It's nearly time to end my self-imposed quasi-lent (punctured as it was by a Wine Rambler committee meeting and its inevitable by-effects), and to get myself back in the mood for wine (as if that needed any extra effort), so let me report on an enjoyable discovery from last autumn: From Austria's southern Steiermark region, to be precise, a lovely corner of Europe with rolling green hills and scattered villages. It is predominantly a white wine producer, with emphasis on Sauvignon Blanc, which they do excellently, and aromatic varieties like Muscat and Traminer. But there is also red, and some of it is seriously good.
This basic red blend from the Winkler-Hemaden winery takes its name from the Castle where they reside. It's made up of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent, two more or less indigenous grapes, and some Merlot for the ladies and the more internationally trained palates. Good mixture?
Good mixture! Nice cherry colour, a nose clearly driven by Blaufränkisch (for which read red currants, some underripe blackberries, juniper, slightly mossy tree bark), pleasantly dry and spicy. On the palate very dry red fruit, herbs, finely worked tannin and a bitter-sweet, chocolaty finish. A convincing combination of wildness and elegance.
As I keep mentioning, I'm always looking for unoaked, lighter-bodied reds with spice, clarity and freshness that make for relaxed drinking, with one hand in your pocket, as it were. This certainly is one.