I love this time of year. I love the smell of fallen leaves, and the crisp evening air on my face. This is my favorite time of year for food, too. Pomegranate, persimmon, nutmeg, chestnuts, sage, apples, squash, turkey, cranberry, and hearty dishes like roasted duck and braised pork shoulder. Sometimes, my palate gets a little tired of one red wine after another, and I need a white wine to help give me some variety. If you’re like me, Austrian whites are the way to go this fall.
Austria has a rich history of winemaking, dating back at least 2000 years. It thrived under (who else!) the Romans, where we first see evidence of Gruner Veltliner, Austria’s national varietal. In virtually every important winegrowing region of the world, there is a river that is vital to producing quality grapes. Austria’s key landmark was and still is, the Danube river. The hillside vineyards along the Danube have poor quality soils, perfect for producing high quality grapes. These stressed out vines produce less fruit, and spend most of their energy concentrating on the few clusters that remain on the vine. Very little Mediterranean influence reaches Austria, so the continental climate is reliant upon this mighty river to regulate temperatures, both in the summer and winter.
What seems totally unique, though, is the influence of the Waldviertel forests in northwest Austria. It is these nordic breezes, that flow from the northwest that heavily influence the diurnal shift from hot daytime temperatures to cold nighttime temperatures in regions like the Kremstal and Kamptal – two appellations where you get maximum bang for your buck. A significant contrast in day / night temperatures is needed to regulate sugars in the grapes, and help facilitate the racy acidity and beautiful aromatics that are so important for exceptional whites. The areas of Kremstal and Kamptal are more influenced by the Waldviertel forest than the Danube. Both produce fantastic Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, and Chardonnay that have everything I’m looking for in great white wine; flowery aromatics, silky texture, vibrant acidity, and a finish that lasts for days.
Check out these amazing Austrian whites this fall:
Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner 2014, Kamptal
The property has been a monastery since the 12th century, and the current winemaker sees himself as a steward. Loess and loam soils challenge the vines to put most of their energy into the grapes.
Buchegger Gruner Veltliner 2013, Vordernberg, Kremstal
The Vordernberg vineyard is prestigious for fabulous gruner. Whole cluster pressing emphasizes the aromatic, while 4 months on the lees (dead yeast) lends itself to texture.
Geyerhof Gruner Veltliner 2014, Rosensteig vineyard, Kremstal
Organically farmed. Gravel and crushed rock soils lend a vine to minerally characteristics in the nose.
Weixelbaum Gruner Veltliner 2014, “Wechselberg”, Kamptal
Organically and biodynamically farmed, the Wechselberg vineyard has partly volcanic soils that are iron-rich. These soils retain heat longer into the night and hang on the vines longer into the season.
Hannes Reeh Chardonnay 2013, Burgenland
My sleeper chardonnay of 2016. Creamy, and super subtle vanilla combine with citrus blossom and a wonderful texture on the palate. The acidity is perfectly balanced.
It’s impossible to know everything about wine. Let’s keep learning.