Drinking with the Hapsburgs
It seems Austria has been on everyone’s mind these days, from the exciting, to the, how shall we say, unpleasant. So in light of all this international attention, I have decided to dedicate my first actual post to a couple of white wines from Austria.
Wine 1: Stadlmann Zierfandler 2006 15 Dollars U.S.
The first wine is made from Zierfandler, a varietal I was wholly unfamiliar with until my wife brought home a bottle. A little research on my part made me realize that there was a good reason i had never heard of the wine before considering it is nearly extinct as a viable varietal (pardon the alliteration, I typically eschew the use of it, as well as puns, but I couldn’t very well just say “grape” now could I?). I could bore you with the details of the history of the wine, but the above link does a much better job than I ever could in explaining the ins and out of zierfandler.
Now the thing about this wine is that upon opening I was unimpressed. It was a typically bright, slightly off dry white wine, the type you run into too often in Germany and Alsace, with a little green apple on the nose and not much else going on. Good, but not really worth it except for an experiment so you can drop a rare wine type to impress your friends. Or so I thought when I put it down for a spell. When I returned to the bottle a little while later, the wine had opened up and the simple sweetness had become a faint nuttiness, and the green apple had backed off a little bit and the wine had become much more complex when given a second thought.
Wine 2: Hiedler Loess 2007 15 Dollars U.S.
The second wine I tried is not nearly as obscure as the first, and is in fact becoming one of the most popular wines from Austria. Side note: This wine has a special place in my heart as being the wine with the funnest name to pronounce, and that is of course is Grüner Veltliner (you get a demerit for guessing Gewürztraminer, which is too long to be taken seriously as a single word). My wife tells me that Grüner Veltliner seems to her the name of a German luxury plane, I have always thought the binomial structure of the name suggested Linnaeus, and thus could be a type of bird (something white and graceful I imagine).
Now I realize most people don’t buy wine because they love pronouncing the name (though I’m sure some people do, and this should be encouraged, else we lose a great tool for discovery), and Gruner has quite a bit more going for it for this. To start off it is one of the most food friendly wines around, especially for dishes that feature vegetables, and second it typically has a low alcohol content (11.5%) that lends itself to weekday dinner.
The Hiedler I tried packs a lot on the nose from a clean slate start to pears, perfume, diesel, and (this is from my wife with her amazing nose) wet cardboard in the lower levels. Going down it has a creamy mouth coating feel and some nice acid at the end to cut through any fatty pork chops you throw at it (this is what i did).
So next time you begin to think that Austria has little to offer besides dead composers, pre-WWI European empires, cross generational kidnapping sagas, and soccer tournaments, remember they also make hard to find and fun to pronounce wines that are also very good.