Austrian wines have a niche all their own
Jul. 31, 2013

Most Austrian wines stay in Austria, where Austrians drink it. A good portion gets into the surrounding countries of the European Union. A fairly small - but growing - amount gets to the United States.

In the United States, Austria doesn't get wine store sections or endcaps and remains a category for those dedicated to finding it.

If there is one wine made in Austria that Americans will recognize, it is riesling. Between riesling homeland Germany and the hilly, cool region of Italy, the Alto Adige, where wine makers produce crisp whites such as riesling and even gewürztraminer, Austria is white wine territory.

The primary white and top wine of Austria is grünier veltliner. Feel free to call it GV or even "groovy." Austrian reds are lesser regarded both inside and outside Austria, but the country produces some pinot noir and more local zweigelt and lemberger, which goes under its other name, blaufrankisch.

Most of the wine grapes in Austria are produced organically, or even biodynamically, even though producers may not brag about it on the label.

Here are some Austrian wines available in Pennsylvania, though probably not in every specialty store.

Hirsh Gruner Veltliner "1" 2011 Kamptal is fairly lean, with a streak of lemon and minerality. $21. ★★★ 1/2

I haven't had much Austrian St. Laurent. Has anybody? But Sattler's 2010, I have to imagine, is as good as it gets. St. Laurent is rustic, with big pepper flavors and jammy fruit notes that no one would confuse with Bordeaux varieties.

The adventurous should seek out Sattler 2010 St. Laurent which smells subtly like raspberry preserves, but hits the palate with ripe plum and black pepper flavors. $19. ★★★★ 1/2

The Austrian wine industry takes several cues from its neighbors to the north, including how it identifies sweetness on the label and having a tradition of producing dessert wines. Those who enjoy late harvest and ice wines may want to try the luscious Muenzenrieder Samling 2004 Trockenbeerenauslese which smells of walnut, apple and delicate spice with flavors of a rich apple cider and orange zest. $20 for a 375 ml bottle, not bad for this style of wine.