As has come to be expected, the Austrians put on a flawless event this past November 7th in Montreal. The sold-out seminar and a room full of people for the walk around tasting spoke to the interest of Austrian wine amongst wine professionals in Québec. It is no surprise that Canada is among the most important export market for Austria, and one could find the very best the country has to offer. The high quality throughout the wines was impressive. With less than 1% of the world’s production, Austria focuses on quality rather than quantity.
Led by sommelier Isabel Bordeleau, the Masterclass was a good occasion to get an overview of Austria today. First, we tasted four wines, all from different regions. The 2021 Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc Gamlitz from Südsteirmark DAC & the 2020 Rosner Grüner Veltliner Ried Langenloiser Kittmannsberg from Kamptal DAC stood out.
The next flight was all about terroir with four wines from four different Ried being featured. Riesling and Grüner Veltliner showed how brilliant they are when planted on the best sites. Though each with their own nuances, they all expressed depth and complexity with potential to age for many more years.
Four off-the-beaten-track wines followed. The Christoph Hoch Sekt “Kalkreich” NV Österreich appeared to be a crowd favourite. Though one can understand the challenge for premium Austrian sparkling wine to compete against Champagne, the high quality of these Sekt deserves a place of choice at the SAQ. Unfortunately, the very few we see in the market are through private imports. In that same line-up, we had the chance to experience the dynamic natural wine movement in Austria. It is worth noting that most producers who claim to make natural wine also embrace biodynamic agriculture. The 2020 Hajszan-Neumann Grüner Veltliner Natural hailing from an old vineyard in Ried Gabrissen on Vienna’s Bisamberg provided a fine and delicate introduction to orange wine. Finally, we concluded with four red wines. Fresh and vibrant were appropriate words for all of them, a testament to Austria’s cool to moderate climate. Attendees had a chance to taste a St. Laurent, a Zweigelt, a Pinot Noir and a Blaufränkisch. All grape varieties that thrive in Austria.
What stood out the most at the walk-around tasting is the consistent high quality of the wines from producer to producer. No high-volume entry level in that room! Regardless of the type of wine or the region, one can find a freshness and a vibrancy throughout the entire selection – a welcome profile when seeking wine to pair with food. This style of wine promises a bright feature for Austria considering the trend around the world for lighter and fresher wines.
The list of favourites was long. But here are some wines that particularly stood out at the masterclass.
2021 Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc Gamlitz Südsteirmark DAC
Ripe yet reserved with a precise aromatic profile of passion fruit, lemon and lime zest. Steely and structured with a nice creamy texture coming from the lees contact (5-6 months). One of the best producers of the region and a great example on how great Sauvignon Blanc can be in Südsteirmark. Respekt-BIODYN certified since 2021
2020 Rosner Grüner Veltliner Ried Langenloiser Kittmannsberg Kamptal DAC
Made from 40-year-old vines planted on deep loess soil with a little bit of calcareous. Tight, precise and compact with great texture. Pretty notes of lime, lemon and white flowers mingle with white pepper and pronounced mineral notes. Long finish. This wine is made for ageing. If you can’t resist, decant prior serving. A little bit reductive at the opening.
2019 Loimer Riesling Ried Seeberg Langenlois “1ÖTW”, Kamptal DAC
Juicy with concentrated notes of yellow fruit, white flowers, lime and a touch of honey. Slight reduction with pronounced flinty notes and a long lingering finish. We have to thank Seeberg which is rich in mica for this salty tang on the finish. Tempting to drink now but made for the long run.
NV Christoph Hoch Österreich Sekt “Kalkspitz”
Rather than adding sugar, it is the must of wine that is added to start the 2nd fermentation in the bottle. The wine is then aged five years sur lattes before disgorging. This is a serious sparkling wine! Rich and generous with fine bubbles and notes of red apple, pear and brioche. Just a touch oxidative which only adds depth and character. A wine for gastronomy!
2018 Heinrich Gernot und Heike Blaufränkish Leithaberg DAC
Blaufränkish rarely disappoints when planted in the calcareous soils of Leithaberg in Burgenland. Bright with crisp acid and generous notes of red plum and licorice framed by elegant firm chalky tannins. Earthy with integrated notes of oak. Excellent.
Feature Photo: AT Montreal Masterclass attendee : © Austrian Wine / Austrian Wine