An Austrian Affair

Friday, March 19, 2021

I have had a love affair with Austrian wines since 2015 when I was one of 60 overseas journalists to tour this magnificent, graceful and elegant country – all thanks to the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Whilst the countryside and the castles were fantastic, it was the wines that wooed me, especially their native varieties, both white and red. Varieties such as Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt in the reds and especially Grüner Veltliner in the whites. There are some other interesting whites such as Grauburgunder, Roter Veltliner and Rotgipfler, but it is Grüner Veltliner that is the superstar accounting for 31% of all the vineyard land in Austria.

My ardour for Austrian wines was recently rekindled when I received a sample of the Salomon Undhof 2018 Riesling Reid Kögl from the “Advantage Austria” office, in Sydney, following on from the significant wine trade tasting they conducted there, which unfortunately I was unable to attend. Whilst Grüner Veltliner was undoubtedly the star of the show, Austrian Riesling are also outstanding wines often rivalling their German counterparts.

Salomon Undhof has been making its superb white wines in Kremstal since 1792 – just four years after the first fleet arrived in Sydney. They were rated in the “Top 100” Wineries of the World in 2019 by Wine & Spirits Magazine.

The 2018 Riesling Reid Kögl is a sensational wine with lovely, vibrant citrus aromas, a gorgeous, bright, lively palate, starting with just a hint of fruit sweetness on the front palate and exploding with amazing flavours on the mid-palate and finishing with a crisp, dry, but not too acidic back palate. This wine is totally divine and will mature gracefully into a superb, complex, aged Riesling that is world-class.

Salomon Undhof also have an estate here in Australia – Salomon Estate (registered company name: Austr[al]ian Estate Wines Pty Ltd) at Finniss River, in the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula. They grow Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro and Shiraz, with the flagship Shiraz being under the Alttus label. I haven’t had the opportunity to taste these wines as yet, but given the meticulousness and attention to detail of the Austrian offerings, I would expect that their Aussie wines would be pretty swish too.

There are a few Austrian wines available in bottle shops here in Australia. However, if you are interested and keen to try Australian examples of these exciting Austrian native varieties, you should consider the excellent Grüner Veltliner produced in the Adelaide Hills, where there are now over 40 producers. The very first Australian Grüner Veltliner was produced in 2009 by Canberra’s Lark Hill Winery, however, the first South Australian Grüner was produced by Hahndorf Hill Winery (HHW) in 2010. HHW have three different styles of Grüner Veltliner that are regularly ranked amongst very the best in the country and score accolades in Austria. They were also the first winery to produce an Australian Blaufränkisch (a cracking Austrian native red variety) which is like a Pinot Noir with attitude, and are currently making their first varietal Saint Laurent wine.

So there is a lot to get excited about, both in terms of some of the excellent Austrian wines available here, and also the Aussie wines made from the phenomenal Austrian native grape varieties.

Either way it is an Austrian Love Affair!!!

Cheers & stay safe!

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This Week's Wine Review:

I have been a big fan of the native Georgian red variety, SAPERAVI, since I first tasted the initial release by Patritti Wines of its 2008 Barossa Saperavi. Here is a big, deep, rich wine that isn’t overpowered by tannins nor alcohol.

Since then I have written a couple of magazine articles on this, one of my favourite red wine varieties. No one knows how old the variety is, but they have been making wine in Georgia for 8,000 years and SAPERAVI is the most mentioned variety in the old writings, so it is no “johnny-come-lately”.

Another early adopter of SAPERAVI was GAPSTED WINES, in the King Valley of Victoria. Their early SAPERAVI were quite tannic and a bit chunky, but over the last decade they have refined their style so that the 2018 was super-slick and raring to go – no need to cellar it for ages while it softened off.

The current release, GAPSTED WINES 2019 ALPINE VALLEY LIMITED RELEASE SAPERAVI, is (due to seasonal variation) a smidge more tannic than the sublime 2018, but is still ready to go and it is simply brilliant with food.

This wine has a deep, dark, dense, almost black colour, a big yet subtle, enticing bouquet with roasted beetroot and dried herb aromas. The palate has lashings of deep, rich varietal flavours and a tight, grippy, lingering finish. Enjoy this beautiful wine with food now, or cellar for two to four years and enjoy it on its own. Either way it is drop dead yummy!!!

The SAPERAVI is well worth seeking out, as are the other wines in the Gapsted range, especially their superb, 2019 High Country Chardonnay.

Cheers and remember #chooseaustralianwine

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