Austrian wines are rarely found on our shelves here. The only example until now was a sparkling wine which has been de-listed. The new arrival is a true representative of this small producer tucked away on the far side of the Alps.
Like much of Europe, vines have been grown in Austria for thousands of years. The modern industry in the country is based around relatively small scale operations which of necessity must base their success on the quality of their products.
Located in central Europe — at about the same latitude as Burgundy and a relatively long way from oceanic influence — the Austrian wine growing regions endure cold winters and hot and sunny summers.
There tends to be significant difference between day and night temperatures, which maintains good levels of acidity, and lengthens the growing season so that fully ripe aromatics are enhanced.
With a cool climate profile, the emphasis is on the production of crisp and elegant white wines from the Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and similar varieties. Some lighter style reds are made from Pinot Noir, Saint Laurent and Zweigelt varieties and a more robust red from the Blaufrankish. Austria also makes exceptional dessert style sweet wines with botrytis influence.
The country is divided into four growing regions, all in the eastern part of the country, in an arc from north to south: Niederosterreich (Lower Austria), Wien (Vienna), Burgenland, and Steiermark. Niederosterreich is the largest producing region and is best known for its white wines. The southeastern corner below Vienna produces red wines.
Vienna is home to a special designation called Wiener Gernischter Satz, which is applied to a wine made from a blend of white grapes varietals.
A minimum of three varietals are grown together in the vineyard and harvested and vinified together to produce either a good sipping wine for the “Heuriger” wine taverns of the City, or a reserve style which aging ability.
Burgenland is mainly home to red wine production with the exception of the slopes around the Neusiedlersee where the higher humidity creates the perfect conditions for the development of “noble rot” and the production of spectacular dessert wines.
Steiermark produces mainly white wines with some rosé made from another unique variety: Blauer Wildbacher.
Gruner Veltliner accounts for about one third of all wine production in the country, more than all the red wines combined. It is a grape variety which is native to Austria unique to central Europe, where it is also grown in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Descriptors for wines from this grape include white pepper, minerality, citrus, celery and spice, all within a structure of gripping acidity and freshness.
The new arrival from Austria is a Gruner Veltliner from Niederosterreich, the Fred Loimer Lois 2012 (NLC $19.98).
This wine lives up to the reputation of the varietal with crisp acidity and medium body. The flavours are light and elegant showing just a touch of green apple and anise character. I have always enjoyed this varietal, especially as a food wine, and this one ranks well against my previous experience. Score: 16/Very Good.
Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society. Email him at email@example.com