It seems everyone is looking for the next new to the market wine producer, and Austria is definitely one of my favorites. Though they seem new to the world market, they have a history that can be traced by four thousand years. They were popular in past centuries and were the third largest producer in the world as recently as post World War I. Unfortunatley, they produced mainly diluted bulk wine, but that changed with government regulations calling for smaller yields, technological advancement and more dry and red wine production.
Austria mainly grows Grüner Veltliner (36%), a white grape varietal with mineral, peach and pepper characteristics renowned for its food-friendly character. They also produce Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, which is known to be light-bodied and full of green apple and mineral notes. They are starting to be known for reds, which account for 30% of total production. Zweigelt accounts for most of it and makes long lasting wines with jammy, cherry flavor along with pepper and soft tannins. Blaufränkisch (also known as Lemberger) is another serious red making wines higher in tannins with dark fruit and spice notes. Also made is Pinot Noir, known as Blauerburgunder.
I recently received a couple of samples, and here's how they scored:
2008 Forstreiter Gruner Veltliner Schiefer Kremstal DAC Reserve ($21). This is a serious white with medium plus acidity, meyer lemon and tropical fruit flavor along with a touch of white pepper, slatey minerality and lemongrass. Long flavor length and is surprisingly creamy on the palate. (91 WG)
2007 Tinhof Blaufrankisch Bergenland ($20). A light-bodied wine full of ripe dark cherry, red peppercorn, and cinnamon along with herbs and minerality. (86 WG)
A few of my favorites also include Domäne Wachau Riesling Smaragd "Terrassen", Prager Riesling Federspiel, Paul Achs Zweigelt Langer Acker, Heinrich Blaufrankisch and Szigeti Sekt sparkling wines. I highly recommend trying Austrian wines as I have found them to be, on the average, the highest quality wines in the world. Ein Prosit!