Laurenz V. Friendly Grüner Veltliner 2007

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Laurenz V. Friendly Grüner Veltliner 2007

Laurenz V. Friendly Grüner Veltliner 2007

For the first time ever, each post on the homepage of this blog features a wine from a different country.  While in general, I aim for roughly 50% Australian wines and 50% rest of world, between my recent Canadian trip and a visit to my cellar, I’ve managed to be slightly more worldly of late.  I know it won’t last, but rounding out the group, I give you a wine from Austria, the Laurenz V. Friendly Grüner Veltliner 2007.

This is actually the fourth wine of Austria I’ve covered, but strangely for a country I so strongly associate with white wines, the first three were red or rosé.  As it turns out, while white grape production is roughly double that of red, that is down from triple in 1999.  Plantings of white grapes have been declining across the board and plantings of reds have increased for all major varieties except Blauer Portugieser.

While I’ve covered Grüner Veltliner before, it was an Australian, and for the time being I think the best are still from Austria.  Despite a drop in plantings over the last decade, it remains the most widely planted grape in Austria, with more area under vines than the next three varieties combined.  It’s also arguably the most iconic Austrian grape – if someone knows a single Austrian grape, this is the one.

Laurenz V. (that’s Roman numeral five) was formed in 2005 by Laurenz Maria Moser V of the Lenz Moser family with a long history in wine, dating back to 1124.  He partnered with an accountant, Franz Schweiger, and Dieter Hübler who runs marketing and distribution.  The three of them embraced Grüner Veltliner as their sole grape, staking their entire company on it, and claim to be the only producer working exclusively with it.  Focused on the export market, the company’s goal is to promote the grape variety on the world stage as a previously overlooked fine wine grape.  They source their grapes from the Kamptal, Kremstal and Weinviertel subregions within the Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) region.

The wines themselves, each with a very approachable name such as Charming, Friendly, and Sunny, are differentiated on a number of fronts.  While all are fermented in stainless steel, some are from specific subregions and others are blends.  Most are dry with only a few grams of residual sugar, though there is one off-dry called Forbidden.  There is even a low (10%) alcohol wine called Grüner Forever.  This wine, Friendly, is largely from the Kamptal region with some blending from Kremstal and is meant to be fresh and fruit driven.

Despite translating to Lower Austria, Niederösterreich is in the north east of the country.  The lower part of the name refers to it being downriver on the Danube from Oberösterreich, or Upper Austria.  The area is made up of eight subregions, each with its own character, so I’ll focus on Kremstal and Kamptal with this wine.  Kremstal is home to vineyards on clay and limestone near the town of Krems, which shift to loess, or half rock, half soil, going north through the Krems Valley.  Parts of the region are steep enough to require terracing.  The loess is also a feature of Kamptal to the north and east, and both regions enjoy an abundance of south facing slopes to maximize sunshine.  The area as a whole is a continental climate, and enjoys hot summers but cold winters, allowing full ripeness but with cool enough nights for acidity retention.

In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with a pale lemon green colour and a thin film inside the glass when swirled.  On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium plus intensity and notes of mineral, citrus, cream, and a bit of custard.  On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium plus body, medium plus intensity, medium alcohol, and a medium plus length.  There are notes of minerals (almost briny), Nashi pear, some citrus, sandalwood and white pepper.

This is a very good wine – rich and complex, with strong typicity and a very crisp flavour even as a five year old white.  The minerality, a character I always associate with Grüner Veltliner, is very evident, and the acidity keeps it sharp.

Blaufränkisch Austrian Wine by Mac Forbes 2009

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Blaufränkisch Austrian Wine by Mac Forbes 2009

Blaufränkisch Austrian Wine by Mac Forbes 2009

Yesterday it was a Rhône white in McLaren Vale, this time it’s an Austrian red, in Austria, but made by an Australian.  Yes, I am doing my part in upholding the difficulty in learning about wine by drawing attention to yet another bit of quirkiness rather than covering the basics, and with that I bring you Blaufränkisch Austrian Wine by Mac Forbes 2009.

But before I begin, I need to relate a sad tale of some students who faced the WSET Diploma Unit 3 exam in January of 2011, a year before I did.  They were given this question:

Assess Austria’s strengths and weaknesses as a producer of still, light wines.

The Examiners’ Report (which is always something of a snarky document, to be honest) published after the exam was administered had this to say:

A number of candidates failed this question because in the heat of the moment they misread it and wrote an essay about Australia rather than Austria. This was a heavy price to pay for a lapse in concentration and was particularly foolish as the next question WAS on Australia, and common sense should have told them that there would not be two questions on Australia on the same paper.

The moral of the story is that Austria and Australia are not the same, and that the penalty for confusing them can be quite severe.  With that in mind, we have an Austrian wine, made from an Austrian grape variety, by an Australian.

I covered an Austrian rosé Blaufränkisch back in December, but as is the case with many of my pre-exam posts, I didn’t say a whole lot about the grape, region or producer.  (However, on the Australia question on the exam I took, I wrote about the right country so I passed.)  So let’s start with the grape itself.  Around here, Blaufränkisch is generally considered the Austrian red, which I think is because there is a local Australian producer, Hahndorf Hill Winery, making Blaufränkisch so it’s not completely (though mostly) unknown to Australian consumers.  Zweigelt, on the other hand, actually is the most widely planted red in Austria, but I know of none grown in Australia and I’ve only ever seen one imported, and it was from the same producer as the aforementioned rosé Blaufränkisch. [Larry Jacobs of Hahndorf Hill Winery left a comment that he has some Zweigelt vines and will be producing a rosé this year.  I will have to give it a try.]

As a grape, it’s dark skinned, early budding and late ripening, which to my mind makes it a curious choice for Austria as it needs a relatively long ripening period.  It’s prone to frost damage in the spring, but is generally vigorous and capable of high yields.

As a wine, it delivers in the acidity and tannin departments and takes oak well, making it a good candidate for extended maturation.  It can also have a light to medium body, which goes some way to explain that historically it was thought to be the same grape as Gamay.  Plantings of it in Austria have increased by 22% from 1999 to 2009, so it may be on the verge of having its fashion moment.

I didn’t get a photo of the back of the bottle but it seems this wine comes from the Carnuntum district of Austria, which is situated between Vienna and Slovakia, along the south bank of the river Danube. (The OCW says it’s along the north bank, but it looks like the south on the maps.)  The climate of Austria in general is coolish continental, with cold winters and hot summers, though in Carnuntum they are mitigated both by the river and the Neusiedlersee (Lake Neusiedl) to the south.  According to the excellent Austrian Wine website, the “soil structures consist mostly of stony, dense loam and loess or sand and gravel”.

As for Mac Forbes the producer, it is headed by the eponymous winemaker, who is highly regarded in Australia, having been nominated for Gourmet Traveler Winemaker of the Year recently.   He worked his first vintage in France, and after some time hopping between Europe and Australia, he returned to the Yarra Valley to make his own wine, starting with a 2005 vintage.  In Australia, he began by specializing in single vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.  He’s since expanded into Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz in the Yarra Valley, as well as Riesling in the Strathbogie Ranges, also in Victoria.  In addition, he’s produced what he terms “Project Wines” which include a King Valley Barbera, a Yarra Valley Arneis, and a Tasmanian Riesling.  In September 2010 he started planting Blaufränkisch in the Yarra Valley, and in December 2011 undertook planting of Grüner Veltliner in Strathbogie Ranges.

Obviously, Mac Forbes has a soft spot for Austria, where apparently he’s sought after as a winemaking consultant, and he counts among his “Project Wines” two that he produces there:  a Grüner Veltliner and this Blaufränkisch.

Speaking of which, this wine had a blood red colour that was a bit deeper than medium but by no means opaque.  On the nose it was clean and developing, with fairly intense notes of black pepper and black cherry.  The palate was dry, with medium body, medium minus sticky tannins, medium alcohol, medium plus acidity, and medium plus intensity.  There were notes of iodine, cranberry, cherry, black pepper, and an interesting sour plum finish of medium plus length.

This is a very good quality wine.  It ticked a lot of boxes for me in terms of a good variety of complex flavours on the palate, and high levels of intensity throughout.  I also liked that it was a fairly light body, not because that’s something I always want, but when I do want it there seems to be little choice these days in terms of lighter reds.  And while I’ll be sad when Hahndorf Hill Winery loses its monopoly on Australian grown Blaufränkisch, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Mac Forbes can do with it in the Yarra Valley.

Pin in the map is approximate – it’s what comes up for Carnuntum on Google Maps.  However, it’s closer to the vineyard than using the Australian address in Healesville, Victoria.

Pittnauer Zweigelt Burgenland 2007

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Pittnauer Zweigelt Burgenland 2007

Pittnauer Zweigelt Burgenland 2007

First, wine.  After failing the certified sommelier exam yesterday (but before I had the failing grade in hand) I had lunch.  Sad, unfortunate, and in some ways avoidable (certainly for the next time I face such an exam), but alas, even if things are going badly it rarely helps to deny oneself food (and drink).  Thinking of the quote attributed alternatively to Napoleon and Churchill, I knew I was in the category of needing it.  It was fine, but I wouldn’t fill a blog with it, let’s just say.  However, the red wine I had by the glass to go with some lovely venison is worth an entry.

I had my first Zweigelt.  I know, everyone remembers their first Zweigelt, and it’s always special, and this was no exception.

What?  What’s a Zweigelt, you ask?  Well it’s only the most  popular dark grape in Austria!  It’s apparently a cross between Blaufränkisch and St-Laurent, though you could be forgiven for not knowing that (and over the past three weeks I certainly have developed an appreciation for forgiveness in the face of not knowing something).  Austria exports no more than a quarter of their wine, and  most of their exports go to their close neighbours, with roughly 70% going to Germany and the next biggest market being Switzerland.  So to find a Zweigelt on a wine list, much less to find one available by the glass, well who could say no?

Anyway, back to Zweigelt itself.  As I mentioned, it’s a dark grape.  It’s relatively low in acidity and in weight, with common flavours being cherries, peppers, and currants.  It was originally crossed in 1922, so it’s a relatively young variety, and while very popular in Austria, has only started to go international with some plantings in Germany, the United Kingdom, and apparently Japan.

So this one in particular from Pittnauer – I just had one of those moments where I am pleased to have been keeping this blog.  My memory isn’t the greatest (so I’m not sure how I managed to pass all the exams in 2010 and 2011) and while there logo on the bottle was familiar, it wasn’t until just now that I realized that I’ve blogged about them before, in particular about their Pittnauer Rosé 2010.  Now their Rosé didn’t do a whole lot for me, but their Zweigelt was just the thing.

It had a very fruity nose, but with hints of chocolate, that went perfectly with my meal.  It wasn’t heavy, maybe a medium minus body, and the alcohol was medium, but the intensity of flavour on the nose and the palate was fantastic.  I really enjoyed this wine, and would rate it very good quality.

Right, meta update, just for kicks.  This is post 53, which isn’t too bad really.  I meant to mention it when I hit post 50, but didn’t realize until I was already on 51.  I have 4 Likes on Facebook, and I’m not related to any of them (as far as I know).  The number of impressions I’m getting on search results are way up, though I started from such a low base it’s pretty insignificant.  And since I’m on the Internet, I’m getting spam – up to 111 posts blocked so far.

Also, it’s apparently still a done thing to tweet “drunk.com”, presumably when you’re drunk.  Not really much to do with me, and if it makes people happy, more power to them.  I only once saw evidence that anyone who tweeted it had read the blog, which made it even funnier.  I almost feel like I should put up a special page just for people who should hit my homepage via Twitter so they get a special message congratulating them on being drunk and telling them to party on.

The trend does mean I’ve been asked to sell the domain more times in the last couple of months than in the past couple of years, but that’s fine.  If I ever can’t afford my next drink, I know I can probably cash this in and get a case or two of something good.

Lastly, the future.  I’m going to keep on blogging, though you may have noticed I’ve dropped the formal WSET style of writing up a tasting note.  If it turns out I failed the tasting part of the exam, it will return.  Also, I’m thinking of trying to work out some study materials for myself to do with wine geography.  I love maps, and I have some good ones from a variety of sourse, including Vinodiversity.  However, they mostly sit around and I only look at them when I’m after something specific, not as a general study aid.

So, I’m thinking it might be worthwhile to make up some maps online, probably using Google Maps/Earth.  In an ideal world, I’d love to make up a game where the name of a wine region would appear and you would have to click on a continent, a country, possibly a state, and then zoom into the region itself.  So if, for instance, if Umpqua Valley came up, you would click North America, then the USA, then Washington, and finally click within a polygon that would be the area of the AVA.

The problem, of course, is getting data for the multitude of wine regions into a map.  While there are fine maps out there, I’m not sure how easy I’d find it to use them as reference for making my own, and with something like Google in particular you can zoom down to street level and I’m certainly not going to have that find a detailed set of data for most regions.  There’s also the rights issue with regard to referencing third party maps – I can’t infringe on anyone else’s copyright, especially as there might be some way to turn a penny or two out of having good online maps of the wine regions of the world.  There would be one further problem, and that’s staying on top of region changes.  The Champagne region has increased in size recently, areas are upgraded from DOC to DOCG with increasing regularity, and the USA adds AVAs all the time.  Keeping the maps up to date would be a job in itself.

But first things first – I’ll start having a look at what’s possible and what’s easy, which is always a good way to start.  Thanks for reading.

 

Pittnauer Rosé 2010

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Pittnauer Rosé 2010

Pittnauer Rosé 2010

Another Sunday lunch and a bit of a break from studying for the WSET Diploma Unit 3 exam, in particular getting away from Burgundy where my heads been for the past day.  Today at lunch, I found something that’s most unusual, at least in this part of the world, that I had to have a glass and to write it up.

So Austria – beautiful country, produces some excellent and unique wines.  When I think of Austria with regard to wine, Grüner Veltliner is the first grape to spring to mind.  In Austria it can be crisp and refreshing, with fantastic minerality.  When it comes to reds, Blaufränkisch is the best known, with spicy cherries and red berries at the fore.  The thing is, while Austria has a fantastic wine ambassador in the form of Willi Klinger (who taught our section on Austria), Austrian wine is not on as many wine lists as perhaps it should be.  Part of it is that the two most popular varieties are not grown very widely outside of Austria, and so they’re unfamiliar to most people.  However, within the wine trade, Grüner Veltliner in particular is well loved.  I know winery not far from here that has both Grüner Veltliner and Blaufränkisch vines, and I’ve love to see it grow in popularity.

Anyway, I saw this Pittnauer Rosé 2010  on the wine list at lunch today by the glass and I had to give it a try.  It’s made by Gerhard Pittnauer in the Burgenland region of Austria, which is in the east of the country along the border with Hungary.  I’d never had an Austrian rosé, so I couldn’t say no.  It had a lovely pale colour and I was assured it was a dry style.  And while it was certainly refreshing, unfortunately there wasn’t a whole lot to it.

Whenever I have a rosé in a glass in front of me, I’m expecting there to be some red fruit flavours, usually strawberries or cherries, and that wouldn’t have been out of place as this wine is made from Blaufränkisch.  However, the nose gave very little away.  I did get some fruit, though it was more citrus and a bit of peach.  However, it was so light that I had a hard time making it out.  On the palate it was the same – similar flavours, what there were of them.  The acidity was great, but unfortunately there just wasn’t much else.

Appearance

Clear and bright with a pale salmon colour. Very slow legs.

Nose

Clean, medium-minus intensity, youthful. Peach, lime, strawberry, cherry,

Palate

Dry, medium plus acidity, medium body, no tannins, medium alcohol, medium-minus flavour intensity, medium-minus length. Lemongrass, sour cherry, lime, peach finish.

Conclusions

Acceptable quality. A nice bit of acid that went well with a spicy dish, but not much else. Neither complex nor intense, more the type of curiosity I can rarely resist, but in this case not especially rewarding. Does not exhibit Blaufränkisch.  Drink now as it in unlikely to improve and the freshness will vanish.