This week we’ll push a little deeper into the wonderful world of wine, with a look at a place full of both tradition and edgy innovation. You veterans will remember it, and you younger people probably already know about it.
As a reminder, I’ll be in Italy for most of April. Because of this we’ll have only three eWine lessons in April. Then, the first week of May we’ll celebrate our 250th E Wine of the Week “mini wine lesson”.
This month’s “After Work Wine Tastings” will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Joe’s Bistro, 3061 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville. Wine-loving restaurants like Joe’s make it possible for us to get together and taste great, newly arrived wines for 10 a person for four wines. You can read more about it in James Cripps’ Wine Junkie monthly report at brucecochran.com.
Try a new wine this week!
Vienna may be better known for classical music (Mozart and Beethoven among others, composed great works there), or Wiener Schnitzel (Wien is how the locals spell Vienna), than for wine, but Austria’s beautiful capital on the Danube sits in the midst of some wonderful wine country. In fact, they make wine in some of my favorite styles.
In the north, near the city of Krems, there are delicious Rieslings, somewhat reminiscent of the German Rhiengau’s to which they are sometimes compared, but often fuller-bodied, as well as Gruner Veltliner, a spicy white that deserves to be better known,
In the south, sharing the eastern Alps with Italy, the area around Styria makes fine racy whites, including sauvignon blanc, and other wines that rarely make it out of their homeland. To date, their most famous export has been Arnold Swarzeneggar.
South of Vienna there are many wines that bring Germany to mind, if a little less delicate, as well as serviceable reds.
From north to south in this eastern end of the country, wine is grown nearly everywhere, even within the Vienna city limits in historic heurigen, wine bars that grow their own grapes. A former emperor gave them this special dispensation centuries ago, and they’re still there with wine, food and music. One of my favorites is Beethoven House, where the famous composer composed his famous Ninth Symphony.
But my favorite Austrian red wine region has to be Burgenland and its environs, south and east of Vienna near the border with Hungary. Part of it was, in the past, within Hungary, as is still reflected in local menus. Near Lake Neusiedel, fantastic dessert wines are made around this first of the steppe lakes. Miles long and shallow enough to walk across, the humid environment is perfect for ripening grapes into raisins. Ausbruch is the most unique and treasured dessert wine here. It’s a mirror image of Hungarian Tokay, where instead of raisins being added to the juice, just enough juice is added to raisins to get it to ferment.
The Middle Burgenland, south of the lake, is one of Austria’s best red wine regions. Austria is less known for red wine than for whites, but that’s changed somewhat in recent years. Locally popular reds include St. Laurent and Zweigelt, but my favorite is Blaufrankish (“Blue French”). This grape has many names around Central Europe, the best known probably Lemberger, the name used from Germany to Washington State.
Softly dry, rarely tannic, fruit-centered with little to no emphasis on oak, lively acidity supporting delicious red-fruit flavors, Blaufrankish at its best is intense in flavor without being heavy, a flavorful, food friendly style that is well worth a try. I’m a fan. Lee Edwards Distributing has a good one from Glatzer that could likely make you a fan, too. It’s from the area east of Vienna in the direction of Lake Neusiedel, and it retails for around $20.