, but the wine feels rounded and deep; it is aged for 8 months in large, old barrels and then in steel tanks.

Recommended wine - the Tement Zieregg Sauvignon Blanc for its unique rich smokiness, concentration and rounded acidity.

Tement Zieregg Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 - not currently distributed in the UK but available for €43.95 from Austrian retailer Wein & Co.

I have also recommended wines from Angerer (here) and Huber (here) shown at the LIWF.


Darrel Joseph on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/darreljoseph

London International Wine Fair - http://2011.londonwinefair.com/content

AWMB - http://www.austrianwine.com/

Wein & Co - http://www.weinco.at/

Image credits - © AWMB / Egon Mark

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