2013, Austria, WINE

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Austria's is another of those wonderful stories of wine redemption. In the 21st century, the country has fully emerged from the controversies and underachieving quality that plagued its reputation for the latter half of the 20th century. Austrian winemakers have once again found their groove, working with native varietals and strict adherence to quality standards. Wine production in Austria is concetrated mostly in the east of the country, where the Alps prevent any Mediterranean influence. Instead, the region is dominated by a continental climate and heavily influenced by the wide, meandering Danube river, the shallow Neusiedl lake, and the vast, warm Pannonian Plain to the east. The state of Niederösterreich is the overall epicenter of Austrian wine, and this is the most common regional designation found on basic bottlings.

The signature grape is indisputably the aromatic, peppery, zesty Grüner Veltliner, but Riesling also finds a special expression in many of Austria's more specific white wine micro-climates and terroir. Wachau is perhaps Austria's most famous region although it doesn't bear an offical DAC designation. Its steep, sun-drenched terraces above the Danube (similar to those of Germany's Mosel) are known for their citrusy, peppery, ageworthy Grüners and rich, steely Rieslings. The local quality spectrum divides wines into three categories according to ripeness and alcohol content: Steinfeder, Federspiel, and the heady, dense, otherworldly Smaragd. A bit further down the Danube is the prestigious DAC of Kremstal. The climate here is a bit warmer than Wachau, exposed as it is to the warm dry winds of the Pannonian Plain. The corresponding wine styles typically display fuller richness than Wachau, along with more tropical fruit notes in the whites, while the red Zweigelt is able to gain a foothold here, too.

Next up is Kamptal, another small wine commune on a tributary of the Danube and revered the world over for its intensely rich, spicy Grüner Veltliners and bone-dry, smoky Rieslings. The steeper terraces are well-suited to Riesling, while Grüner thrives on the lower slopes in the deeper clay and loess soils. Much like its neighbors, Kamptal is heavily influenced by the river and the plain, as well as the cool winds from the Alps. As the course of the Danube flattens, it reaches the Wagram, where the vineyards are concentrated in on a broad plain and plateau of uniformly deep loess soils — prime Grüner country, where the wines are rich, densely packed flavor bombs with a characteristically full, creamy texture.

Southeast of Vienna, the areas around the Neusiedl Lake are markedly different than those along the Danube. Burgenland, as it's known, runs south from the Danube to Steiermark along the Hungarian border and has more in common, climatically speaking, with Hungary than with the rest of Austria. The lake itself is the defining influence here, storing heat and lengthening the ripening season. The region produces Austria's finest red wines from Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, and Sankt Laurent varietals. The lake's attendant humidity is also a major factor in developing botrytis cinerea, a necessary ingredient in producing world-class sweet wines, the best of which rival those of Sauternes and Tokaj.

There is no shortage of great viticultural potential in Austria, and as the years pass by, we are likely only scratching the surface of what's possible here. The future looks bright indeed.

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91-92 points David Schildknecht (Vinous): ...exhibits a striking combination of bright, active, tart citricity and gooseberry crunch with smoky, stony underpinnings. Formidably energetic and persistent, it comes off as a bit more primary and reminiscent of a 'normal' handling of Riesling fruit...… ...

V 91-92
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Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Niederosterreich Tradition 2013  (#330946)

Riesling from Niederösterreich, Austria

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available

Brilliant gold. Perfumed with lively aromas of quince and honey intermingled with a hint of ginger. This Beerenauslese is softly textured, with moderate acidity and a semi-sweet palate redolent with eastern spices. The fruit was gently crushed where it remained in contact with skins for 12 hours to… ...

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Wenzel Furmint Beerenauslese Burgenland 2013  (#328135)

Dessert Wine from Neusiedlersee, Burgenland, Austria

375ml Half Bottle | In stock, 1 available
$19.88
$32.00
Save $12.12 (38%)32.00
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