Posted by: tomciocco | November 28, 2012

BURGENLAND, AUSTRIA – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RED…

The phrase “Austrian wine”, even here in late 2012, can still raise some eyebrows. If there is any familiarity with it at all, most drinkers know little more than Austria’s signature spunky white variety Gruner Veltliner. Starting a discussion about Austria’s RED wines however can produce some pretty blank looks indeed.

Much of the confusion comes from the Hollywood-derived notions of Austria showing quaint villages set on impossibly gorgeous Alpine, von Trapp, “Sound of Music” moutainsides, and indeed most of western Austria has just such a landscape. And as supposed, precious little to no wine is made in this area – the soil is little more than a fat slab of granite, and if that weren’t enough, it’s just too damned cold to reliably ripen even the hardiest grape varieties.

But fly deeply into the eastern part of the country, hard by the Hungarian border, and everything changes – the land flattens to somewhat more fertile, gravelly, rolling hills, the sun emerges, and with it comes heat – quite a lot actually – enough in fact to consistently ripen red grape varieties. Further, the nearby Neusiedlersee (a very large, but shallow lake) helps to further moderate the overall climate. This is the region known as greater Burgenland. I say “greater” Burgenland because in terms of designated sub-appellations there are  quite a few, and with some tooth-breaking names to them too: Sudburgenland, Mittelburgenland, and the best of all, Neusiedlersee-Hugelland. This wine, as permitted by local wine norms (provided that they’re adhered to) is labelled, mercifully, simply as “Burgenland”.

As previously stated, this area is strongly dominated by (mostly native) Austrian red vine varieties like Blaufrankisch, St. Laurent (tonight’s feature), and Zweigelt which is none other than a cross of Blaufrankisch and St. Laurent developed by one Dr. Zweigelt, hence the name. In addition to these authoctonous vines, there’s a fair amount of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc planted here as well. In the end, gilt-edged red wine regions like Rioja, Bordeaux, and Brunello di Montalcino have little to fear from Burgenland, but despite this, the Burgenland area offers drinkers a truly distinctive drinking experience thanks to great varieties like St. Laurent and a unique other-side-of the Alps terroir.

The menu to accompany this ripe, concentrated wine consisted of a beef broth and mushroom (Bay Bolete) soup with tarhonya (rice grain-sized flecks of egg pasta from just across the border in Hungary) and then a grill-up of two sausages and a side of braised red cabbage with savory, garlic, and a touch vinegar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sattler Burgenland St. Laurent 2011

Deep, saturated garnet color with pinkish/purple at the rim. Clean and expressive and contemporarily-styled nose of plum, strawberry jam, and blackberry fruit notes supported by aromas of “sweet” herbs, roses, fallen leaves, wet stones, black truffles, and a touch of barnyard. On the palate the wine is full-bodied with a smooth, rich, pulpy mouthfeel that still manages a great acid/tannin balance with subtle flavors of mixed dried spices, myrtle berry, and bacon fat. Long, clean, and gently dry finish. A “new style” wine that stills stays very true to “place”.

 

 

 

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