Now that I am vaguely coherent, and before I head to Germany, I wanted to say a few words about the wines on the Austrian trip. For the curious, a complete list of all wines tasted can be found here.
First, some geography. Our trip began and ended in Vienna and was focused on the Carnuntum and Burgenland. These regions, in Eastern Austria along the Hungarian border, are known for their full-bodied and rich red wines, not the Gruner Vetliner that many associate with Austria. Although white wines are produced in the area, particularly the stand out sweet wines sometimes called "liquid gold," the majority of wines we tasted were reds, mainly zweigelt and blaufrankish.
Zweigelt was created 1920's by Professor Fritz Zweigelt, a cross between Blaufränkisch and St Laurent. It is the most widespread red wine variety in Austria. Zweigelt ranges from easy drinking, unoaked wines to rich and full bodied wines aged in oak barrels. In my house, zweigelt has been mainly a pizza and meatball wine so I looked forward to the opportunity to learn more. From Terry Theise: "The last word in red wine!. . . At its best this is oh-so- drinkable. . . It always smells great! It’s a cross of St. Laurent with Blaufränkisch and its most overt fruit note is sweet cherry, but there’s more to the best wines. Imagine if you could somehow skim the top notes off of really ripe Syrah, so that you had the deeply juicy fruit and could leave the animal-herbal aspects behind. That might be Zweigelt."
Blaufränkisch is a late-ripening variety with characteristic high acidity. It can seem quite astringent at first, yet soften and become more smooth as the wine matures, and fine examples have aging potential. Again from Terry Theise: "It’s of the cabernet type, a little bricky and capsule-y, and when it’s unripe it’s slightly vegetal. But lately I’ve seen much better stuff from this grape. In fact I think the quality-spread is widest here. Most of Austria’s greatest red wines are made entirely or mostly from Blaufränkisch, yet weak Blaufränkisch is less pleasing than weak Zweigelt."
I'm not going to give reviews of all of the wines tasted. Because that would grow rather boring rather quickly. Instead, a few general thoughts. Many of the wines we tasted were high in acid. These high acid bottles sometimes screamed out for food, but also showed a potential that excited me. Some had far too much oak, which is a style that does not speak to me. Others were completely approachable and made me want to stand or sit and enjoy rather than moving onto the next bottle. They were also mainly young, mainly 08s and 09s with a few other vintages mixed in. We, or at least the people I talked to on the bus, did not always agree. And that is the fun of a trip like this: not just the opportunity to learn, (I've described it to friends as like a language immersion course but for wine), but also to discuss.
Some highlights white, sweet and rose: Kracher’s Grand Cuvee No. 6,
Leitner’s Pinot Blanc Pannobile Weiss, Leo Sommer Leithaberg Weiss, Brundlmayer Brut Rose
Reds: Glatzer Dornenvogel Zweigelt, Preisinger Zweigelt Pannobile, Preisinger’s Pinot Noir, Weingut Hans Igler: 2006 “Biiri”, 2001 “Ab Ericio,” and 2000 “Jewel”, IBY Rotweingut Reserve Durrau Blaufrankisch, Straka Klassik Blaufrankisch, Unger Gerald Blaufrankisch Reserve, Paul Achs Ungerberg Blaufrankisch
Next up, a few thoughts on the places we visited and, of course, the food including the best lardo I have ever had.