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EUROPEAN NEWS

Friday, May 05, 2017

This week I’ll be talking about some interesting wine news from Europe which you may not be aware of, namely from Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

AUSTRIA:  Already having some of the most stringent wine laws on the planet, Austria recently added to this by enacting new laws concerning Sekt – their name for sparkling wine.  They now have a three-tier structure which goes like this:

►Level 3 – Klassik: For grapes harvested in any one single Austrian state with a minimum of nine months on lees and all different methods of sparkling wine production are allowed.

►Level 2 – Reserve: For grapes harvested and pressed in any one single Austrian state but only traditional method allowed and a minimum 18 months of lees.

►Level 1 – Grosse Reserve: The top of the sparkling tree. The grapes have to be harvested and pressed from within a single municipality and made by method traditional only with a minimum of 30 months maturation on lees.

Each of these three levels comes with its own Quality Assurance standards in relation to yield rates, pressing methods, harvesting and vineyard standards.

Thanks to this new set of standards which is being rolled out at the moment, very soon consumers around the world will be able to know exactly what standard of quality sparkling wine they will get when they buy a bottle labelled as Klassik, Reserve or Grosse Reserve.

GERMANY:  Kreuzberg is not a name that you will see on any viticultural map of Germany. In fact it is currently part of one of Berlin’s hippest and grooviest residential districts. So what am I prattling on about? Well, there is a secret vineyard of just 10% of a hectare in the middle of this cool zone. Its significance isn’t in what it produces (around 300-400 bottles a year) as much in what it stands for.

Vineyards were first planted in Kreuzberg in 1435 but along the way as Berlin expanded these vineyards disappeared. Then in 1968, in the middle of the Cold War, with Berlin separated from the rest of the then West Germany, the present minute vineyard was commenced by smuggling in five Riesling vines from Wiesbaden. Between 1971-1975 other regions from around West Germany donated vines to this venture so that in total there are 350 vines (all donated), mainly Riesling but with a few Blauer Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) vines in there as well. The vineyard is called Kreuz-Neroberger and is tended by selected volunteers.

 

Adding to the interest of what must be the world’s rarest wine, is the fact that the vineyard stands on the exact block of land where Z3, the world’s first programmable computer was created, in the laboratory of engineer, Konrad Zuse, who lived until 1995. Unfortunately, the Z3 was destroyed when the building was destroyed by an allied bombing raid in late 1943.  The building was never re-built and later became Berlin’s own little vineyard.

SWITZERLAND:  When people think of Switzerland they normally conjure up images of mountains, lakes, chocolate (not necessarily in that order), pocket knives and maybe secretive banks full of illicit funds. But, I’ll wager nobody thinks of the Swiss as the biggest per capita spenders on wine!!!

According to a recent survey by MoveHub, the Swiss on average spend €600 per person on wine. In Europe they are followed by Icelanders at €387 whilst in the world-renowned wine producing countries like Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal, on average they only spend only €130 on wine per person. Yes, the average bottle of wine in Switzerland is about €3 more than in those other countries, but that is still a big difference.

The answer to this interesting poser is the fact that the Swiss are the sixth largest wine drinkers in the world at around 53 bottles per person each year. This is well ahead of Italy, Spain and Germany. According to that survey the average in Australia is 32.71 bottles per person/per year. Wow! This means that I must be carrying the load for at least three to four bludging Aussies who aren’t drinking their fair share of wine!!

An interesting fact is that Switzerland produces about 90 million litres of wine a year, almost all of which is consumed domestically, as well as consuming a heck of a lot of imported wine!!

Given their location in Europe one would have expected that most of the wine made in Switzerland would be white (like Germany) but in fact their reds account for 58% of their production. Their whites that I have tasted so far, are excellent steely, flinty wines made from varieties such as: Chasselas, Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Sylvaner, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and my favourite, the delightfully interesting, Petit Arvine, which is a Swiss native variety.

In the reds, they mainly produce Pinot Noir, as well as smaller amounts of Gamay, Merlot, along with the Swiss created varieties of Gamaret, Garanoir, Diolinoir and (the possibly originally Italian) Cornalin – which is also known by the delightful name of, Landroter. Oh, and they actually have 63 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon in the country as well.

THIS WEEK’S WINE REVIEW:

Mencia is a fairly rare Spanish red variety from Bierzo. It was ‘discovered’ by the Europeans in the 1990s after a couple of more progressive Spanish winemakers put their heart and soul into this variety. Up until then until then it was used in the making of Rosé and watery reds due to overcropping and a lack of TLC.

More recently, the variety has come to Australia with four innovative wine producers planting it and making some beautiful wines from it.

Dell’uva Wines released Australia’s first Mencia wine – DELL’UVA 2013 BAROSSA MENCIA. I was absolutely blown away as to how this, their very first effort, was so much like the Spanish wines made from this variety.

This Dell’uva Mencia has a lovely deep, purple colour, an elegant, fruity nose and a silky-smooth, complex palate with a slightly savoury finish. It was like drinking one of the better, younger-style Bierzo Mencia that wasn’t made from ancient vines. It is superb, delicious and augurs well for the variety here in Oz.

Dell’uva kindly submitted this wine as part of the Mencia tasting I conducted for the article that I have recently written for WBM.