Affordable Austrians

Affordable Austrians

Posted on Jan, 09. 2010 by

Categories: Wine

First off, the happiest of new years to you and yours! Our thanks go out to our membership for helping us make 2009 a banner year in the ‘niche market’ of bringing better wine to more people for less money!

To kick off the new year, we went easy on the wallets (you know, with all the talk around the country about people “maxing out their credit cards” for xmas…), while still bringing something to the table that you don’t often encounter in your typical wine travels (outside of Austria, of course): an all-Austrian lineup. I’ve always had a soft spot for Austrian wines – they can achieve something close to greatness at their best (Anton Bauer’s top-end Grüner Veltliner is nothing short of a baby Grand Cru white burg in good vintages!), but the vast majority of them are inexpensive and underrated/unnoticed. Sometimes it’s almost to Alsace/Germany what Portugal is to Spain: living in the shadow, with undiscovered values and gems abound.

A few things to note about Austria: its most popular white grape is Grüner Veltliner, a grape that I’ve always considered halfway between Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay with a splash of Gewurtz thrown in for good measure. Past that, they rock plenty of excellent Reislings in the white category; for reds, the grape of choice is often Zweigelt (a distinct, fruit-forward varietal than can range from grenache-spicy to pinot-delicate), with a few odds and ends like Pinot Noir and Cab Sauv here and there. If you haven’t had a chance to explore Austrian wines, I highly recommend you do so. Starting with…

On Wednesday we tasted 6 wines, which collectively were a pretty good representative sample of base-level Austrian wine…of course, since Williams Corner was pouring, you just know that it doesn’t stop there. Everything was organic and/or biodynamic, and as usual, quirky and different. These were my favorites:


2008 Weingut Waldschütz Grüner Veltliner (1 liter)
Retail price before [member discount|Our members save an average of 25% off the normal retail prices. As a courtesy to the retail wine industry we do not publish our prices.]
$12.00 • Inquire about this wine!

We’ve tasted this several times before, and I believe Rives sent out an offer for it once upon a time, but it deserves saying again: this is ridiculonkulous juice. For $9, a 750mL would be the bees knees, but this is one of those producers that bucks the altogether antiquated 750mL trend and throws a full liter at you. To be clear, this is no intellectual exercise. Much like the Alandra box wine we carried over the summer, it is solid wine at a grocery-store price. Crisp, refreshing, with a surprising amount of complexity and composition, it really is the best deal in inexpensive white wine since the Alandra. FYI: Anyone who e-mails us asking for “cheap white by the case for spring” in a few months will be forwarded this email.


NV Franz Strohmeier Schilcher Sekt Rosé
Retail price before [member discount|Our members save an average of 25% off the normal retail prices. As a courtesy to the retail wine industry we do not publish our prices.]
$19.99 • Inquire about this wine!

I do believe that this is the 3rd time we’ve featured this wine, and I keep bringing it up to the forefront because A) it’s so stinkin’ cheap, B) it’s a joy to drink as well as being a “thinking-man’s” bubbly, and C) it’s better than pretty much any other sub-$20 sparkling rosé out there. It’s allllll-natural, etc., etc., meaning there’s no sulfites, no pesticides, no cultured yeast added, nothing but, essentially, grapes dumped into a vat. This stuff dances around on your tongue, with spice (from the Zweigelt), classic yeastiness, bright fruit and a tangy finish. That finish cleans up whatever was on your tongue, with velvety carbonation and a color that will make your guests smile (don’t ask me, people just love how sparkling rosé looks in a glass), this is too cheap to pass up and too interesting to ignore.


2007 Weingut Anita & Hans Nittnaus Zweigelt
Retail price before [member discount|Our members save an average of 25% off the normal retail prices. As a courtesy to the retail wine industry we do not publish our prices.]
$16.50 • Inquire about this wine!

Another wine that I’ve had before (and you may have too)…this was one of two Zweigelts we tasted, and while I like the fresh, fruit-centric character of the first one, this version is much deeper and more serious…but it’s still all of ~$12. Not sure what to compare this one to…maybe a South African cab? Stinky Chilean Malbec? In any case, the allure of this wine is its funk. Not overly barnyardy, mind you, but I’m fairly sure there’s some brett at work here. The fruit is pretty dark and brooding, while still being light (weightwise) on your palate, and there’s a considerable amount of oak and spice at play as well. Nothing too overproduced, without being total chaos, this is a great place to start if you’ve never gotten into Zweigelt.

Thanks again to everyone who came out on Wednesday – hopefully some horizons were broadened!

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