Austria a hidden gem

The Tennessean
Jul. 23, 2013

Austrian wine had a moment a few years back. A native Austrian grape called gruner veltiner became a sommelier must-have, popping up on wine lists across the country and championed for its versatility and food-friendliness.

Then an Austrian chap by the name of Aldo Sohm won the coveted title of “Best Sommelier in the World” for his work at the world-famous Le Bernardin. But that was about it, and since then we’ve haven’t broadened our embrace of Austrian wine, much like Wolfgang Puck didn’t make us all fall in love with Austrian food.

Stop missing out on the beauty and purity of Austrian wine. It’s true, Austrian wine lacks the continental sexiness of Italy’s offerings and delicious snootiness of the French masters, but I think Austria is the true hidden gem of wine in all of Europe.

So what to try?

Naturally, the best place to start is with gruner veltliner, the standard-bearer and unofficial, official white grape of Austria. This is a wine that can be a back-porch pounder, delicious and quaffable and available by the liter bottle with a pop-top bottle cap instead of cork, as well as a sumptuous and elegant wine, perfect for your most complex gastronomic excursions.

If you’re looking for a bit more oomph, a touch more body, grab a glass of roter veltliner, a grape that, despite its name, is not related to the aforementioned gruner and is notable in that it produces a white wine, yet has a red-tinted skin.

And now on to the reds. Any tour of Austrian wine wouldn’t be complete without a tasting of blaufrankisch, a delicious light-to-medium bodied red that has a lot of floral elements on the nose and a pinot noir-like silken texture.

Some of my favorite Austrian reds have been from St. Laurent, a grape in the same family as pinot noir. Less playful than blaufrankisch, it is nevertheless capable of producing richly fruity wines that also showcase great depth and restraint. If you love great pinot noir, this will be your new best friend.

— Tristan Kinsley, the Tennessean