Friday, October 12, 2012

Sauvignon Blanc in Austria – A Comparative Tasting with Falstaff's Peter Moser at Weinsinn in Frankfurt, Germany

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller withe Peter Moser, Gerhard Elze and Weinsinn Owner Matthias Scheiber at the Sauvignon Blanc Tasting at the Weinsinn in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

No longer limited to the Loire Valley in France and Marlborough in New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc is now cultivated all over the world, including in Austria. Against this background, the Austrian Wine Marketing Association had invited to a comparative tasting of Sauvignon Blanc wines from Austria, the Loire Valley and New Zealand. The tasting was orchestrated by Peter Moser, Falstaff WeinGuide Austria Editor-in-Chief, and Gerhard Elze, Austrian Wine Marketing Board, and took place in the Weinsinn, a bistronomics restaurant in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Sauvignon Blanc in the World

Around 80,000 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc are estimated to be planted worldwide, with the largest concentrations in France and New Zealand.

The Sauvignon Blanc originates from the Bordeaux and Loire regions in France. In latter, it is used as the primary grape to produce Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Separated by the Loire River, these appellations produce whites with lovely acidity and are to be consumed fresh and young.

In Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is one of only four white grapes allowed in the production of white Bordeaux AOC. Sauvignon Blanc is planted primarily in Graves and is usually blended with Sémillon to add further complexity and body. Within Graves, a number of the upper end Sauvignon Blancs, produced in the prestigious Pessac-Léognan, are made in a creamy, complex style which are capable of aging.

Pictures: Gerhard Elze, Peter Moser and Matthias Scheiber

In the Sauternes region, the grape is blended with Sémillon to make the noble-sweet Sauternes. The composition varies from producer and can range from 5-50% of Sauvignon Blanc, with the Château d'Yquem using 20%.

In the 1990s, Sauvignon Blanc wines from the maritime climatic regions of New Zealand became popular on the global wine market. The much talked about Marlborough and Hawkes Bay regions within New Zealand produce top notch Sauvignon Blanc with loads of crisp citrus fruit and a distinctive herbal essence.

In California, Sauvignon Blanc wine is also known as Fumé Blanc, introduced by Robert Mondavi. At that time the variety had a poor reputation in California due to its grassy flavor and aggressive aromas. Mondavi decided to try to tame that aggressiveness with barrel agings and released the wine under the name Fumé Blanc as an allusion to the French Pouilly-Fumé. But both oaked and unoaked Sauvignon Blanc wines are today marketed under the name Fumé blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is also gaining prominence in Austria, South Africa, Italy and Germany. We did not taste any German Sauvignon Blanc, but about 500 producers grow Sauvignon Blanc in Germany on about 600 hectares, mainly in Pfalz and Rheinhessen.

Sauvignon Blanc in Austria

Austria isn’t an obvious source of Sauvignon Blanc, but the scenic region of Styria along the Italian border excels with the grape. Some growers use barrel maturation to make wines that could pass for top-class white Bordeaux, but the general preference is for unoaked styles which offer a very satisfying halfway house between the exuberance of New Zealand and the more refined minerally wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Grapes are now picked much riper than was once the case, with fruit more in the gooseberry and peach spectrum than the tart grapefruit and green pepper style that was in vogue 15 years ago.

The current vineyard area in Austria is a bit less than 1000 hectares.

The Event

The event consisted of 4 parts.

First, we mingled for 30 minutes or so with a Schilcher Sekt brut.

Second, we did a comparative blind tasting of 12 Sauvignon Blanc wines from the Steiermark in Austria, the Loire Valley and from New Zealand.

Third, we ate a quick lunch, prepared by Weinsinn Chef Andre Rickert.

Fourth, we had a chance to taste 20 other Sauvignon Blanc wines from the Steiermark.


Pictures: Reception - Peter Moser, Annette Schiller (Ombiasy Wine Tours), Peter Vecchiato

Comparative Blind Tasting

Most Sauvignon Blanc produces wines which are crisp, dry and zesty with lovely citrus flavors and hints of grassiness. There are three distinct flavor profiles and styles that one will recognize when tasting Sauvignon Blanc. The fruity style, which often has no oak influence, boasts loads of citrus fruit, particularly grapefruit, lemon, melon and gooseberry that explode on the palate and in the aromas. The second flavor category is that of grassiness. Sauvignon Blanc, no matter where it is grown, often contains aromas and flavors of freshly cut grass or herbal notes. When produced properly, these are amazingly delicious and alluring flavors which complement the citrus fruit beautifully. The final style is produced in California but also elsewhere where some producers have opted to age Sauvignon Blanc in oak, integrating a creamier style of white wine with hints of smoke and vanilla.

Pictures: The Blind Tasting

We went through 12 wines from Austria, the Loire Valley and New Zealnd. Interestingly, there was a broad spectrum among the particiapants both in terms of the views on which wines were the best wines and in terms of the views on which wine came from where. It was never obvious which wine was the wine from Austria.

Pictures: The 12 Sauvignon Blanc Wines we Tasted.

Quick Lunch

Pictures: Quick Lunch prepared by Bistronomics Chef Andre Rickert

Austrian Sauvignon Blanc Wines

We then had a chance to taste 20 Sauvignon Blanc wines from Austria. Here are the producers.

Pictures: Tasting 20 Austrian Sauvignon Blanc Wines

Domaene Mueller

Frauwallner (Straden)


Daniel Jaunegg

Ing. Johannes and Luise Joebstl


Wolfgang Maitz

Muster (Gamlitz)



Erich and Walter Poltz

Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - grown on mixed soils and fermented in stainless steel, an aromatic and peppery wine with good structure.



Erwin Sabathi

Hannes Sabathi



Walter Skoff


Grassnitzberg Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - grown on shell limestone, savory with a creamy texture and a mineral finish.



Steinriegel Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - delicate flavors with tones of lemon and green apple, good length.

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