Monday, April 29, 2013

Austria and Riedel

This Thursday, April 2nd from 5 to 7pm, Gail Avera presents a wine tasting here that will include three Austrian wines.  Zull Gruner Veltliner is a dry white from the Weinviertel area in the northeastern corner of the country.  Trie Red and White Blends come from Burgenland which is south of Vienna and hugs the eastermost side of the country.  Weinvertel is the largest geographical wine district in Austria; Burgenland, one of the smallest.

The Austrian wine country lies entirely in the eastern quarter of the country like a north-south band wrapping that side of Austria.  Three-fifths of all wine production, most being white, is located in Weinvertel which is bordered by the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  A third of all Austrian wine production is accomplished in Burgenland which borders Hungary.  Together these two districts are called Weinland Osterreich.

So why this part of the country for wine production?  Austria as a whole has a continental climate meaning the contrasting temperatures between summer and winter are dramatic and allow for a long growing season.  In the east though, the Danube River and Neuseidler See (Lake Neuseidl) are water features that moderate the ambient temperatures and the Pannonian Plain of Hungary channels warm winds from the east into Austria.  The geology is right also because of the ancient contributions of volcanos and the Aeolian wind processes that together have provided the region with ample volcanic rock and loess soils.

Archeological discoveries of wine flagons and vessels containing grape seeds date Austria's wine industry to the 5th century BC which makes the wine culture of the Austrian people deep indeed.  Depending on the government of the times Austria has either been a leader in this industry or like during our own Prohibition Era, a laggard.  In the 19th century new world plant diseases like powdery mildew, downy mildew and, of course, phylloxera (blog 6/11/11) devastated Austria just like it did in all of Europe yet after World War I Austria ranked as high as third in the world in wine production.

The best white wine of Austria is Gruner Veltliner (blog 8/10/12) which accounts for 36% of all wine production and owes its success ironically to the great diethylene glycol scandal of 1985 (blog 8/13/12 ).  The great red grape of Austria is Blaufrankisch (blog 3/9/12), sometimes called Lemberger and it accounts for 5.5 % of production.  Other red grapes of note include: Zweigelt, St. Laurent, and Pinot Noir, all of which in their elite bottlings are trending upward in world critical approval.

Reidel (REE-del) is the great handblown glassware company located in Kafstein, Austria.  Twelve generations of Reidels have toiled in the family business over the last 250 years.  While they have made decanters and other fine wine-related creations, the Reidel name has become synomymous with high end stemware.  Sommelieres Series Red Bordeaux Wine Stems sell for $159 each at the Reidel website.  Attend the Thursday tasting and receive a Reidel Degustazione red wine stem for a mere $5.


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