Great Red Vintage 2009
The 2009 vintage has been considered outstanding, not only for Bordeaux reds but also the Austrian equivalents. Starting from 1959, every vintage ending with 9 has been the best in that decade and 2009 has apparently been no exception- the Austrians might consider contacting some well known Indian Astrologers who could find a plausible explanation and might even predict for the next few decades.
Throughout the day, on June 1-a day before the wine show opened, over 180 wines were offered for tasting in a comfortable and quiet atmosphere with the beautiful serene ambience, for the first time on a seated basis. The whole set Â of wines was divided into 34 flights-starting from Zweigelt and moving on to Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, the current craze Blaufrankisch, then changing over to the fuller bodied Cuvees which are blends of the local varieties with the international ones-mostly Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The organizers could not have chosen a better venue than â€˜Grosser Redoutensaalâ€™ â€“ one of the big ballrooms Â in the huge Wiener Hofburg complex-the Imperial Palace the first phase of which was built in the 13th century and was the residence of the ruling Habsburgs till 1918. Known for its grand balls and concerts, this hall was a part of a wing that was relatively new 200-year old structure. However, it was gutted in fire 20 years ago and was refurbished, keeping the same old structure but with ornate and modern finish including a huge, beautiful painting adorning the ceiling and big vertical panels with a similar paintings on the wall- coincidentally with fiery red as the dominating colour component. The chandeliers are new but masterpieces crafted Â by the 200-year old famous Austrian glass company J& L Lobmeyr.
Although the information about wines had been already sent to the tasters through the electronic media, the first thing that attracted one- besides the mesmerizing venue, was the beautiful, glossy and Â classy Catalogue with detailed information about the wines that could be tasted. Each wine had the complete information about the winery, grapes, and other relevant tid-bits including alc. level, Residual Sugar and Total acidity. For the tech savvy persons carrying smart phones, separate QR codes in German and English had been provided for all the wines making the tasting notes taking job easier-perhaps for the first time in Europe.
The catalogue had valuable information about the local red varieties, complete with acreage, ampelographic and agronomic characteristics and even the clone details, pictures of leaves and grapes and loads of other information that would be helpful even to MW students. The complete list of over 100 producers that participated, and a complete geographic statistics of acreage in different regions, reinforced with the Austrian map was ever so helpful. Â AWMB has even gone to the extent of colouring the predominantly white wine region Lower Austria in pale yellow, the generally known -for-Sauvignon Blanc Styria in light green and the red-majority region Burgenland colored in shades of red on all maps one was to see during the next 3-4 days.
The extremely attractive catalogue doubles up as a handbook for red grapes of Austria and induced the tasters to get a good handle on the red varietals of Ã–sterreich.
The oft-used word Super would aptly fit the excellent service at the tasting. One could give the flight number and the table number and raise hands and anyone of the Jung Sommelier (young sommeliers) watching even fromÂ a distance would rush to you and before you blinked your eyes would return with the 6-bottle canvas carrier that one has perhaps not seen used anywhere else so far, pour the wines Â quietly and vanish.
As Willi Klinger, the MD of Austrian Wine Marketing Board (austrianwine.com) likes to joke, Austria has convinced people that Hitler was German, Â he could well claim that the well-known German efficiency was in fact also an export from Austria.
Red wines of Austria
A lot of the Austrian reds are cultivated in cool climate and so the average alcohol level of around 13.5% with a few cases crossing 14% was the highlight of the red wines. Although Zweigelt was not too impressive, partially as it has a typical flavour that Indians might not find easy to enjoy in the first few tastings, Pinot Noir was quite fresh and of generally medal- winning levels.Â Since the international consumers are not yet convinced of the Austrian red wines which have been dominated by the whites, it would be a prudent to enter them also in international wine competitions to get the attention the wines merit.
Blaufrankisch is a wine that was quite impressive and generally full of cherries and plums (a couple of them even brought memories of our native seasonal summer fruit faalsa which looks like blueberry but has different flavours ) and quite fresh and juicy right till the end. A majority of them were well rounded and had good balance. In general, they would be quite amenable to Indian palate and even theÂ cuisine. The lower alcohol level of 13-13.5% touched my weak spot as well.
The Cuvee showed the blending capabilities Â and skills of winemakers and there were many outstanding wines- I felt that where Merlot or syrah had been an important ingredient, the blend was more palatable to me and I reckon Indian palates in general.
The general impression one carried home that evening was that Austria was getting ready for the time when the whites might become passÃ© or when the international consumer demanded even the reds. It would be one step at a time for India though- GrÃ¼ner Veltliner followed by Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, with Blaufrankisch carrying the rear.