From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday, May 14, 2015…
The EU definition of Central Europe includes Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and parts of Germany and Italy. All of these regions (with the exception of Poland, which focuses on distilling) have winemaking traditions stretching back to pre-Roman times. Even under the Ottoman Empire, winemaking continued as monasteries were allowed to produce sacramental wine. Though white wine dominates the landscape, red wine production is not far behind. Today we’ll sample three wines from Austria, the leader in production; one from Hungary; and one from northeast Italy.
We’ll look first at the Austrian offerings, a white, a rosé, and a red that reflect the country’s strengths. Neumeister Gemischter Satz 2013 is uniquely Austrian white wine made from a field blend of at least three types of grapes grown, harvested, and fermented together. The wine is most closely associated with the city of Vienna, though this comes from southeast Steiermark. The grapes ferment spontaneously with natural yeast, and the wine is aged five months on the fine lees. Fresh and bright with a creamy palate and a lingering finish, this wine works as an aperitif or with seafood, poultry, and salads.
An almost 1,000-year-old monastery provides the Gobelsburg Cistercien Rosé 2014, a blend of Zweigelt, St. Laurent, and Pinot Noir. Here the varieties are fermented separately with little skin contact to keep the color pale, then blended. Its fresh wild cherry and berry flavors allow it to stand alone or partner a wide variety of foods. Ecker Zweigelt Brillant 2012 is made from Austria’s signature red grape by a family that’s been farming in Wagram for over 400 years. This unoaked Zweigelt offers cracked pepper and clove, plums and black raspberries, all supported by nicely etched acidity. Pair with duck, mushroom-based dishes, mild curries, and anything with char from the grill.
Owned by Isabella Zwack, the sixth generation of her family to make wines, the Dobogό vineyards are located around the town of Mád in Tokaj. Though most famous for its Tokaji Aszú, the winery also makes a dry version of that wine’s dominant grape. Dobogó Furmint 2012 is produced from 30-year-old vines; grapes are fermented in large old barrels and aged in smaller, new-second year ones. Pear, peach, and orange notes join flinty minerality and round acidity, inviting pairing with ceviche and other fish dishes.
Italy provides San Pietro Schiava 2013 made from a light, tart, fruity (raspberry and cherry) grape usually used in blends. The Consorzio Viticoltori Alto Adige is a group of six producers who pool technical resources; the best lots from each are bottled under the San Pietro label. Made from sustainably farmed grapes, this wine has a dollop of Lagrein that intensifies the color. Think of it as Italian Beaujolais with a bit of firmness and a lovely texture; chill it a bit and pair with soft cheeses. What a great way to welcome spring!