Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Second Glass - Austrian Wine Reviews

You've probably seen a lot of recommendations to pair Austrian wines with Thanksgiving feasts, but according to The Second Glass of Boston, MA, these wines are also good for everything from impressive gifts to panty removers (yes, you read that right.)

So who made the cut? First, the 2007 Berger Grüner Veltliner ($13), imported by Micahel Skurnik Wines. From Niederösterrich (lower,) Austria, Berger is recommended as a beach and party wine, as well as good company to fish. What makes this wine unique is the enclosure method - instead of a traditional cork, the Berger is sealed with what looks like a beer cap.

Definitely made for drinking young, the description reads, "Since this super sipper comes in a 1-liter bottles, it's even less expensive than it looks. Light, crisp and refreshing this might as be Austria's version of lemonade. It rocks flavors of grapefruit and wet stone with a strong, but no overpowering acidity. Grüner goes down easy on hot summer night, you'll be screaming its fun-to-say name on your walk home. Drink liberally with tomato salads, corn on the cob and seafood dishes."

Also on the list is the 2008 Weingut Huber Hugo Grüner Veltliner, also from lower Austria and imported by Boutique Wine Collection ($12.) This wine is recommended as a panty remover and party wine and is also suggested for Asian food pairings such as sushi. The Hugo Grüner has a screw cap enclosure and is described as, "A simple, but addictive wine, the "Huber Hugo" is soft, luscious and refreshing just like the hot little spring fling or holiday hook-up you'll be drinking this with."

Moving on to the 2008 Punky Genau Sparkling Grüner Veltliner imported by Haus Alpenz ($20.) This sparkling wine is labeled as a beach wine, a new years wine and a gift wine -- by far the classiest categories yet. "What's more fun than Grüner Veltliner? Sparkling Grüner Veltliner!..." "...Soft flavors of apple and pear emanate from this light Austrian sparkler. Don't be scared off by the screw cap."

Next on the list is the 2006 Steininger Zweigelt from Kamtal, Austria, the first Zweigelt on the list, and imported by Prescott Wines ($18.) This wine is approved as a beach wine, a barbeque wine and pizza/tomato sauce wine...sign me up! "In 1922, Frits Zweigelt developed a hybrid red supergrape to withstand the harsh climate of Austria. Über dark in color, this is juicy with firm tannins and just a little spicy."

Despite the fact Zweigelt did begin as a hybrid fairly recently, it is now the most widely grown grape in Austria today.

Last, but certainly not least is the 2005 Steininger Grand Crü Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal, Austria, imported by Prescott Wines ($26.) This wine was classified as good company for oysters, the beach and/or good to impress your guests. "The best Grüners are harvested very late in the season. Straw-colored with flavors of peach and pears, this full-bodied wine has a ton of depth and character. Drink with high-end seafood."

If there's one thing to say about late-harvested and dessert wines from Austria it's their incredible balance. Although their honeyed characteristics are sweet on the front of the palate, the acidity counteracts the sugar making these wines a euphoric experience.

Overall, Austria made a great showing, but was it ever a question that they would?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wine Spectator top 100 #45 and #93 belong to Austria

Wine Spectators Top 100 List of 2009 was officially released, in its entirety, today.

Among the top wines were Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kamptal Langenloiser Berg-Vogelsang 2007 at #93 and at #45 Allram Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kamptal Strassertaler 2007.

Both these wines are excellent examples of the quality of wines Austria producers year after year. Although Grüner Veltliner is only now becomming popular in the US, it has taken the market by storm.

Grüner Veltliner is typically characterized as having a racy acidity to it with characteristic aromas and palate stimulation of white pepper and citrus fruit. What really attracts most to Grüner Veltliner is it's uncanny ability to pair with food. Though other grapes may try, Grüner Veltliner is by far one of the most food friendly wines out there, pairing well with seemingly impossible foods such as artichokes and asparagus.

The Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kamptal Langenloiser Berg-Vogelsang 2007 belongs to Weingut Bründlmayer of the Kamptal which, recently, has received an overwhelming about of rewards including Wine & Spirits 'Import Winery of the Year' for 2009. This wine differentiates itself from an average Grüner Veltliner with the inclusion of slight floral and yeast aromas in addition to the typical peppery spice and citrus. This wine is imported by Michael Skurnik Wines and is part of the Terry Theise portfolio.

The Allram Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kamptal Strassertaler 2007 comes from the Weingut Allram, also of the Kamptal. This wine is full of pepper, citrus, snap pea and grapefruit and is an excellent example of textbook Grüner Veltliner. This wine is distributed widely through K & L Wine Merchants, Viaswine and Ibesc Wine Group.

Gaining two of the 100 spots on the list is proof that this growing wine region has made it's place here in the US... truly, we are the lucky ones.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gemischter Satz Glasses

We've all heard of Chardonnay glasses and Merlot glasses, Burgundy glasses and glasses for Rose, but here's a new one: Gemischter Satz glasses. These aren't made by the esteemed Riedel company, instead these are produced by POLKA, self described as a, "young and successful design company from Austria."

Roughly translated, Gemischter Satz means "mixed matter" which describes the many grapes that are blended together to create these wines. These glasses were designed for elegant, every day drinking experiences.

Each glass is made of mouth-blown, Lebmyer crystal and has a genuine story behind it. Retailing for $109, this may be something you want to add to your Christmas list.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sipping Pretty with Vin Divino

Friday was a good afternoon. Just as we were finishing up our tasting of Laurenz V. Grüner Veltliner, the FedEx Delivery Person brought me another box of goodies. This one was from Vin Divino, Ltd. and consisted of: Domaine Wachau Federspiel 'Terrasen' Grüner Veltliner 2008, Domaine Wachau Federspiel 'Terrasen' Riesling 2007, Franz Hirtzberger Federspiel 'Spitzer Steinterassen' Riesling 2008, Franz Hirtzberger Federspiel 'Rotes Tor' Grüner Veltliner 2007 and Kracher Burgenland Cuvee BA 2007. (To review the Wachau Classification System, click here)

I gathered up my coworkers and headed to the conference room.

First the Domaine Wachau Federspiel 'Terrasen' Grüner Veltliner 2008 which showed distinct Grüner characteristics of tart green apple, citrus and white pepper. The Franz Hirtzberger Federspiel 'Rotes Tor' Grüner Veltliner 2007 was similar, but also has an accentuated flavor of under ripe pineapples and was much crisper on the nose.

Onto the Rieslings, the Domaine Wachau Federspiel 'Terrasen' Riesling 2007 showed a nose of unripe stone fruits with lemon undertones, followed by citrus and tart peaches on the palate. Contrastingly, the Franz Hirtzberger Federspiel 'Spitzer Steinterassen' Riesling 2008 was much fuller in body and was filled with ripe flavors of peach and nectarine. Though completely different, I found both flavor profiles to be quite enjoyable.

Then we got to the afternoon's real prize (it was so good that after a couple sips, we decided to close the office early.) The Kracher Burgenland Cuvee BA 2007 was full of honeyed, ripe stone fruits, but with a balanced acidity that led to a delightful, lingering finish. Austrian sweet and dessert wines are some of the best I've come across. Quite often, sweet wines can be overpowering in their sugar content and sickeningly sweet after only a very small portion. However, I have found that these Austrian gems are sweet up front but then lead into an intensely pleasurable experience.

Before October 1st, I had very little experience with Austrian wines other than the signature Grüner Veltliner, and even then, hadn't had the opportunity to experience its full range of potential. However, in the past month and a half I've tasted so many delightful wines that I'm sorry I didn't discover this country sooner. In short, this has been a fantastic month and half and I can't wait to see what else comes along.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Love Affair with Grüner Veltliner continues with Laurenz V Singing and Charming

GrünerVeltliner is synonymous with the Austrian Wine market. Just as Argentina has adopted Malbec and for Rioja: Tempranillo, Austria is famous for this incredibly versatile, crisp grape that is currently at the top of my list.

As a sushi and asparagus lover, I am incredibly pleased to see Grüner Veltliner as the wine of choice for these foods. What's even better? Despite the cooler weather GrünerVeltliner isn't out of style. The crisp acidity and light body of the wine enhances the natural flavors in Thanksgiving turkey and vegetable sides.

I had the opportunity to taste two Grüner Veltliner from the Laurenz V winery produced by Lenz Moser III on Friday afternoon: Singing 2008 and Charming 2006 (Folio Fine Wine Partners)on Friday afternoon, which turn out to be a perfect start to the weekend and a perfect pick-me-up for such a rainy and unpleasant day. Laurenz V winery focuses solely on white wines and is backed by six generations of wine makers.

Despite being the same grape, these wines showed significant variation in flavor profile and each have a story all their own.

Singing is a collaboration between Laurenz V. and his daughter, now 6th generation wine maker, Sophie. The wine was packaged to appeal to a younger generation - and that is does. The fun white and orange label alludes to a young, vibrant wine that fills the bottle. The wine is light in body and is full of young citrus fruits, pineapple and spicy white pepper.

On the other hand, the older and more sophisticated Charming, from the Kamptal region expresses defined wine personality and is packaged to appeal to women. The wines aroma is definitively light and airy, but the palate shows a rich, pleasurable quality that has incredible length. Defined, ripe pineapple and green apple fruits add to this wines "charm" as Laurenz V.'s signature wine.

Appropriately named, Singing and Charming, Laurenz V. believes wine is made for enjoyment and stands behind their motto, "Hunting for White Wine Lovers."

Luckily I have two bottles of each, so I can't wait to indulge again!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spit and Twit at City Winery - Highlighting Austrian Wines

Sunday's Spit & Twit held at the City Winery, hosted by Wine Twits, was a great success- great wines, great people, great atmosphere- what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

In case you haven't heard Spit & Twit was based upon a unique platform. A special portion of the Twitterverse was set aside for attendees to tweet their thoughts on the given wines tasted that day. Monitors were set up throughout the venue to show the posts and comments participants were tweeting in real time.

Overall the crowd was full of budding wine enthusiasts, most attendees had little to no wine experience at all. A few industry insiders filtrated the crowd, but the majority of the audience was simply there to learn something about wine and have a great time - it's amazing how social media can bring every thing together!

Austrian Wines were well represented by Darcy and Huber Selections and Emerald Wines offering a variety of wines from a variety of regions in Austria: Mittelburgland, Vienna, Neusiedlersee and Kamptal.

Darcy & Huber featured their infamous Viennese Gemischter Satz from Weingut Christ and Rotes Haus as well as Christ 'Der Vollmondwein' Weissbrungunder (Pinot Blanc), Rotes Haus 'Nussberg' Traminer, Weinbau Jutta Ambrositsch 'Reisenberg' Gruner Veltliner and two other wines not listed in the program from Weinbau Jutta Ambrositch 'Rosengartel' Riesling and 'Oberer' Riesling. It's safe to say these wines were a crowd favorite, the table was constantly swarming with people.

On the other side of the venue, Emerald Wines also found themselves inundated with tasters and questions. Emerald Wines poured a Gemischter Satz, theirs from Weingut Wieninger. In it's company was the Szigeti NV Brut (perfect for holiday entertainment!), Fred Loimer 'LOIS' Gruner Veltliner, and finally two reds; the Heinrich Zweigelt and the Neckenmarkt Frank Blaufrankisch.

Austrian wines are especially popular this month in New York City, as it is Austrian Wine Month until Nov. 22. Besides that, it's no wonder that both the Austrian wine tables were a tremendous hit. These quality wines are the perfect company for holiday entertainment and meals, not to mention the wines themselves are simply spectacular!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Austrian Wine Fact of the Day: The Wachau Classification System

The Wachau classification system is as follows:

1. Steinfeder (maximum of 11.5% abv)
2. Federspiel (11.5% abv-12.5% abv)
3. Smaragd (Min 12.5% abv, max 9g/litre of residual sugars)

All wines produced in the Wachau fall under one of these categories in addition to the National Austrian Classification System.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Austrian Wine Fact of the Day: Kremstal

Today's Austrian wine fact is Kremstal, particularly noted for Gruner Veltliner and Riesling and full bodied reds. The Kremstal's terroir is "soft loess" (half stone, half soil) of clay and limestone as the region spans a significant portion of the Danube.

The region is located in between Kamptal and the Wachau. Noted producers are: Salomon-Undhof (Michael Skurnik Wines), Weingut Malat (Winemonger), Weingut Martin Nigl (Michael Skurnik Wines), the Weingut Stadt Krems (Emerald Wines of Winebow) and the biggest producer, Weinkellier Lenz Moser (Folio Fine Wine Partners)

You can find many or all of these great wines at local shops near you!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Austrian Wine Fact of the Day - Blaufränkisch

In honor of Austrian Wine Month in NYC (Oct. 25th-Nov. 22nd,) I'm starting a series called "Austrian Wine Fact of the Day." This series will include one varietal, region or wine making style per post in reference to Austrian wine.

Let's start out with something simple: The Varietal Blaufränkisch.

Blaufränkisch is characterized as having notes of blackberry, cherry and cinnamon spice with great acidity and medium tannins.

Blaufränkisch is deep in fruit in youth, but develops more complex aromas and texture with aging; often vinified in small oak barrels.

This grape takes on distinct characteristics from the terroir. For example, in Mittelburgenland DAC, located in the Burgenland region next to Hungary, Blaufränkisch tastes of wild berries. In Eisenberg, located in Südburgenland of the Burgenland region, Blaufränkisch taste of mineral-based, spicy flavoring. Both Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland are known as the “Blaufränkischland,” but this grape can also be found in lower parts of Austria.

Blaufränkisch is the perfect grape for the fall weather. The spicy, fruity characteristics of the grape are great company for roast turkey – just in time for Thanksgiving!