Austrian grapes you’ve probably never heard of…
Started off the day in Chinatown for a bit of dim sum before heading off to the annual Austrian wine tasting held at the Institute of Directors on Pall Mall. There were still plenty of red lanterns hanging around, leftover from Chinese New Year. It put me in a good mood as we walked thru Leicester Sq and cut across Haymarket to get to the IOD.
The Austrians are probably best know for Gruner Veltliner but there were plenty of other varietals available for tasting. What really surprised me was that gruner was not only light and zippy but could also be rich and full with aromas of melons, white flowers and peaches swirling around the glass. The Austrians are not afraid to use oak, although most of it was old oak barrels, there was a fair amount of new oak being used as well.
Riesling was also well represented. I found most of them to be quite aromatic, green apples and citrus but dry. One exhibitor remarked that they were more similar to Alsatian rieslings rather then the typical off-dry German rieslings. What I found most interesting was the plethora of varietals on show and not just the usual suspects. Blauer zweigelt- a red, quite cherry-ish, smooth and velvety. Welschriesling – not a riesling at all but a white meant to be drunk young, roter veltliner – another Austrian only varietal that has nothing to do with gruner. It was quite dry, spicy and smelled like wet rocks, lovely. Blaufrankisch- lovely stuff, loads of cherries. St. Laurent – another interesting red very rustic, wonder if it improves with age? Blauburgunder (pinot noir) was another varietal that kept popping up. Those were just some of the interesting and different varietals on show.
Alongside all the exotic Austrian varietals, there was also merlot, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, cabernet sauvignon and even syrah(!). There was one amazing chardonnay from the Artner winery. Clocking in at 15 % alcohol, you’d never know it. Slightly buttery, creamy nose, very fresh on the palate with a lovely balance between the fruit and the oak. Well integrated, a fabulous surprise. Much like the rest of the tasting. I’ve always liked those northern European wines and this tasting did nothing to change my mind.