WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


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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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New Zealand Wine Annual Tasting 2015

A tricky tasting with many wines appearing closed, a root day or are New Zealand’s maturing vines beginning to produce wines that behave just as capriciously in their youth as the best of the old world?

New Zealand undoubtedly produces some of the worlds premium wines and what makes this all the more extraordinary is that it does so from relatively young vines and in the context of a fair bit of climatic variation from year to year. At a tasting 18 months ago to celebrate 10 years of Craggy Range Te Muna pinot noir Steve Smith MW was confident that after a decade the vines were beginning to show their full character. So in theory the wines should just get better and better, no pressure then!

With 474 wines from 103 producers on show and only an hour and a half window I therefore thought the best thing to do was focus on a few old favourites to see how they were developing and what the current vintages are like.

Felton Road Central Otago

Felton Road Elms Chardonnay 2013.
Crisp citrus, ripe pear, lovely texture, this wine has substance but also great freshness & good length. Delicious & great value. (No oak but aged in old barrels to soften and round it out).

Felton Road Chardonnay Bannockburn 2013.
A captivating succession of citrus, lemon & lime, stoney mineral notes, a whiff of white flowers and just a hint of bakery and toast. Great complexity and length, at whole lot of wine for the price. (Again more Chablis than Cote d’Or with only 8% new wood).

Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay 2013.
My notes read: ‘OMG this is fantastic!’ so it was pretty good. Again citrus, ripe green apples, a good lick of minerals, very intense at this stage with great balance and long lingering finish. Thrilling and with plenty of ageing potential. Grand Cru in terms of quality, Nigel Greening founder of Felton Road believes that whilst NZ pinots are already internationally recognised the Chardonnays are now ready to sit at the top table too.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn 2013.
This wine strikes a great balance between forward tasty ripe fruit and a nice vegital backbone, finishing with lashings of spice and wood. Reliably delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point 2013.
True to this vineyard’s character this wine is spicy, seductive and forward. Ripe red fruits, cake spices and a lush mouth feel, nice long finish. I always wonder how this will age, having started out so delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert 2013.
Again the consistent character of this vineyard comes through, quite distinct from the Cornish Point, although the clones and vinification are exactly the same. More compact with great balance, clean fruit, perfume with a nice savoury core and great length. Fantastic. One to tuck away for a few years and great value when compared with premier cru Burgundy.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 2013.
A lovely delicate balance of confected strawberry, cinnamon spice, real depth and complexity & great freshness and length.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2013.
This has an earthy, meaty nose with ripe black cherry, intense and primary, fuller bodied with a caressing mouth feel and just enough freshness to lift the very long finish. Amazing.

Craggy Range

Craggy Range Avery Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough. 2014
A great fresh gooseberry driven SB with a touch of elderflower and cracking acidity.

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough.
2014.

This has more substance, stone fruit and a nice creaminess, but still all the crisp freshness that you would hope for, very satisfying.

Craggy Range Chardonnay Kidnappers Vineyard. Hawke’s Bay 2012.
Vibrant ripe citrus, touch of honey and a lovely saline whiff of the sea shore. Great balance and freshness, the tiny touch of oak very subtle.

Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough. 2012.
This seemed a little closed down and I have noticed that although they start open and inviting MZ some PNs seem to close down and become more reticent after a couple of years. Red fruit and a vegital base, good balance and nice finish. This is normally a real crowd pleaser with pure fruit and a heady floral perfume as evidenced by our 10 year tasting finishing with the 2011 two years ago.

Craggy Range Pinot Noir Aroha Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough. 2011.
A selection from the finest parcels with some whole bunch fermentation. Quite primal with earthy, vegital with black cherries wood and smoke, you can almost taste the stalk tannin which may need a bit of time to fully integrate. Again quite closed but with plenty of substance.

Craggy Range Syrah Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Black and white pepper, tight black fruit, quite austere at the moment , medium body with good balance, will hopefully fill out with time.

Craggy Range ‘ Le Sol’ Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Again quite closed overall but clearly an intense wine with a deep core of black fruit, black pepper and toast. Great balance and long length.

Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Gorgeous polished nose, perfumed wood polish, ripe blackberries, medium body, fine tannins, silky mouth feel and good length. Delicious.

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Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Craggy Range

One of the stars of the show from our Craggy Range tasting with Master of Wine Steve Smith. This is a Martinborough Sauvignon, more restrained than Marlborough sauvignons, but beautifully balanced with a long intense finish.
Available from Slurp and Majestic for around £13.