Austria is the land of Mozart, wiener schnitzel, opera, the blue Danube and wine. That last word may seem a bit out of place, but it is not.
While not on a wine tour route comprising France, Germany and Italy, Austria does produce some very nice wines. Why then are the Austrian wines a big secret and not a standout on dealers’ shelves? I really cannot answer that question, but perhaps there are few purely Austrian restaurants in which they would serve those wines to allow for familiarization.
Even during the 1960s and 1970s, when German wines – mainly liebfraumilch – were the rage, Austrian wines were little known despite sharing some similarities. My plan is to rectify that now. I recently found out I am of Austrian ancestry (there even is a Castle Bodenstein) and I am probably suffering from some form of ancestral ethnocentrism.
The most popular Austrian variety is a white grape called gruner veltliner. This grape produces wines that are similar to the German riesling but are definitely not a carbon copy. The gruner veltliner wines are different because they are mostly dry, but they are so fruity that they seem to have a bit of sweetness.
If you are anything like me and love sampling new varieties, try a wine from Austria. I am not going to say that they may become your favorites, but I am sure that you will like them. After all, that is the only wine served at Castle Bodenstein.
Joseph Ehmoser 2018 Terrassen ($15)
I put this wine up first because it is a great wine to start off with, as it is both an excellent ambassador for the style but also in the very affordable price range. The aroma accents pepper, apple, and citrus that continue on to the finish. This is the common theme of all of the gruner veltliner wines, but it is the background flavors and aromas that make the difference. This wine is medium bodied so you know there is plenty of fruit to be found at the finish. I believe that when you sample this wine your wine horizons will be greatly expanded.
Pfaffl Zeisen ($19)
If your high school German is still intact, you know zeisen means time. I do not have the foggiest idea why the wine was so named but, if I may, its zeisen has come. The fruit is a bit more obvious with this gruner veltliner, while the peppery element is subdued. All of these flavors are balanced on an obvious citrus acidity. This wine presents its attributes in a stylish manner.
Huber Vision ($17)
The word vision means the same in German as in English, so if you feel someone or something is staring at you while you are drinking this wine, it is probably the big blue eye on the label. Actually, the “vision” that is being referred to is the vintners’ desire to project all of the natural features of the vineyard. They therefore only use grapes that have been organically grown. The wine from these grapes is light in body but very aromatic. The aroma is floral; however, picking out the exact flower aroma is impossible as it is a compendium of many flowers.
Domane Wachau 2016 Achleiten Smaragd ($46)
The vineyard for this wine is located in the Wachau Valley along the slopes of the Danube River, which by the way, is brown and not blue. It is the water from the famed river that irrigates the vines and imparts to the finished wine a mineral element that is both obvious and fascinating. There is a positive acid bite to this wine that seems to be intertwined within the flavor. The flavor seems to be larger than life as it remains on the palate long after the wine has been swallowed. I know this wine is expensive, but the first taste will prove it to be money well spent.
Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at email@example.com.
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