In December, I came across a wine that is still on my mind at The Three Wine Men.
Austria: In a nutshell
Austria is a country that has only recently come onto the UK’s radar when it comes to wine. You may have heard of its wine glass brand, Riedel – one of the best in the world, but it’s probably not a country that you would immediately choose your bottle from. However, it is producing more and more wines of a very high quality. The only problem is, they have fairly difficult names. So take a pause, and give the pronunciation your all with a bit of gusto…
White: In terms of grapes, Grüner Veltliner is the dominant varietal for white wines: a little bit like a slightly spicier/exotic Sauvignon. It also produces Welschriesling, which produces quality wines in the South, and as it is susceptible to botrytis, also excellent dessert wines.
To make things complicated, Austria also produces some Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, but under the local names of Ruländer and Weißburgunder (yes – why can things never be easy…) It also makes a lot of high quality Riesling, and as we will come onto, Chardonnay.
Red: The country also produces lots of lesser known varietals of its own such as Zweigelt (deep, soft tannins and bramble fruit aromas), Blaufränkisch Blauberger (hybrid of Portugieser and Blaufränkisch – intense colour, berry fruit), Blauer Portugieser (soft and easy drinking) and St Laurent (similar to Pinot Noir).
Onto this wine in particular…
WEINGUT ANDREAS TSCHEPPE, Steirerland – Biodynamic
SALAMANDER: £28.20, Caves de Pyrene
I’m obsessed. So much so, that (I still haven’t had time to) I’m insisting on going to Les Caves de Pyrene in Guildford to get some.
It’s from the Southern region of Steirerland, also known as Styria (which used to be also known as Steiermark – again, huh?)
What you need to know about it:
- it’s biodynamic! – (what does this mean?) – Biodynamic wines are made using the principles of biodynamic viticulture. In essence, its a more “spiritual” version of organic farming. It takes into account for example, the lunar system (and even astrological influence), the vineyard as a specific ecosystem. Also, the wine isn’t manipulated – e.g. acidity isn’t adjusted.
- It’s a Chardonnay. I don’t discriminate between grapes, but it’s one of my favourite grape varieties. And this is an outstanding example.
- It ferments with indigenous yeasts (the yeasts that naturally sit on the berry)
- It’s suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
About the producer:
Andreas is one of a group of five winemakers who work in the same spirit, the others being Franz Strohmeier, his brother Ewald, Sepp Muster & Roland Tauss. Together they form “Schmecke das Leb.”
Andreas has beautiful vineyards bursting with life – I haven’t personally been but he says you can feel the energy with the riot of plants, herbs and flowers growing amongst the vines. The vines are trained up and down slopes, but also unusually for this region, on terraces across the slopes.
MY TASTING NOTES:
The reason I love this wine so much is that it has a highly unusual quality that I have never before come across. It has a sense of “garrigue”. This normally refers to the lavender/rosemary plants of the South of France which transfer to red wine, but in this case, also shows itself in this Chardonnay.
A gold shimmering colour. Gentle yet bold flavours on the nose of orange citrus fruit, blossom and wheat and rich toasted almost honey-ed brioche. In the mouth it is full, buttery and creamy with an exceptionally long finish.