Alert! Austria’s other great grape Blaufränkisch turns out, like its sister Grüner Veltliner, to be an amazing food wine.
This was beautifully demonstrated at a recent lunch hosted by Leithaberg DAC paired a selection of the region’s top wines with HKK Hakkasan’s equally top Chinese tasting menu.
Where, you may be wondering is Leithaberg (pronounced Light-a-bear -gh)…… in Austria of course as I’m sure our well healed readers know only too well. The appellation (DAC) is at the far eastern end of the country close to lake Neusiedler & the Hungarian border. Not to be confused with Neusiedlersee DAC which is on the other side of the lake and also boarders Hungary. The Neusiedlersee is of course the lake that provides the perfect conditions for noble rot allowing wine makers Alois Kracher and Feiler Artinger to produce amazing sweet wines of international repute. However don’t be confused as these don’t fall into either DAC region and are normally just labelled from Burgenland.
Anyway now that that is all clear the important thing to remember is that the wines of Leithaberg are delicious and astonishingly good with Asian cuisine. Austria’s wunderkind Gruener Veltliner now regularly appears on restaurant wine lists in the capital because it is so versatile with food, but look beyond this grape and you will find that Weissburgunder (pinot blanc) and Blaufränkisch (one of Austria’s indigenous reds) are equally great food wines. This was amply demonstrated at the lunch hosted by Leithaberg DAC at HKK Hakkasan’s restaurant in the City.
Leithaberg DAC produces Chardonnay, Greuner Veltliner, Neuburger, Weissburgunder & Blaufränkisch but the wines that shone for me were the last two grape varieties.
Weissburgunder is made in a range of styles from simple unoaked, dry full bodied wine with citrus, mineral & sometimes slightly salty character to more complex, textured, spicy and flinty offerings from old vines that may have seen the inside of large old oak barrels. The range of wines on offer at this tasting all had a good twist of acidity and wet stone character no doubt thanks to the schist & shelly lime stone hills and cool nights thanks to the lake.
Blaufränkisch comes in many styles and is often blended with other grapes but I was delighted to find that the majority of the wines on show were 100% Blaufränkisch and only subtly oaked if at all. For me this pure style shows the grape’s delicious rounded fruit & savoury spice character lifted by freshness at its best. I love the entry level blended wines which are so approachable and reliably tasty but the grape also produces great single vineyard wines with more structure and plenty of layers of fruit, spice, wet stones and sometimes blood. These wines age well too as the wines at lunch showed.
Michelin-starred Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee and his kitchen at HKK put on a great menu to showcase their super refined Chinese cuisine.
Dongji Wagyu beef mushroom, shiitake mushrooms with pickled vegetables, onion, mooli .
Chardonnay Leithaberg DAC 2015, Weingut Esterhazy.
A concentrated citrus chardonnay that stood up to the pickled vegetables.
Gruener Veltliner Himmelreich 2013, Weingut Sommer.
Fresh but with some body and great structure, nice mineral wet stone and grapefruit pith. This wine worked as a brilliant foil to the doughy fake mushroom filled with beef and the real fungi.
Zhang Dim sum Trilogy. Prawn and seaweed dumpling, king crab and dry scallop dumpling, label Rouge chicken and pickled Chinese leaves puff.
Weissburgunder Golden Erd 2012, Weingut Tinhof.
Floral medium body, with a bit of spice which resonated with the Asian spices in the dumplings.
Weissburgunder Leithaberg 2010, Weingut Heinrich.
A lovely structured wine with great tension and lift but the body to cope with the delicious seafood flavours of the Dim sum. This outstanding combination was over far too quickly & is now firmly lodged in the memory. This is obviously why Pinot Blanc exists!
Signature Cherry Wood Peking Duck. Chef Tong’s speciality served in three parts, smoked crispy skin, outer meat with hoi sin sauce & rich inner meat.
Blaufränkisch Altenberg 2012, Weingut Hans & Christine Nittnaus.
Floral, ripe plum, great balance and a savoury, spicy finish. Wow these wines are the perfect pair to hoi sin duck! The savoury & plumb flavours in both the wine & dish complement each other but the wine has enough structure & lift to cope with the fatty meat.
Blaufränkisch Leithaberg 2010, Weingut Nehrer.
Mushrooms, white pepper, red and black fruits on the nose, good body and more fruit and spice in the mouth, complex & delicious the just resonates with the smoky crispy duck skin.
Served on their own
Blaufränkisch Goldberg 2005, Weingut Prieler
Nice development, cherry, baked fruit, good balance, soft tannins, engaging & long. Shows how well these approachable and friendly wines mature & develop in complexity.
Blaufränkisch Leithaberg 2006, Weingut Anita & Hans Nittnaus.
Characteristic ripe plum and cake spice, enjoyable but not sure if 2006 was a particularly strong year?
Lamb cannon with water chestnut, salted egg yolk and lotus root.
Blaufränkisch Gritschenberg, Weingut 2008 Altenberger
Mature, spicy a wide spectrum of fruit, freshness and rounded tannins, the age & tertiary notes work well with the subtle flavours of the lamb dish.
Blaufränkisch Leithaberg 2010, Weingut Wagentristl
Mature, cloves, stewed rhubarb, stewed plum, spices. Again the aged notes work well with the dish.
What a great demonstration of how well wine can be paired with Chinese food. No more beer or jasmine tea for me!