Austria’s most refined “native” red grape variety by the measure of most drinkers – this one included – is St. Laurent. So, it’s not at all hard to understand why St. Laurent is such a sophisticated and thought provoking grape when it’s revealed that St. Laurent is a long-ago separated, but well-adapted and substantially mutated child of Pinot Noir.
All grapevines are inherently highly mutable, as well as very susceptible to prolonged changes in terroir, and all this goes double for Pinot Noir. So for reasons known only to Mother Nature, Eastern Austria’s drier, higher elevations, more extreme temperatures, and mixed rocky soil, over the ages has caused Pinot Noir to bulk up its tannic frame, deepen in color, and generally flesh out, with only the slightest loss of Burgundy’s ethereal fragrance and supreme elegance.
So how and when did France’s Pinot Noir wind up getting planted along the banks of the Danube in Eastern Europe? In cases of such peculiar transit in the world of wine, pointing the finger immediately at monks produces the right answer about half of the time, and St Laurent’s lot falls clearly on that side – most likely Carthusian brothers establishing monastaries (and the ways to support them – like grapes) some time in the 1oth or 11th century…
Once in a while I’ll review an older wine from my own little stash, but I typically prefer to write about wines that are actually in commerce at the time of writing, so it’s always a kick to find an 8 year old wine that the winery has only just released from its cellars into the market…As I alluded to above, St. Laurent’s extra heft and structure make it a much easier match with more kinds of food. Tonight’s kind of food was a first course of Austrian-inspired knoedel (bread, egg and herb dumplings) in a smooth cheese sauce with chives, other herbs, and a touch of garlic. The main course was pork tenderloin Wiener Schnitzel with an egg, caper, and anchovy sauce, and mixed mash of cauliflower and rutabagas.
Weingut Brundelmayer Kamptal St. Laurent Ladner Vineyard 2004
Very deep, and slightly browned but still bright and lively garnet color. Alluring and sophisticated nose of briarwood, mixed dried fruit, raspberry preserves, toasted cinnamon and allspice, charcoal, and pine needles. In the mouth the wine is medium full-bodied with a finely pulpy, satiny texture, and a very elegant and balanced dry tannic structure pervaded by clean and rich, but still earthy flavors of black cherry, blackberry, olive, root beer, mocha, mushrooms, and roasted meat. Very long, warm, and complete finish. This is a special wine from one of Austria’a best producers.