Opinion

Frankly Wines Top 10 Whites of 2017

Here are ten fantastic whites which really impressed me in 2017 and I plan on drinking more of in 2018!

10. Les Deux Cols Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Zéphyr 2016 (14.0%, RRP €22.99)

les_deux_cols_cuvee_zephyr

“Les Deux Cols” translates literally as “The Two Hills” but also refers to the two founding colleagues Simon Tyrrell and Charles Derain.  Now joined by Gerard Maguire perhaps they will look to plant on another hill?  I’m an admirer of Les Deux Cols’ main red wine, the Cuvée d’Alizé, but for me their white blend on is another level entirely.  Made from very 100% Roussanne it manages to have richness and freshness at the same time, lovely texture and zestiness.

9. Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Riesling 2014 (12.5%, RRP €19.95)

lawsons

Marlborough started out as a fairly corporate production area, but gradually smaller grapegrowers began making their own wines.  This was the story for Ross and Barbara Lawson who began making their own wines in 1992 after twelve years of supplying others.  And what a great decision that was!  Among the many great wines they make is this delicious off-dry Riesling, full of racy lemon and lime plus elegant floral notes.

8. Turner Pageot Les Choix 2014 (13.5%, RRP €39)

les-choix

This was one of the highlights of the Winemason portfolio tasting, a skin contact wine with finesse.  Maceration is for five weeks which is much shorter than some orange wines – and personally I think it shows in that the underlying character of the Marsanne grapes still shines through.  This isn’t a wine for everyone but it’s very interesting and very drinkable at the same time – what more could you ask for?

7. Jordan Stellenbosch Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015 (13.5%, RRP €20.50)

Jordan Barrel Fermented Chardonnay

Just to clarify, this wine is made by Jordan Wine Estate (of Stellenbosch, South Africa) as opposed to Jordan Vineyard & Winery (of Sonoma County, California); as it happens, both produce great Cabernet and Chardonnay, and it’s the latter which has made this list.  As the name indicates the wine was fermented (and then matured) in French oak barrels, giving a lovely biscuity creaminess.  I like this style of wine in general but this is a great example, complex yet balanced, and seriously good value.

6. Mahi Boundary Farm Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (14.0%, RRP €26)

mahi-boundary-road

A barrel-fermented style of Sauvignon from a single vineyard in Marlborough.  Like the Jordan above, this was a little tight on release in early 2017 but had really blossomed in the second half of the year.  My money would be on increasing complexity over the next three to five years.  Very good wine for the money.

5. Greywacke Wild Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (14.0%, RRP €34.99)

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2

Kevin Judd’s barrel-fermented Sauvignon has made regular appearances in this blog’s Top 10 lists over the years, chiefly because it’s so damn interesting.  I have nothing against regular Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs (in fact I often like them) but this style gives so much more, and bridges the gap to Chardonnay for those torn between the two grapes.  Wild yeast and barrel fermentation give intriguing funky and toasty notes

4. La Chablisienne Grand Cuvée 1er Cru 2015 (13.0%, RRP €34.95)

CHABLISIENNE_GRANDE_CUVEE

I’m a big fan of La Chablisienne’s range, from the everyday Petit Chablis up to the superlative Grands Crus.  The Grand Cuvée is a blend of grapes from seven different Premier cru sites with an average vine age of 25 years.  It has a fair bit of oak – more than you might expect from a Chablis – but it is integrated seamlessly, lending a bit of body plus notes of toast and spice.  This is an elegant wine which knocks spots of many more expensive wines from the Côte d’Or.

3. Blank Canvas Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €36.99)

Blank Canvas Chardonnay

It would be a little misleading to call Matt Thomson “the Michel Roland of the southern hemisphere” not least because his involvement as a consultant doesn’t overshadow the wines, but his advice is much in demand.  After more than 20 vintages in each of the southern (for Saint Clair and others) and northern (for Alpha Zeta and others) hemispheres, Matt decided to get off the merry go round and focus on his personal project Blank Canvas.  This 2016 is the first vintage of Chardonnay and it’s a big winner!  It has the funky notes I’d expect from a wild-yeast barrel ferment but with a gliding, ethereal finish that leaves you wanting more.

2. BlankBottle Moment of Silence 2016 (13.5%, RRP €24)

BlankBottle Moment of Silence 2016

And so to a bottle which has caused almost everyone who has tasted it to sit up and pay attention – not least for the concept of a wine whose blend can change from vintage to vintage – and not naming the constituent varieties on the front means the wine drinker isn’t thinking about them (apart from me because I’m a wine geek!)  The 2016 is made from Chenin Blanc from four different sites, plus Grenache Blanc and Viognier (Chardonnay is no longer in the mix).  After being fermented in barrel the wine rests on its lees for twelve months.  It’s a big mouthful, this wine; peach and apricot with cream and nuts.

1. Domaine Zinck Pinot Gris Grand Cru Rangen 2011 (13.0%, RRP €48)

gc-rangen-pinot-gris

It was difficult to choose between Philippe Zinck’s Grand Cru offerings (first world problems) but the added complexity and richness of the Pinot Gris won me over.  The Grand Cru of Rangen is the most southerly of Alsace so, when combined with the vertiginous steepness of its slopes, gives the wines considerable power.  Of course, power on its own is nothing – when combined with acidity and complexity it can make a great wine such as this.  Move over Riesling, Pinot Gris is King!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1. Domaine Zinck Grand Cru XXX Pinot Gris XX (XX%, RRP XX)

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Tasting Events

The Fifth Element – Part 3

A pair of funky “whites” from the Quintessential wines tasting earlier this year:

 

 

Pierluigi Zampaglione Don Chisciotte Fiano 2015 (12.5%, RRP €26.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

Fiano

This actual colour of this wine is why these wines are described as “whites” and not whites – it’s orange, which is a whole new category and kettle of fish.  In simple terms, orange wines are made with white grapes but using red wine instead of white wine production methods – the major difference of course being the time that the juice has in contact with the skins (where the colour comes from).  It’s also a natural wine as the grapes are farmed organically, wild yeast is used and intervention during winemaking is minimal.

Pier Luigi Zampaglione makes this wine from a 2 hectare vineyard at 800 metres above sea-level in Campania – the altitude results in high acidity levels which help with ageing and make for a fresh wine.  The number of days of skin contact varies from year to year depending on the quality and style of the grapes harvested – in some years it can be apparently as long as 20 days (2011) but was 6 days for the 2016 vintage.

Ignoring its origins for a moment, this is just a thoroughly enjoyable wine.  It’s not the most extreme orange wine around so it would serve as a great introduction.  The key flavours for me were almond and ginger biscuits!

 

Loxarel A Pèl 2016 (12.5%, RRP €22.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & quintessentialwines.ie)

Loxarel a Pel

If the Fiano above would serve as a moderate example of a natural, orange wine then this is a no-holds-barred full-on example.  Again it’s a 100% varietal, but this time with Catalonia’s Xarel-lo, better known as one of the three traditional Cava grapes.  As before the grapes are grown organically, but also biodynamically; wild yeast are used for fermentation and there is skin contact, but much more than in the A Pèl.  With no fining or filtration the wine ends up somewhat cloudy in the bottle.

Quintessential Wines are known for having some unusual wines in their portfolio and I would suggest that this is the most left-field of the lot!  Aromas and flavours are not so much about the grape or the soil, but more about the natural microbial environment.  It’s definitely not for everyone but it really brings the funk and so deserves to be tried.

 

The Fifth Element Series:

Tasting Events

Another Brick In The Wall – Part 1

WineMason is an Irish wine importer run by husband and wife team Ben Mason and Barbara Boyle MW.  They specialise in wines from Germany, Portugal and Austria, but their expanding portfolio now encompasses France, South Africa, Spain and Italy.

Here are a pair of outstanding wines from the Languedoc that I tried for the first time earlier this year:

Domaine Turner Pageot “Le Blanc” Coteaux du Languedoc 2015 (14.0%, RRP €23, though currently only in restaurants)

Le Blanc

At first the name of this producer might mislead you in to saying “Turner” with French pronunciation, just like Palmer of Margaux, but in fact it is the surname of anglophone Karen Turner, the Australian lady who is half of this partnership.  The other half is her other half, Frenchman Emmanuel Pageot.  After over ten years of making wine around the world, they set up a domaine together in the Languedoc of just 3.5 hectares, now expanded to 10 Ha.  These 10 Ha are split over 17 different parcels, mainly facing north or north west (which makes sense in these southerly latitudes.  Viticulture is biodynamic – they even feature quotations from Rudolf Steiner on their website.

Le Blanc is a blend of 80% Roussanne and 20% Marsanne, though the latter punches above its weight due to 30 days of fermentation on skins to extract as many varietal aromas as possible.  This wine therefore gives an introduction to the orange wine category.  It’s quite full bodied for a white and combines stone fruit (apricot, peach) with nuts, beeswax and tropical fruits.  A very impressive wine.

Domaine Turner Pageot “Les Choix” Vin de France 2014 (13.5%, RRP €39, though currently only in restaurants)

Les Choix

If Le Blanc was an introduction into orange wine, then Les Choix is at the forefront.  This is 100% Marsanne from steep north – north-west slopes, fermented in whole bunches.  The juice spends five weeks being macerated on the skins, including regular pigeages (punching down the floating cap of solids) and wild yeast fermentation is not temperature controlled – this helps to bring the funk!

Perhaps showing the power of suggestion, I did imagine some orange notes when tasting this orange wine – and what a great ambassador for the category it is!  It has texture and tannin but fruit too – an incredibly complex wine that deserves serious consideration and contemplation.  Orange wine is still something of a rarity, but wines like this show what they can do; they really do belong in their own category beside red, white and rosé!

Information, Opinion

The Kaleidoscope of Wine – how’s your palette?

Kaleidoscope (Credit: wolfepaw)
Kaleidoscope (Credit: wolfepaw)

Being a bit of a geek (in wine, but other things as well) and possibly with a few ADHD tendencies, I’m a sucker for patterns and lists.  On my recent holiday in Portugal I started jotting down the different colours associated with wine, whether often used in descriptions, grape names or something else, and came up with A LIST.

Now, this is only from my own thoughts, so I’ve very happy to add any suggestions that you may have (leave a comment or send a Twitter message).

And did I mention I’m partially colourblind?  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it…

So, in alphabetical order…

Amber

Mtsvane Amber Wine
Mtsvane Amber Wine
  • A WSET term for a deep dark gold colour, often apt for aged / oaked / sweet wines.
  • Georgian Amber Wine is made in the traditional way in clay pots (a bit like amphorae) called Quevris which are buried underground.

Black

Black Wine of Cahors
Black Wine of Cahors
  • As a general rule, the grapes that make red wine are black, not red.
  • Some always have black as part of their name – e.g. Pinot Noir – where there are different versions of the grape in different colours.
  • Some black grapes don’t usually need the suffix “Noir” as they are far better known than their siblings, unless a comparison is being made – e.g. Grenache is assumed to be the black version (as opposed to Blanc or Gris), but sometimes it is annotated as Grenache Noir.
  • The famous Black wine of Cahors which is a deep, dark, opaque Malbec blend.
  • The definition of Black Wine according to the motto of the Domaine Le Bout du Lieu: “If you can see your fingers through the glass, it’s not a Cahors.”
  • Pinot Meunier is sometimes known as Schwarzriesling – literally “Black Riesling” – in Germany!

Blue

Blaufränkish grapes
Blaufränkish grapes
  • Blau is of course German for “blue”, so this variety commonly found in Austria is a blue Frankish grape, evoking Charlemagne and his empire.
  • In Hungary the grape is known as Kékfrankos, which has the same literal meaning but sounds like a Greek ailment.

Blush

Blush
Blush
  • A term used to describe Californian rosé, especially the sweetish stuff made from Zinfandel.
  • What any self-respecting wino does when drinking the above wine (miaow!)

Brick

Brick red
Brick red
  • Obviously a shade of red, it’s usually connected to older red wines

Burgundy

Burgundy shirt
Burgundy shirt
  • For some reason Burgundy as a colour only ever refers to the region’s red rather than white wines.
  •  Quite well established as a colour outside of the wine world…I bet few garment wearers think of Pinot Noir…

Champagne

Champagne Aston Martin
Champagne Aston Martin Virage
  • The oft litigious organisation that represents Champagne, the CIVC, don’t like Champagne being used as a colour when not directly connected to one of their member’s products.
  • However, it’s probably too late, the cat is out of the bag for describing a silvery-goldy colour – and to be honest, should they really complain if it’s an Aston Martin?

Claret

Aston Villa Claret & Sky shirt
Aston Villa Claret & Sky shirt
Neil Back covered in Claret
Neil Back covered in Claret
  • The well known term for red Bordeaux wine.
  • However, the term actually originates from Clairette, a dark rosé style wine still made in Bordeaux (and was actually how most Bordeaux looked back in the day).
  • Now often used to mean wine- (or blood-) coloured.

Garnet

Garnet stones
Garnet stones
  • A WSET approved term for a mid shade of red, in between Ruby (another gemstone) and Tawny.

Gold

Burgundy's Côte d'Or
Burgundy’s Côte d’Or
  • Mature and / or sweet white wine is often described as gold, particularly Tokaji.
  • Burgundy’s heartland subregion of the Côte d’Or is literally the “Slope of Gold”.

Green

Vinho Verde Map (Credit: Quentin Sadler)
Vinho Verde Map (Credit: Quentin Sadler)
  • While “green wine” might not sound that pleasant a concept, it is of course the literal translation of Vinho Verde from northern Portugal.
  • By extension, used as a term for certain flavours which either invoke youth or the taste of something green (e.g. asparagus in Sauvignon Blanc)

Grey

AOC Côtes de Toul
AOC Côtes de Toul
  • Mid coloured grapes such as Pinot Gris (yay!) or the Italian equivalent Pinot Grigio (boo!)
  • Vin Gris (literally “Grey Wine”) is the term used for a white(ish) wine made from black grapes.
  • Often has a little more colour than a Blanc de Noirs, e.g. the Gamay-based AOC Côtes de Toul from Lorraine.

Orange

Orange Apple Festival
Orange Apple Festival
  • Quite a trendy type of wine at the moment, basically making a wine from white grapes using red wine methods, particularly lots of contact between the juice and the skins – different but interesting.
  • Orange Muscat is a variant of the ancient but popular Muscat family
  • Also a wine growing town in New South Wales, Australia, whose symbol is an apple – go figure!
  • In fairness, orchard regions are often good for making wine.

Pink

Pink wine
Pink wine
  • David Bird (author of Understanding Wine Technology) makes a valid point asking why we use the term rosé in English when we say red and white quite happily instead of rouge and blanc.

Purple

Moscatel Roxo (purple-pink muscat) grape variety. Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, Setúbal. Portugal (credit Mauricio Abreu)
Moscatel Roxo (purple-pink muscat) grape variety. Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, Setúbal. Portugal (credit Mauricio Abreu)
  • While reading a book on Port I came across a new colour category of grape: Roxo
  • Many grapes – and actually many wines – look quite purple, but Portugal is the first country I have seen to actually have a recognised term for it.

Red

Red Red Wine
Red Red Wine
  • Obviously the huge category of red wine as a whole.
  • Tinta / Tinto, the Portuguese and Spanish words for red (when applied to wine) is used for many grape varieties and their pseudonyms, including Tinto Aragon and Tinta Cão.
  • One of the few grapes in French to have red in its name is Rouge du Pays, also known as Cornalin du Valais or Cornalin.
  • However, without Red Wine would faux-reggae band UB40 have been so popular? Everything has its downsides…

Ruby

Niepoort Ruby Port
Niepoort Ruby Port
  • A bright shade of red, usually signifying a young wine.
  • A style of Port, often the least expensive, bottle young and so retains a bright red colour.
  • The grape Ruby Cabernet is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan, though usually included in cheap fruity blends.

Tawny

Taylor's Aged Tawny port
Taylor’s Aged Tawny port
  • A light shade of red, tending to brown, usually signifying an older but not necessarily fully mature wine
  • A style of Port which has usually been aged in wood rather than bottle, with colour fading over time.

White

German White Grapes (Credit: shweta_1712)
German White Grapes (Credit: shweta_1712)
  • White wine, of course, which covers a multitude of grapes and styles
  • White grapes (well many of them are of course more green than white) particularly those whose name includes white (in English or any other language) to distinguish them from darker coloured siblings, e.g. Pinot Blanc / Pinot Bianco / Weissburgunder.

Yellow

Vin Jaune
Vin Jaune
  • Of course the Jura’s famous “Vin Jaune” (literally “yellow wine”) leaps to mind here.
  • Ribolla Gialla (thanks Jim) is the yellow version of Ribolla, generally found in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy and over the border into Slovenia.

Information

Colour me White – 10 Reasons Why Colour Varies in White Wines

Have you ever wondered why white wine varies in colour?

Some are almost water white, while others can be lemon though to golden amber.  Surely there must be some logic to this?

Of course there is, but there are lots of inter-related factors which affect the colour of white wines.  Let’s have a look at them one by one.  Hold on to your hats, this might get a bit geeky by the end…

1. Oak

Angel_Oak_Tree_in_SC
Oak Tree (credit: DannyBoy7783)

More specifically maturation in new(er) small(er) oak barrels adds colour.  Certain types of wine are more likely to be barrel aged – Californian Chardonnays, for example – so much so, in fact, that you can see the difference before your nose gets anywhere near the glass.

See this post from 2014 for a more detailed discussion on oak.

2. Sweetness

Botritised Aszú Grape berries for Tokaji
Botritised Aszú Grape berries for Tokaji

The sweeter a wine is, the darker it will generally be. If you take a dessert wine (such as Hungary’s famous Tokaji) which comes in varying levels of sweetness, the depth of colour is a good guide to the level of residual sugar.

In fact, even on the basis of a mobile phone snap on twitter, I’ve had people make a good guess as to the number of Puttonyos* of a Tokaji – totes amazeballs, as the kids say nowadays.

(* putts for short, refers to the number of buckets of sweet grape paste added to a vat of fermenting wine)

3. Age

Age
Age

As a general truism, red wine gets paler with age and white wines get darker.  An illustration: the unique red and white wines of Chateau Musar in Lebanon move closer and closer in appearance as they mature in bottle.  Even Champagne goes golden when mature.

If you’ve got a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that looks quite golden though a clear glass bottle, the chances are that it is past its best…

4. Grape

Gewürztraminer
Gewurztraminer

This factor is the one that most people would guess at. Some white grapes have a slightly darker juice than others which affects what you see in your glass. Good examples of this from my favoured region of Alsace are Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.

The Spanish region of Rueda is known for its excellent yet inexpensive whites made from the fairly clear Verdejo grape, but wines of the same vintage do vary in hue. This is down to a certain proportion of Viura in the blend, a permitted grape in Rueda and Rioja plus Catalonia under the name Macabeo. So there you go!

5. Oxygen

Oxygen
Oxygen

Oxygen is both the friend and the enemy of all wine, red, white and all the diverse colours in-between.

a) Oxidised – when exposed to too much oxygen white wines go darker in hue quite quickly. When it happens this can be known as premature oxidation, or premox for short, and has spoiled many a white Burgundy lover’s treasures.

b) Oxidative – this descriptor is used when a wine is deliberately exposed to oxygen, for example with traditional white Rioja.  This style of wine will generally be darker than one in a non-oxidative style.

6. Skin contact

Orange Wine Skin contact
Orange Wine

The biggest fundamental difference between red and white wines is not the colour of the juice when grapes are pressed – with some exceptions, the juice is normally clear. The difference in colour is down to the time that the juice for red wines has in contact with the skins so that colour, flavour and tannin is leached out.

A very short time gives a rosé, an extended period can give an opaque, dense looking wine.

If you use the red wine approach with white grapes you get….orange wine! This is actually a very ancient method of wine making that has become trendy again. It’s arguable that, rather than being a darker type of white wine, orange is actually its own class of wine by itself.

7. Bâtonnage

Bâton
Bâton (the ones for stirring wine look a little different)

This is a fancy French term for stirring with a stick (which sounds somewhat less glamourous).  After fermentation some styles of white wine are left to stand on their lees, i.e. the spent yeast cells which have turned sugar into alcohol. It is particularly useful in Burgundy where it gives a certain creaminess to Chardonnay.

Wines made with lees contact tend to be markedly paler than those fermented in stainless steel and then transferred to cask for barrel maturation because darker pigments are absorbed by the lees.

8. Acidity

Acid
Acid

White wine colour is also affected by the wine’s levels of pH and the amount of acid (usually given as the equivalent in grams of tartaric acid for the chemists out there).  Very simply, more acidity leads to paler white wines.

9. Filtration

charcoal
charcoal

As part of the modern winemaking process, wines are usually filtered before bottling to remove any tiny particles which might give them a cloudy appearance. It depends on the substance used, but some such as charcoal will lighten a wine as tiny coloured particles (as well as some of the flavour) are removed.

10. Sulphur

Sulphur
Sulphur

Sulphur occurs naturally in wine, which is why pretty much every bottle in the shop has the caution “Contains Sulphites”.  Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) is added as a preservative agent at different parts of the wine-making process, and in different amounts.  There is a growing movements among artisan and “Natural” winemakers to reduce or even eliminate these additions.

Particularly in tandem with a low pH (i.e. high acidity), high SO2 concentration has a bleaching effect and removes colour from wine.

Of course, it’s difficult to see the effect in isolation as those producers who don’t add sulphur are often the same ones who allow skin contact…

Conclusion

Of course, these factors don’t act in isolation, and it might be several of them in concert which apply to a particular wine. For example, a traditional white Rioja is likely to be made from Viura, barrel matured and made in an oxidative style. Add a few years in the cellar then you will have quite an amber wine.

It’s not possible to point to any of these factors individually, but we can have a damned good guess!

 

Tasting Events

Groovy baby, Grü-Vee!!

Austin Powers Grü-Vee

Groovy!

Grüner Veltliner became the go-to wine for New York’s sommeliers in the late 1990s because it is an accommodating wine to pair with so many different types of food – fish, vegetables, white meat and even some red meat.  It can age beautifully and takes on a texture and richness than is comparable to the great whites of the Côte d’Or.  With a somewhat intimidating Germanic name it was given the sobriquet “Grü-Vee” or “Groovy” – and I just can’t but help think of Austin Powers when I hear that!

Since the 90s Grüner has fallen out of fashion somewhat in the big apple, but this doesn’t really upset the producers in its homeland of Austria as they can sell as much as they produce in the domestic market.  It accounts for around a third of all vineyard plantings in Austria and is particularly valued given its status as the signature variety of the country.  Riesling can produce profound wines in Austria, perhaps even more than Grüner, but Austrians don’t have the same sense of ownership (after all, the Germans and Alsatians have something of a claim to Riesling as well!)

Origins

The name actually means Green grape from Veltlin, which is in Lombardy.  In the days before passport controls when borders were fluid it was difficult to say where was Germanic and where was Italic.  Indeed a village called Tramin in the northern Italian region South Tyrol is thought to have given its name to the grape Traminer which is one of the parents of Grüner Veltliner.  The white version of Traminer is also important as Savagnin in the Jura, and the pink version is also known as Klevener when grown in the northern Alsace village of Heiligenstein.  A further mutation and it became Gewürztraminer “Spicy Traminer” – even more expressive.

The other parent of Grüner is the almost-extinct St. Georgener-Rebe which is just holding on in the village of Sankt Georgen am Leithagebirge in the Burgenland.  If you can find a bottle of that you are a true wine geek!

Outside the Eastern Kingdom

Grüner is known as Veltlinske Zelené in Slovakia where it is the most widely planted grape.  It also flourishes in the Czech Republic and just over the border from Austria into Italy.  Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria also have a small amount planted.

In the New World it also has a foothold in the cooler regions of the USA (Finger Lakes, Oregon…), Australia (Adelaide Hills), New Zealand (Gisbourne, Marlborough) and Canada (Okanagan Valley, BC).

Vineyard location

Grüner often does best on loess – silt, sand and a bit of clay mixed together.  Other sites with loam tend to produce more full-bodied The sunny days and cool nights of Austrian summers are perfect for ripening with enough sugar and flavour but maintaining lively acidity.

So, is now the time to say “Anti-Freeze”?

For those (like me) old enough to remember, Austrian wine was enveloped in an adulteration scandal in 1985.  Though the facts were slightly misconstrued, the damage stuck and the Austrian wine industry all but collapsed.

When trying to rebuild out of the scandal, super-tough regulations were announced so that no-one could doubt the quality of the product.  Like many other wine producing areas, Austria set up an “Appellation Contrôlée” type system, using the Latin “Districtus Austriae Controllatus” or DAC for short.  Interestingly (for geeks like me), instead of using Brix or Oechsle as measures of must weight (and therefore potential alcohol), the common measure in Austria is KMW.  That’s one for the memory bank.

The drawback of having a DAC for a region is that wines must be made in an prescribed style to carry the name, otherwise they don’t have the right to use their home region’s name at all.  This is one of the regions why the Wachau has stuck to its own classification system:

  • Steinfeder for wines up to 11.5% alcohol level
  • Federspiel for wines between 11.5–12.5%
  • Smaragd must have a minimum of 12.5%

The D6 Wine Club Grüner Veltliner Tasting at Wine Workshop

And so to the event that prompted this post in the first place – a tasting at Dublin’s newest wine shop, The Wine Workshop, focused solely on “Austria’s Golden Child”.  Our host(ess)-with-the-most(ess) Morgan Vanderkam will be writing her own blog on the event sometime soon, so I will link into that when published.

Ingrid Groiss Grüner Veltliner Weinviertel DAC 2013

Ingrid Groiss Grüner Veltliner Weinviertel 2013
Ingrid Groiss Grüner Veltliner Weinviertel DAC 2013

Ingrid Groiss is a talented and passionate young winemaker from the Weinviertel.  The Hare on the label represents the fertility of the land and harmony with Mother Nature (yeah OK, it does sound a bit hippyish!)  Her vineyards are located in the Pulkautal at Haugsdorf and at Fahndorf near Ziersdorf – google maps is your friend! – and mainly have loess soils.

Weinviertel has a DAC designation for white wine only, and currently only for Grüner Veltliner.  It was the first DAC to be created in 2003, effective for the 2002 vintage and onwards.  This example has the secondary designation Klassik, which means it is made in a clean, un-oaked style with no botrytis apparent.  If you like Alsace Riesling, give this a try.

Birgit Eichinger “Wechselberg” Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal DAC, 2013

Birgit Eichinger "Wechselberg" Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, 2013
Birgit Eichinger “Wechselberg” Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, 2013

Birgit Eichinger is another star from Kamptal.  This is a single vineyard wine – that vineyard being Wechselberg.  Although this is technically dry (2.1g/L of RS) it would still be a good match for spicy dishes – the fruit flavours make it taste sweeter than it actually is.

Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner “Tradition” Reserve, Kamptal, 2010

Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner "Tradition" Reserve, Kamptal, 2010
Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner “Tradition” Reserve, Kamptal, 2010

Schloss Gobelsburg is a major producer in Kamptal, and thankfully (given the quality) it appears on several wine merchants’ shelves  in the UK, Ireland and elsewhere.

This “Tradition” is a clean, racy example that starts to show plenty of fruit a little while after being poured, with just a little of Grüner’s signature white pepper on the finish.

Schloss Gobelsburg “Lamm” Grüner Veltiner Reserve, Kamptal, 2010

Schloss Gobelsburg "Lamm" Grüner Veltiner Reserve, Kamptal, 2010
Schloss Gobelsburg “Lamm” Grüner Veltiner Reserve, Kamptal, 2010

This was probably my favourite wine of the tasting!  Tasted blind I might have guessed an an Alsace Pinot Gris – it has the same oily, rich texture.  Acidity isn’t forgotten, there’s a streak running through the middle of the richness that keeps it fresh and balanced.

Gritsch “Smaragd” Loibenberg Grüner Veltiner, Wachau, 2007

Gritsch "Smaragd" Loibenberg Grüner Veltiner, Wachau, 2007
Gritsch “Smaragd” Loibenberg Grüner Veltiner, Wachau, 2007

If you were paying attention above you will see that this is the biggest, boldest type of Wachau wine.  From a single vineyard site, it is made in a fruit forward style but is robust enough to even pair with beef.  Fermented to dry, it can reach 14.0% abv – that’s pretty robust in a white wine!

 Claus Preisinger Grüner Weltliner, Weinland, 2012

Claus Preisinger Grüner Weltliner, Weinland, 2012
Claus Preisinger Grüner Weltliner, Weinland, 2012

A very modern label for a post-modern wine – a natural, orange wine.

Let’s tackle Natural first: The vineyard is certified Biodynamic and the wine is made with as little modern technology and intervention as possible.  Zero sulphur is added at any stage, even bottling.

And Orange?  Red wine is generally made with black grapes, and white wine is generally made with green grapes – in a different way, mainly in that the juice is pressed out of the skins then taken off quickly before colour and tannin leach into the juice.  Now imagine green grapes given the red wine process – then you have orange wine!  This has more colour than a typical white and noticeable tannin.

It’s not for everyone, but if you want to step out onto the ledge of wine’s high-rise, here it is!