No, this isn’t a joke, we’re not going to throw in a punch line that will undoubtedly fall flat. Austrian wine is relatively rare on the supermarket shelves and in the fridges of avid wine drinkers and yet it is experiencing something of a renaissance in quality and popularity. Of course, as a publisher, we would advise that if you are new to Austrian wine, or even if you aren’t, that you read The wines of Austria by Stephen Brook, which provides a comprehensive analysis of the different producers of Austrian wine.
Going straight to the vineyards for a spot of tasting and then leaving with a few cases would, we’re assuming, be the ideal way we all acquire wine. But since Austrian vineyards are currently out of season and your holiday would most likely be on the chilly side, we’ve done the scouting for you so that, if you fancy it, you can pick up a great bottle of Austrian wine when you’re next doing your weekly shop. Luckily, we’ve been able to give you excellent notes on the vineyards in which these wines are produced, all from Stephen Brook’s excellent book.
Waitrose perhaps has the best selection of Austrian wine, and the grape most famously associated with Austrian wine is in both their 5 star white wine offerings. The first is from Domane Wachau:
There are 440 hectares of vineyards cultivated by 250 families, and 70 per cent of the
vines are Grüner Veltliner. For many tourists the cooperative’s tasting room is an essential stopping place, so it is not surprising that a good deal of the production is of fairly commercial wines. The largest volumes of their more classic wines were released under the Terrassen Thal label, but today there is increasing emphasis on single-vineyard wines. This is sensible as the cooperative’s members are richly endowed with exceptional sites. [However,] [i]t’s the single-vineyard white wines that are the core of production.
I’ve tasted wines made here in the late 1960s and they were still excellent, but they were made in a sweeter style than would be acceptable today. Although not all of the wines are outstanding, the general quality level is astonishingly high. It doesn’t hurt that the cooperative has access to such sites as Pichlpoint, Achleiten, Singerriedel, Loibenberg, and Kellerberg. The Smaragd wines in particular can be exceptional and long lived. It’s also worth looking for other varieties such as Neuburger and Roter Traminer, which can also be of high quality.
Waitrose’s second offering of white wine comes from the vineyard of Markus Huber:
[The Huber vineyard] release[s] a number of different Grüner Veltliners, including Oberer Steigen from 35-year-old vines, the single-vineyard Berg, and the weightier Alte Setzen, a DAC Reserve made from vines up to 65 years old. The two top Rieslings are Engelsberg, a blend from two sites, and Berg, a DAC Reserve aged both in casks and steel tanks. In certain years he also produces an excellent Riesling Eiswein. The top wines are fermented in neutral Austrian acacia casks, and aged for 9 months on the fine lees. Huber is skilled and ambitious, and his wines are stylistically consistent, showing great clarity and a dry structure. Riesling Berg and Grüner Veltliner Alte Setzen are usually the top wines, but the other bottlings are very close in quality. The top wines age effortlessly, although they are accessible young.
The highly rated red wine selection offered by Waitrose are both from Rabl’s vineyard: Schenkenbichl Reisling Reserve and Titan Zweigelt, as is Marks and Spencer’s Rabl Grüner Veltliner:
A large estate, Rabl supplements its own 80 hectares of vineyards by purchasing from another 20 hectares. Grüner Veltliner comes from Spiegel, Käferberg, and Dechant, and Riesling from Schenkenbichl. The Rabls father and son, both named Rudolf, are often, though not dogmatically, proponents of skin contact rather than whole-cluster pressing, which may account for the supple texture of their wines. The Rabls also produce sweet wines quite frequently; in 2006 there was an opulent Traminer Auslese and a silky Grüner Veltliner Eiswein, and a splendid, pineappley Grüner Veltliner TBA, and there were more in 2007 and 2011. In 2012 and 2013 they excelled with the Grüner Veltliner Käferberg ‘Alte Reben’, wines of weight, concentration, and flair.
So there you have it, Austrian wine is infiltrating the UK’s wine market once again and, with these excellent facts about their origins, you’re sure to impress at your next dinner party.
When you think about Austrian alcohol, you’re probably more familiar with beers and Oktoberfest thanks to the Bavarian influence and how fond they are of a good pint. It’s true, when I was backpacking around Europe, I never thought to order an Austrian glass of wine, rather it was straight for the home brew.
You’re most likely more familiar with the terroirs of France, Australia, New Zealand, even Spain, but most likely not Austria. Yet did you know that Austrian wine has a history dating back to the Habsburgs? Yes, that’s right, while all that furore over land and such was being fought over, it is likely that the winners would sit down with a nice glass of dry white from their own vineyards.
So consider this, the next time you’re throwing a dinner party, why not spend that little bit extra on a bottle of Austrian wine. More than anything it will make you look like a true wine connoisseur instead of going for your usual bottle that everyone’s had before. It will be a great starting point for conversation about wines, travel and the great food that you are more than likely to serve to your guests.
If you’re wondering what to serve it with, perhaps some excellent hearty Austrian food such as goulash, schnitzel or, if you’re really brave, offal. Though we suggest that, unless you are actually Austrian, springing offal on your guests is a risky move so perhaps save that for next time or offer them an alternative in case the offal is not to their liking. Surprisingly, Austrian wine goes well with Mediterranean cuisine so, if you’re a vegetarian, perhaps you could cook something much lighter than a hog roast. More information on what goes with Austrian wine can be found here.
Our book, The wines of Austria by Stephen Brook will be published on 19 October. If you can’t wait until then, we have some advice about how to introduce your palette to new wines from our book, Secrets of wine by Giles Kime:
Even on the first leg of the path to vinous nirvana, it is important to expose your palate to other styles of wine without letting them cloud your understanding. There are a huge number of wines that no one except a few hardened wine buffs is aware of. Plenty of wines are made purely for local consumption, such as Austria Gruner Veltliner, Swiss Chasselas, Italian Aglianico, Uruguayan Tannat and Canadian Ice Wine. Though initially you should keep these wines at arm’s length, they will eventually be essential for pushing your taste buds to the extremes – just as the best fitness training programme will exercise muscles that you don’t normally use. The chances are that you won’t like them. But even if you don’t they will offer flavours and aromas that your palate and nose wouldn’t otherwise be subjected to. They will stretch your senses to the extremes of their experience.
The secret to tasting offbeat wines is never to get too involved. You don’t need to know a great deal about wine in order to enjoy it. It doesn’t really matter whether Gruner Veltliner, Tannat, Aglianico or Eiswein is a grape or a style of wine. Nor does it really matter whether they come from Austria, Uruguay, Italy or Canada. What is far more important is that you, your palate and your nose are receptive to them. Of course, when – or if – you find an offbeat wine that you like, that might be the time to investigate the winemaking tradition from which it springs.
It’s an exciting day at Wimbledon with two stellar matches to watch. Though we sadly don’t have tickets to the grounds, we can share in the spirit both tennis and alcohol related. Of course, the best thing to drink at Wimbledon is Pimms, in true British style but because we’re not there and to celebrate the other European players, we’ve come up with some fun and ‘alternative’ cocktails.
The Thrashing Serb
Semi-final Match One: Djokovic vs. Gasquet
OK so we may have given this cocktail a bit of a Wimbledon-themed name (it’s actually called a Summit) but we thought that it sounded refreshingly tennis-y and incorporated the all-important cognac, popular in both Serbia and France. To make your Thrashing Serb (I have now trademarked this name and intend to bequeath it upon my first-born) you will need:
4 slices of ginger
1 lime slice
4 cl VSOP Cognac
6 cl lemonade
a fine peel of cucumber
Place the lime and ginger into a glass, and add 2 cl of Cognac. Then add ice and stir. Add the rest of the Cognac the lemonade – then, finally add the cucumber peel.
However, if this doesn’t really float your boat and you’re hoping that the first match will be a classic five-setter so that you will have enough time to dash home from the office to watch what promises to be a stupendous showdown between Murray (come on, Tim!) and Federer (lovely hair!) then we would suggest you go for something much more refined, like a fine Swiss wine (yes, they do exist) or just stock up on the ginger beer and strawberries for Pimms O’Clock!
It’s day 4 of Wimbledon and since yesterday was the hottest July on record, it is appropriate that today, rain is scheduled to interrupt play. What is Wimbledon without a rain break? It’s like the adverts on the BBC, gives you time to pop the kettle on and catch your breath from moving your head up and down your TV screen (or if you’re lucky enough to get tickets, left and right). We’re not really sure that tea is the best antidote to a rain break; we think that cocktails are much more chic.
In his second round, Andy Murray will play Dutchman Robin Haase. Since we can’t be there to cheer Andy on or should ‘come on, Tim’ loudly at the telly in jest, we thought we’d come up with a few cocktails that you can make at home and that Andy can swig in the dressing room once play has been suspended.
Are you Hasse-ing a good time?
Yes, that’s right, we went there. But what better cocktail for a Dutchman than one that features ‘Dutch courage’, or gin to most of us, which originates from the spirit genever; we think that Hasse is going to need some serious Dutch courage today when he squares up against a previous winner of the tournament.
Mix 3/4 oz gin with 3/4 oz Green Chartreuse, 3/4 oz Maraschino liqueur and 3/4 oz lime juice over ice in a shaker. Shake, and strain into a cocktail glass.
We think that this will be very refreshing on such a hot day, stick a cherry in it if you like, they’re in season and will really bring out that liqueur!
Ginger on Court One
What’s more British than lashings of ginger beer while watching the LTA’s annual fete? For those in the Murray camp (I think that’s all of us, COME ON, TIM) why not try this awfully refreshing fruity drink:
Mix 1 part mandarin vodka, 2 parts ginger beer, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part melon liqueur and 2 dashes strawberry puree in a cocktail sheker. Shake and pour into a chilled glass.
Good luck, Andy we’ll see you in round three (fingers crossed). If you have enjoyed our cocktail suggestions, you can find more in Spirits distilled by Mark Ridgwell, as well as a fascinating history of spirits and their distillation process.
…which means he never got to drink the madeira that he had purchased on his way. Most people would stop off at the petrol station on a long journey, but in times of war, it would seem the French General was tempted by a few bottles of madeira that he purchased in Funchal.
Today marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and what have we learnt since then? Well, firstly, you can make a hit song out of a French navy’s defeat, rubber boots will always be in fashion and the Duke of Wellington is still a very popular military leader. You may wish to commemorate today by re-enacting the battle, or by reading many military history books, or even just listening to ABBA, the only palindromic band to be a success.
Infinite Ideas, however, are huge fans of the pub. We love any chance to celebrate and today seems as good as any. We can’t guarantee that we’ll be ordering a glass of madeira in our first round, but we’re sure it would be appropriate to toast our victory over the French than sipping on a lovely glass.
This legendary wine accompanied napoleon when he called in at Funchal en route to St. Helena in 1815. it was never drunk by the exiled Emperor, nor was it officially paid for, but the British consul henry Veitch was apparently given some gold coins by napoleon in exchange. These were buried beneath the foundation stone of the anglican church (church of the holy Trinity) in Funchal, the building of which was supervised by Veitch. Two years after Napoleon’s death the wine was returned to Veitch, who sold it on to Charles Ridpath Blandy. The wine was left to Dr Michael Grabham who was born in the year the wine was bottled (1840) and whose father was born in 1792. Two dozen bottles were bought by the saintsbury club in London. The following poem by Martin Armstrong, one of the founding members of the Saintsbury Club in London, describes the episode:
On a certain Madeira Boal 1792
The doomed and broken Bonaparte
To thaw the ice that bound his heart
Bore from Madeira to his jail
Islanded twixt sea and gale
The barreled juice of grapes that grew
Twenty-three years ere Waterloo.
But Death was urging to his bed
Him who so richly Death had fed;
Aye, that more grim Napoleon
Was closing icy fingers on
The little body and great brain,
Bidding the haughty lip abstain
From comfort of the anodyne.
The weakening hand put by the wine,
And when at last the hand fell slack,
Homeward the cask was carried back
Unbroached, and when the wine had stood
Nigh half a century in wood,
They bottled it and duly laid Cellared in its native shade.
The heart that hoped the world to gain
A century in dust has lain.
Yet we of these late times may sip
The wine forbid his dying lip.