Saturday, January 2, 2010

Austria Top Wines - Falstaff Wine Guide 2009/2010

Picture: Austria and its wine regions

Austria is known for making excellent dry white wines, from Riesling, Weissburgunder, Grüner Veltliner and other white grape varieties. In particular, Grüner Veltliner is gaining a lot of attention in the US, perhaps more than it deserves. But Austria is not only Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal. It’s a country with a range of different wine regions producing a diversity of wine styles, including some great noble-sweet wines and increasingly serious red wines.

One of the best sources for finding its way in Austrian wine is the Falstaff, Austria’s leading wine journal. Falstaff also issues wine guides.

The 12th edition of the Falstaff wine guide was released in July 2009. Note that a special red wine guide was released in December 2009. About 3000 wines from almost 500 winemakers are reviewed in the 2009/2010 Falstaff wine guide. The focus is on wines that were released in 2009, i.e. wine wines from the 2008 vintage and red wines from the 2007 vintage.

Here is a link to the best Austrian wines of 2009, in the 3 categories (1) Weissweine - white wines, (2) Rotweine - red wines and (3) Edel-suesse Weine - noble-sweet wines, including Falstaff points on a 1 - 100 scale.

For assessing wine makers on the basis of their whole wine portfolio, the Falstaff uses a rating system with 1 to 5 stars. In the Falstaff 2009/2010 issue, 8 wine makers were awarded the top level of 5 stars. These are:

. Weingut Bründlmayer, Langenlois, Kramptal
• Weingut Gernot u. Heike Heinrich, Gols, Neusiedlersee, Burgenland
• Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Spitz an d. Donau, Wachau
• Weingut Knoll, Unterloiben, Wachau
• Weingut Kollwentz, Großhöflein, Neusiedlersee, Huegelland
• Weinlaubenhof Kracher, Illmitz, Neusiedlersee, Burgenland
• Weingut F.X. Pichler, Oberloiben, Wachau
• Weingut Tement, Berghausen, Südsteiermark

In terms of regional distribution of Austria’s top win emakers, 4 of the 8 top winemakers come from the tiny Wachau and Kramptal regions in the north, 1 comes from the Steiermark in the south and 3 come from the 2 regions adjoining the Neusieder See, Burgenland and Huegelland.

It is the whites that get most of the attention, but the reds have quietly been improving. Like in Germany, in Austria there has been a revolution going on in terms of red wines in recent years. In both countries, red wine now accounts for about 1/3 of the wine production.

Earlier this years, for the first time, a red wine from Austria has earned 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Moric, Blaufränkisch, Neckenmarkter Alte Reben, 2006 scooped the high ranking.

Austria is also producing excellent noble-sweet wines. A noble-sweet Saemling wine from Hans Tschida, in Illmitz in the Neusiedler See area was served at the 2009 Nobel Prize Banquet in Stockholm earlier this month. On an area of 14 hectares Hans Tschida has specialized in noble-sweet white wines using a range of approaches. His Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines are sweet because of the noble rot that converts the grapes into raisins, his Eiswein is sweet because of the frost that concentrates the grape juice and his Schilfwein is made out of non-botrytized grapes that go through a process of sun-drying.

All of Austria’s wines are grown in the eastern part. In the North, Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal are well known for Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. Most of the country’s leading dry whites come from here. I like very much the red wines from Markowitsch and Glatzer in the Carnuntum, which is south-east of Vienna. The Burgenland on the Hungarian border is famous for its noble-sweet wines from the Neusiedlersee, and increasingly for excellent reds. Austria’ top red wines tend to come from the Burgenland. In the South, the Suedsteiermark is called the Tuscany of Austria and best known for aromatic, savoury white wines from Weissburgunder, Morillon (Chardonnay) and Sauvignon Blanc; when I used to live in Croatia, I would always stop in the Suedsteiermark and have a couple of glasses of wine, before crossing the Slovenian border.

In terms of grape verieties, the local varieties tend to dominate. International grape varities like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Chardonnay are on the backburner.

White wines

Grüner Veltliner: Austria’s own variety, which is capable of making full flavoured, spicy whites often with a distinctive white flower and cracked pepper edge to them. It is a wine that drinks well young.

Riesling: Riesling performs very well but accounts only for 3% of Austria’s vineyard area.

Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc): Makes lovely gently aromatic dry white wines in southern regions such as Südsteiermark.

Welschriesling: Austria’s second most planted white grape and not related to the true Riesling. Fresh, simple fruity dry whites are the norm.

Red wines

Zwiegelt: The most abundant red grape; makes good wines ranging from simple cherry fruit gluggers to more substantial reds destined for ageing.

Blaufränkisch: Common in Burgenland this makes spicy, sturdy, berry fruited reds which can have some tannic structure. Probably Austria’s best red grape.

Blauer Portugieser: This red grape makes soft, approachable, juicy wines mainly for early consumption. The most widely planted red grape but not for top quality wines.

St Laurent: Makes soft, slight herby, expressive reds; it’s a bit like Pinot Noir.

Austria’s wine classification system is similar to the one in Germany. It is based on the Klosterneuberger Mostwaage (KMW), which measures the sugar content of the grapes at harvest in a way similar to the Öchsle scale, where 1°KMW is ~5°Oechsle.

Falstaff Weinguide 2009/2010, Österreich Südtirol, Kosterneuburg, Juli 2009, 709 Seiten, 16,90 Euro

Schiller Wine - Related Postings:

Wine merchant in Munich: Rotweissrot

German Wine makers in the World: A. Schlumberger, Austria

Wine ratings: Austria's best red wines - 2010

Wine ratings: Austria - Falstaff Top Red Wines 2009/2010

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