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Friday, 14 January 2011

Riesling Terrassen Smaragd 2009‏ - Domäne Wachau

Austrian Riesling Smaragd from what was then Freie Weingärtner Wachau and is now Domäne Wachau was the first white wine I fell in love with - until then, I been hooked on red Bordeaux and had only a passing interest in whites.

Ripe, mouthfilling and yet fully dry, no-one needed to explain its complexity or food friendliness to me - I just thought it was the best thing ever.

For many years, I continued to visit Austria regularly on business where I would have Austrian wines with my dinner in the evenings and, after a visit to Wein & Co on the way to the airport, bring back enough bottles to keep my cellar stocked up until the next visit.

Thanks to the unknowing generosity of my employers, in those years, I gained an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Austria's great wines with Wachau Rieslings, Sauvignon from Styria and dessert wines from Burgenland.

Eventually, however, it was time to move on (professionally - not oenologically) and gradually my supplies were all consumed (almost - I still have one or two special bottles left). But you never forget your first love and so it was, opening up this Riesling Smaragd from Domäne Wachau, a co-operative making wines from vineyards in the beautiful and UNESCO-protected Wachau Valley between Melk and Krems.

As I have noted elsewhere, Riesling and Chardonnay are the world's top two white wine grapes - completely different in style, they are a bit like the Rolling Stones and The Beatles and perhaps divide opinions and loyalties similarly.

For me, Austrian Riesling has always been my favourite, especially when, like this one it is from the steep terraces of the Wachau Valley and is a Smaragd; the top level of quality and ripeness, the name means "emerald" and refers to a local lizard.

Like meeting up with an old friend after many years, everything was as familiar, comfortable and in its right place as it should be.

I can't begin to explain how much I love this wine; it has a complex but understated nose with hints of cellar mustiness, minerality and some beeswax. On the palate it is mouthwateringly crisp, buzzy, taut and focused, backed up by a smooth, minerally, mouthfilling richness, some hints of honey, elderflower and an acidity that is a mixture of cox's apples, conference pears and pineapple.

As taut, precise and muscular as a top athlete, superb balance, great length and a minerally finish that goes on longer than a Rolling Stones world tour.

Superb - absolutely wonderful.

For the trainspotters, with air and a few more degrees warmth, the honey, beeswax and elderflower all come to the fore along with a slight hint of perfumy, floral, botrytis-like richness and a smokiness; these will presumably show more prominently as the wine ages.

We had this with mushroom risotto and roasted chicken, but it is such a food-friendly wine it will go with almost anything - it matches especially with the well-seasoned, modern international style of food as it has the body to stand up to all but the darkest or gamiest of meats, the acidity to cope with seasoning and cut though rich, heavy or reduced sauces and is aromatic enough not to be overpowered by strong flavours.

It really is a wonderful wine.

€12.50 from Domäne Wachau. Provided for review.


Domäne Wachau - http://www.domaene-wachau.at/

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

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