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Sunday, 25 March 2012

Domäne Wachau at Annual Austrian Tasting‏

When I lived in Vienna, and later when I went back regularly on business, Domäne Wachau were some of my favourite Austrian Wines.

Based in Dürnstein in the UNESCO-protected Wachau, it was also one of my favourite places to visit for a stroll on a sunny day during one of Austria's long summers.

The Wachau is a meandering stretch of the Danube around 50 miles upriver from Vienna with picture-postcard pretty villages nestling at the foot of steeply-terraced hillsides. The different aspects, soils and air currents creating a fascinating set of micro-climates and terroirs that have not yet been mapped in any book I have read.

And whilst the very top Wachau producers may make only single-vineyard wines, their prices also reflect this. By contrast, Domäne Wachau's entry-level wines are blended from a range of vineyards or terraces in the Wachau and priced accordingly.

That said, with an increasing focus on terroir, there is also a number of single-vineyard wines in their portfolio.

Heinz Frischengruber
At last month's Annual Tasting of Austrian Wines in London, I got to sample some new vintages with oenologist Heinz Frischengruber who started by explaining that 2011 had been a much warmer year than the difficult 2010 vintage, resulting in wines that are easier to understand, honest and more open.

We started with a mid-level Federspiel "Terrassen" GV 2011 - ripe and fruity, this is drinking well now.

The Federspiel "Terrassen" Riesling showed stone fruit and wet stones on the nose. On the palate, there is lemon and lime fruit, a balanced sweet-sour acidity and a minerally finish.

The grapes for the Smaragd Achtleiten GV 2010 were not picked until November 3rd. Neutral on the nose, the palate shows ripe fruit sweetness and balanced acidity, whilst a mouthfilling weightiness develops on the palate. It feels linear, focused and pure with a minerally finish and has significant ageing potential.

The Smaragd Kellerberg Riesling 2009 (warmer than 2010), shows a hint of botrytis on the nose; full and creamy on the palate, it has ripe yellow stone fruit, a smokey toastiness and a minerally finish.

The sweet Beerenauslese 2009 white blend is mainly GV and Riesling in the blend - golden in the glass, it is fresh and light with apricotty fruit and a noticeable minerality on the palate that comes as something of a surprise initially.

Recommended Wines

Smaragd, meaning emerald and referring to a green lizard native to the Wachau, is the top level of wines for this sub-region.

So, whilst all the wines here were lovely, it is perhaps no surprise that the best were the two Smaragds, the Achtleiten GV 2010 and the Kellerberg Riesling 2009.

Domäne Wachau's wines are distributed in the UK by Alliance Wine.

The Federspiel Terrassen is available at Cambridge Wine Merchants - see my more detailed review here.


Domäne Wachau - www.domaene-wachau.at/ 
Alliance Wine - www.alliancewine.co.uk/
Cambridge Wine Merchants - http://www.cambridgewine.com/

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