Willi Opitz, Pinot Noir, Beerenauslese, 2005

Willi Opitz, Pinot Noir, Beerenauslese, 2005

Dessert wine. Think Riesling so thick with sugar that you could grease your bicycle with it. Think Sauternes with even more sugar than the Riesling and twice the level of alcohol. Think Château d'Yquem. Think Austrian red wine. Ah, wait, did he just say 'Austrian red wine'? Yes he did, and he wrote that in a perfectly sober state. So let me start with saying that that there is Austrian red wine (in case you did not know) and that it can be outright fantastic. Most of it is dry, so I got very excited when I saw this sweet, half bottle beauty on the shelves at Harrods. So what is a sweet Austrian red wine like?

Let's start with terminology (the Austrians are actually not much better with this than the Germans). We are looking at a Pinot Noir that is classified as 'Beerenauslese' (BA), literally 'selected harvest of berries'. BA wines are made from carefully selected (over-)ripe grapes that are often affected by noble rot. This friendly fungus infects ripe grapes and sucks them dry, thus concentrating flavours and sugar.

Willi Opitz' BA is a real stunner. Very beautiful colour, a shiny blend of crimson and a metallic-brown (which somehow reminded me of the type of metallic colours used for cars). Very pretty.

The nose features redcurrant, dried fruit, cherries, acacia honey and reminded us of both Madeira and resinous woodlands. It is intense, but not overwhelming. On the tongue the Pinot is not as heavy as you'd expect, in fact it is quite lively due to its good acidity - lack of acidity is what turns me off with many dessert wines. There is good fruit, most notably the return of cherry and currant from the bouquet, and honey and baked fruit give it a pleasant stickiness. The finish is long and adds that right bit of spice to keep things interesting.

Considering the 13% alcohol and the sweetness the Pinot is still quite drinkable on its own, but we found it was the perfect companion with a good chocolate mousse.