WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


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Achtung Blaufränkisch!

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.

Link to map of wine region

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.img_7943

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.

The lunch:

img_7940Michelin-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

img_7936Blaufränkisch 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!


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Austria’s best kept wine secret: The Südsteiermark

The Südsteiermark (Southern Styria)is a stunning region in south-east Austria. Here picturesque hills and valleys are carpeted in vineyards punctuated only by the occasional field of pumpkins and shady patch of woodland.

sudstier vineyardsThe region is perhaps Austria’s best kept wine secret with the vast majority of its wine is consumed on home turf & only a handful of pioneering producers exporting overseas. Südsteiermark’s premium wines are much appreciated by Viennese restaurants & wine collectors but I’m pretty sure that the majority of these tasty wines are consumed on site in the numerous wineries themselves that occupy prime hill top locations whilst enjoying picture postcard views and tucking into local culinary treats.

The region’s beauty really gives Tuscany a run for its money and offers a similarly seductive synthesis of food and wine and scenery. Whilst many serious wines are produced here wine is very much part of a wider offering.

 

Wineries have always been open to visitors serving their own wines in outdoor gardens overlooking the vineyards.  Traditionally these Buschenschank (taverns) were only allowed to pour their own wines and serve food grown and made on the premises. However since I first visited the region 25 years ago Brettljause, a simple platter of cold meats, cheeses & pickled vegetables with rye bread, was pretty much the staple fayre.  However menu’s in even the most basic Buschenschank have now been expanded to include such delights as fresh salads dressed with local pumpkin seed oil & the local speciality Stierische Backhendl (fried breaded chicken made from ‘happy’ local hens).  Look out too for a range of super dishes made with Eierschwammerl (chanterelle mushrooms). Many of the wineries also let rooms on a bed and breakfast basis so that you can stay right in the heart of the action and there are an increasing number of boutique hotels with gourmet restaurants perched on prime spots for those seeking a bit more luxury.skoffThe Südsteiermark is best known wines for white wines and in particular Sauvignon Blanc which seems to sit in a satisfying spot somewhere between the steel & mineral of the Loire and the greater florality & fruitiness of New Zealand.  Traditional whites include the fragrant & fresh early drinking Gelber Muskateller, a perfect aperitif especially when made into a sparkler, Welschriesling, another fresh food friendly white, Weissburgunder (Pinot blanc) with more body but good acidity and the perfect fit for Backhendl and of course a bit of Gruener Veltliner.  Chardonnay seems to do well and often comes with a bit of oak too. There are also tasty reds too often blends of indigenous grapes like Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt with international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot.unnamed (1)

The vineyards go up to about 400m above sea level and although continental enjoy a long ripening season thanks to an increasingly pronounced range between daytime and night time temperatures reaching up to 18 degrees towards harvest.

 

With so many Buschenschank and Weingut to visit each offering so much good eating and drinking the Styrian tourist board have helpfully joined the dots on the map up with a series of picturesque wine trails.  The main Weinstraßefarmhouse runs from Leutschach to Gamlitz & Ehrenhausen. Running largely along a ridge it connects many of the best winemakers and the loveliest locations.  Instead of driving the route far nicer choice is to ramble along one of the many walking routes also mapped out which allow one to pass right through the vineyards & by quaint farmhouses complete clucking chickens & vintage tractors.

ebikeHowever to cover a wider sweep of the area there is no better form of transport than the e-bike.  Modern electric bikes flatten out the many steep hill climbs but take nothing away from the pleasure of rolling through this fabulous country side following part of the Weinstrassen Tour for bikes.  Maps of all three types of trail are widely available and extremely well sign posted on the ground making it super user friendly.

Accommodation.

We’ve stayed in three places over the years and enjoyed them all:

Weingut & Buschenschank Tinnauer picturesquely situated on the bike route near Gamlitz. http://www.weingut-tinnauer.at/

Skoff Original, the home of Sauvignon Blanc and right on the spectacular Weinstraße. Stunning panoramic views & great food. http://skofforiginal.com/?lang=en

bird scarerHotel Gut Pössnitzberg.  A stylish hotel with heated outdoor pool & cool glass box dining room overlooking the vineyards. The hotel is owned by the Polz Winery and there is a tasting of their wines, including some great traditional method fizz, for guests at 5.00pm each day.  E bikes available. http://www.poessnitzberg.at/

Winzerhotel Wurzenberg is a modern hotel in a spectacular location but we haven’t visited it yet!

Places to eat:

All the above serve great food.  However a visit to the Südsteiermark should definitely include a traditional spit and sawdust buschenschank.

There are many to choose from and it’s worth asking for a local recommendation. We enjoyed Eory Buschenschank. Great location, traditional fayre and friendly landlord.

buschenschank01

For more information visit:

Tourist information:  http://www.steiermark.com/en/styria/regions/southern-western-styria

For accommodation, restaurants & wineries: http://www.suedsteirischeweinstrasse.at/

 

On the wine region: http://www.austrianwine.com/our-wine/wine-growing-regions/steiermark-styria/unnamed (16)

Getting there:

It’s about a 2 ½ hour drive from Vienna

Or 45 minutes from Graz international airport.

ENJOY!


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Annual Austrian Wine Tasting

The whites on show were mostly 2013, a warm year with ripe fruit, making the wines from Kremstal & Kamptal even more lush & inviting than usual, for me though the slightly fresher more structured wines of the Wachau shone brightest.

Bründlmayer, Kamptal.
These are always very seductive wines, soft & open but with great underlying structure.

Klassik ‘Kamptaler Terrassen’ Grüner Veltliner 2013.
This is a great immediately accessible lighter body wine, lovely broad fruit, touch of mineral, enough freshness & lift and medium length. Lots of drinking pleasure. (top pick)

Grüner Veltliner Loiser Berg 2013
A delicious blend of herbs, ground spice, minerality and ripe green fruit, more weight, great length. (top pick)

Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben 2013.
A fuller bodied wine, ground herbs & spice with intense fruit and creamy texture. Lovely.

Grüner Veltliner Lamm 2013
This is a fully bodied concentrated wine with a Burgundian lick of wood, intense ripe stone fruit, compact and age worthy.

F.X.Pichler, Wachau.

Very sought after wines with an international reputation, deservedly so because the wines are consistently outstanding.

Grüner Veltliner, Loibner Klostersatz Federspiel 2013.
Fantastic to see some Federspiel wines on show, these light to mid body style Grüners (with less than 13% alcohol) for me offer superb drinking pleasure, top notch examples such as this have all the floral, mineral and fruit complexity you could wish for in their youth. Great balance and length.

Grüner Veltliner, Loibner Steinertal Smaragd 2013.
A bit reticent compared to the Federspiel, floral, white peach, intense on the palate tight fruit stoney mineral. Great structure that will no doubt unwind over time.

Grüner Veltliner, Dürnsteiner Liebenberg Smaragd 2013.
More giving with stone fruit & ripe pear on the nose, mouth filling fuller body with perfectly balanced acidity, delicious long and really sexy.

Riesling, Burgstall Federspiel 2013
Another superb Federspiel, riveting, super fresh, tight mineral, compact fruit, great balance and satisfying length. Leaves you wanting more (on a west facing terrace at sun down!). (top pick)

Riesling, Steinertal Smaragd 2013
Nice tight mineral, fresh white peach, compact core full of promise & great length. Super refined.

Riesling, Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Smaragd 2013
Broader and softer than the Steinertal, ripe stone fruit, subtle herby spice, good acidity & incredible length.

Weingut Joseph Ehmoser, Wagram.

Great value quality wines.

Grüner Veltliner, von den Terrassen. 2013.
Nice ripe ear, floral, medium acidity and length. Good quality everyday drinking. 2013 was a warm year and so this vintage has a bit less of the fresh bite that I particularly enjoy in a Grüner.

Grüner Veltliner, Hohenberg, 2013.
Made in concrete eggs that keep the wine in motion and contact with the lees, sure enough the wine has a nice creamy texture, lovely spicy notes, very good.

Riesling vom Gelben Löss 2013.
A round and accessible fruit driven riesling, good mineral notes, round body and great length. Will repay a couple years in the cellar to develop some of those classic riesling characteristics.

Weissburgunder, 2013.
Fuller bodied and riper than the GV & Rieslings rich fruit, spicy, quite big and intense. These can be age worthy wines developing honey and dried fruit and spicy notes.

Knoll, Wachau

One of the top wine makers in the Wachau, producing outstanding traditional wines, a personal favourite. It would have been nice to see some of their Federspiels which are extraordinarily good.

Grüner Veltliner Ried Kreutles Smaragd, 2013.
Floral nose, hydrangea, peach, ground spice, pear and gooseberry, perfect balance and good length. Lovely. (The Federspiel Knoll produces from this vineyard is always drop dead gorgeous but in short supply).

Grüner Veltliner Reid Loibenberg Smaragd, 2013.
Intense mineral and spicy notes, concentrated ripe stone fruit, quite full bodied & very long.

Grüner Veltliner Ried Schütt Smaragd, 2013.
The Schütt vineyard seems to produce consistently beautiful refined wines. This has a nose of sweet white flowers, ripe pear, nectarine, superb balance and compact body, long. Fantastic. (top pick).

Riesling Pfaffenberg, Kabinett, 2013. (this is just outside the border of Wachau in Niederoesterreich. The Kabinett is equivalent to Federspiel style).
Lovely tight fruit, soft texture, bright acidity and good length. Lighter body. Enjoyable now but with good future.

Riesling Ried Kellerberg Smaragd, 2013.
Ripe apple, pear, hawthorne and spice, intense on the palate, high acidity, tightly coiled. Excellent.

Riesling Ried Schütt Smaragd. 2013.
Tight nose, floral, tropical fruit, compact body, good balance again tightly coiled but deep and refined.

Petra Unger, Kremstall.

Grüner Veltliner, ‘Q’ 2013.
A light fresh wine with green apples, classic touch of pepper and good lift.

Grüner Veltliner Reserve, Gottschelle, 2013.
More substance than ‘Q’ nice ripe pear, crisp apple, medium body and enough complexity to sustain one’s interest.

Grüner Veltliner, Alte Reben Oberfeld, 2013.
Old vines in deep sandy soils giving a intense and complex wine, fully bodied and demanding.

Riesling, Classic Hinters Kirchl, 2013.
Lovely rich and spicy riesling with great fresh acidity really delicious. (top pick).

Riesling Reserve Steiner Gaisberg, 2013.
Old vines, more classic riesling character, intense, complex and long.

Grüner Veltliner Eiswein Oberfeld, 2012.
Unusual to have GV ice wine and something very special, intensely sweet but with good acidity, complex, poached spiced pear, very very long. Superb. (top pick)

Stad Krems,Kremstal.

Grüner Veltliner Loessterrassen 2014
Nice fruity, medium light body, rounded & soft, medium length.

Grüner Veltliner Klassik Weinzierlberg. 2013.
More structure, light fruit and ground spicer, god acidity.

Grüner Veltliner Reserve Stein. 2013.
A selection from two vineyards near Stein, floral, ripe pear, balanced with good length.

Riesling Steinterrassen, 2012.
Good freshness, medium light body, medium length. May fill out a bit more with a year or two more?

Riesling Reserve Schieferterrassen, 2013.
Lovely ripeness, lots of fruit, touch of mineral and medium acidity. Good length.

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal.

Grüner Veltliner Loessterrassen, 2013.
Light, crisp GV with a soft texture, great everyday drinking.

Grüner Veltliner Reserve Steinsetz, 2013.
Ripe pear, bit of ground pepper & spice, quite intense, medium acidity ad good length.

Grüner Veltliner Reserve Renner, 2013. (Reserve is equivalent to Smaragd, 13% +)
Again concentrated, ripe and a little heavy, good length.

Grüner Veltliner Reserve Lamm, 2013.
Vines are trained in a lyra form to maximise ripening, concentrated, ripe stone fruit, peach, even pineapple notes, full body & very long.

Grüner Veltliner Reserve Tradition, 2012.
This wine spends longer in inert large oak barrels allowing it to breath. Flowers and peach on the nose, wide and rounded on the palate full body but great fresh acidity ( 2012 was a more classic year). (top pick).

Riesling Reserve Gaisberg, 2013.
Floral nose, big spicy full bodied, medium acidity.

Riesling Reserve Heiligenstein, 2103.
More linear structured, compact fruit, medium body and acidity, long finish.

Hirtzberger, Wachau.

Grüner Veltliner Rotes Tor Federspiel, 2013.
Lovely mix of ripe pear, ground spice, stones and enough freshness and length. Excellent. (top pick).

Grüner Veltliner Axpoint Smaragd, 2012.
Really ripe green and stone fruit, intense, minerals great balance & freshness, a top notch Wachau GV. (again 2012 just seems to have that extra freshness and structure).

Grüner Veltliner Honivogl Smaragd 2012.
More opulent & fruit driven than the Axpoint, very well balanced and complex.

Riesling Steinterassen Federspiel 2013.
Light to medium riesling with medium acidity and length.

Riesling Hochrain Smaragd 2011.
A wine with great structure, intense & tightly coiled at the moment, good length and promise.

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Visit the Wachau in Austria

20131028_152456We have visited the Wachau on the Danube in Austria many times over the years, normally at the end of May for a cycle ride along the Danube, lunch and tasting or two at one of the many wonderful wineries lining the valley.   We’ve also been a few times in the summer and when it is hot enough one can stop at one of the sand banks that form on the river and revive with a refreshing dip in the Danube as it flows past.

photo 1This year however we happened to visit at the end of October on a gorgeous sunny day and the steep vineyards of the Wachau valley were aflame with autumnal reds and yellows.  From October to November the harvest is in full swing so wineries are pressed for time. Whilst they are still welcoming their doors are only open by arrangement and tastings are more hurried affairs than usual.

20131028_152906Instead of our usual cycle along the river this time we parked in Spitz below the Tausendeimerberg, hill (so called because it produces 1000 clay jars of wine) and followed a circular walk through the vineyards behind the town. With the bustle of the harvest, vivid colours and stunning views of the river winding down the valley this is a great time of year to visit.

It’s not all wine either as there are the ruins of the various robber baron castles to visit dotted up and down the hills in one of which Richard the Lion Heart was held for ransom on his way back from the crusades.

Obviously a few bottles were purchased and a tasting worked into the day.  At Weingut Knoll we heard of how earlier it the year in the Danube flooded.  The villages next the river were submerged for a few days, including the valley floor vineyards and the wine cellars where the previous year’s vintage of smargd was still in the large barrels and had to be tied down in position. As the barrels are of course water proof and the water receded after only a few days the wine was not affected.  Those that I tasted attested to this.

The Wachau is only about 50 minutes’ drive from Vienna and can also be reached by train so combines nicely with a city break.  Here are a few tips and links to help you on your way…

General tourist information in English: http://alt.donau.com/donau/wn/?ln=EN

Spitz vineyard walk: http://www.donau.com/de/donau-niederoesterreich/ausflug-bewegen/bewegung/karten-touren-finden/detail/weinwandern-spitz-robert-prosser-und-weingut-franz-hirtzberger/6549636/fee1693155c22cf71221412165fb9a89/

http://www.spitz-wachau.com/de/

20131028_153309Cycling on the Danube.  A lot of hotels hire bikes but here are also a couple of places in Krems where you can hire bikes for the day.  You can either take one of the cruise ships or the local train down to Willendorf or one of the other towns further west and then spend the day cycling back at a leisurely pace.  There is a dedicated cycle path close to the river all the way:

http://www.lower-austria.info/portal/en/?tt=NOEEN_R35&id=98770

Restaurant Loibnerhof run by the part of the Knoll family with excellent food and a great wine list featuring mature Knoll Greuners and Rieslings.  Try the Tafelspitz an Austrian speciality of tender beef served with horseradish and apple. In the autumn roast goose (Ganse) with red cabbage is in season: http://www.loibnerhof.at/

Jamek is a well-known Wachau wine producer and has a great restaurant in Joching practically on the cycle path, with a lovely garden, great menu and as one might expect a full selection of their own wines: http://www.weingut-jamek.at/restaurant.php?id=13

For a review of wine makers and wines from Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal see our past tastings page.

photoMost wine makers are very welcoming but it is necessary to make an appointment beforehand.  However two that I have visited many times on spec are Domaine Wachau a large producer who make excellent wines (the Terraces GV from Waitrose is a perennial favourite) and Weingut Schmeltz who have a very groovy tasting room and excellent wines cover looking the vineyards in Joching.

http://www.domaene-wachau.atc

http://www.schmelzweine.at/cms/?page_id=11

When WC visited the area we stayed at Hotel Pfeffel which has great views over the Danube and has a lovely roof top pool: http://www.pfeffel.at/


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Austrian Wines annual London tasting

536080_205432296265500_608335965_nGreat tasting of Austrian wines today, really high standard of quality on show with some outstanding highlights: The wines of FX Pichler were stunning, those of Knoll as always,  Brundlmayer, Domain Wachau also great greuners and rieslings.

I was stunned by the wines of Gritsch Mauritiushof which were complex and inviting having tasted the 2010s at the winery where they were very closed and austere.

Wieninger’s Pinot Noir Select 2010 was fantastic and the whole selection of Weingut Gesellmann red wines were brilliant. Finally I was delighted to find Weingut Schmeltz of the Wachau presenting their brilliant wines having visited them at their stunning wine tasting room in Joching a few years ago.


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The wines of Austria spring tasting – Highgate, London

Welcome wine:

  • Domaine Wachau Terrace. Lovely, clean, crisp, minerally, excellent value. Our wine of the month in June 2011. Available from Waitrose.

Round 1:

  • Lagler smaragd Riesling/Weissburgunder/Gruner Veltliner

Subtle differences the pinot blanc, which was more acidic. The riesling slightly honeyed, ripe apricots. The gruner minerally crisp.

Round 2:

  • Emmerich Knoll – Federspiel  gruner veltliner2010 and gruner veltliner ried Loibenberg smaragd vinothefullung.

Federspiel crisp young mineral quality.The smaragd full luscious oily viscous honeyed superb.

Break for Tafelspitz.

Round 3:

  • Weingut Brundlymayer Ried Kaferberg smaragd Gruner veltliner 2002 V 2009

Both full bodied honeyed lush wines. The 2002 particularly smooth, rounded. Lacks the crispness of the young ones and not fresh but a great embodiment of the best terroir.

Round 4:

  • Lagler Eiswein Neuberger 2003 harvested christmas eve
  • Berenauslese Riesling 200 served with Birgit’s Apfel Strudel

Impressive array of wines and food 18 guests. Other great wines to mention ,which we plan to introduce to future tastings are the amazing Brundlymayer Rose Brut and the superb Brundlymayer Red Lamm 2009.