RotWeissRot, a Munich wine shop specializing in austrian wine (or Ösiwein, as it is affectionately known here at the Wine Rambler) had organised a tasting of high-end juices to celebrate its seventh anniversary and invited some very well thought-of winemakers to present them in person.
So who was I not to get on my bike, pedal sharpish to the somewhat dowdy part of town where it resides, meet with Wine Rambler friend and wine tasting regular Anke, and grab a glass.
We started with Anita & Hans Nittnaus from Gols (Lake Neusiedl region), who were both in attendance. The 08 Pinot Blanc Heideboden was not an auspicious start, and nothing to write home about in any way. Turning to Anke out of earshot to say how unremarkable I found it, I realized I had already forgotten how it had tasted. But the first red, the basic 08 Zweigelt, turned things around: Very spicy, Juniper berries. Slim and uncompromising. Now that he had my attention, Nittnaus did exactly the right thing and hit me with the 07 Blaufränkisch "Kalk & Schiefer": An unusually fresh red, with great acidity and minerality. Purist. My kind of red wine. The 2006 Blaufränkisch Leithaberg built on that and added another layer: Even more intensive, though hardly less purist. Slim and mineral, but smooth and gentle at the same time.
I asked Hans Nittnaus did it not take some courage to go for this less than popular style, when it would clearly disappoint many wine lovers raised on fruitier, more assertive fare (I know a thing or two about how to flatter good winemakers) and got a simple nod, and a look in which years of experience and hard-won wisdom about the ups and downs of the wine world seemed to lie. My kind of wines, and also my kind of winemaker. Am I repeating myself? The wine rambler will report back with more, but for now, journalistic honesty compels me to report that Anke, no doubt speaking for a great many tasters, found these wines a little too austere for her palate.
Of course, the Wine Rambler is always on the hunt for original grape varieties, so I could not pass up on the 07 Rotgipfler Radauner Top Selection by Karl Alphart, one of the better known wineries of the little known Thermenregion south of Vienna. And very original it was: Exotic, slightly smoky, beeswax, honey, "sweet without being sweet" (Anke), mouth-filling, self-confident, powerful. Wow. A real discovery.
Prager, a great pedigree name from the Wachau surprised me with his 2008 Riesling Smaragd Wachstum Bodenstein. With its great razorblade acidity, deep minerality and tightly wound structure, it did not release its aromas yet, but when it does: Stand back. Downright Germanic in style. Completely different from that was the 08 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Achleiten: hugely powerful, dried herbs galore.
Markus Huber's wines from the Traisental, which is not far from the Wachau, but not nearly as prestigious, proved an attraction for many tasters, as did the winemaker (sorry Ladies, it would seem from the pictures on the website that he is taken): His 09 Grüner Veltliner "Berg" was less traditional in style than the Prager, much fruitier, but, I found, also less deep, and it did not completely convince us. The 09 Gelber Muskateller was a text-book Muscat, light, elderflower all over. Would make a great aperitif-type sipper, but certainly no wine for ageing or philosophical musings. The 07 Riesling Ice Wine "Berg", on the other hand, was in another league altogether: One of the bright stars of the whole tasting, we both found it explosively fruity, feathery light, all over your mouth, impossible not to like.
Finally, the wines most memorable for me were three high-end Blaufränkischs (all between 40 and 55 €) that showed the sheer class this underrated grape can deliver, as well as the diversity of styles in which it can be done. The 2007 Tannenberg from Nittnaus was superbly purist and mineral, with a freshness that was almost electric. Amazing. The 2006 Dürrau from Weninger was like the Tannenberg, but coated in finest dark chocolate. The 2007 Hochberc from Albert Gesellmann was more of a crowd pleaser, a seduction of berries, but still with enormous class.
Photos: (1) (c) ÖWM, Griesch (2) Vineyards by Lake Neusiedl, (c) ÖWM, Mark (3) Markus Huber's vineyards