Decisions, decisions…


I don’t often get to write about Roter Veltliner. To say this grape is the poor cousin of Grüner Veltliner would be completely inaccurate… it’s not related at all (bar the name). Unlike its non-cousin, Roter Veltliner represents but a sliver of the Austrian output and can be tricky to handle, but brings it has its own very particular character, making for ravishingly concentrated wines. And, of course, given the natural baroque quality of the Wagram, that area is a prime spot for Roter Veltliner. How lucky, then, am I to have not one but two cracking examples from Eschenhof Holzer… one white and one orange.

The white, called ‘Das Gehölz’ is aged in a new oak wood barrels for a year, giving an already opulent wine an even stronger backbone. I’ve been impressed by all of Arnold Holzer’s wines so far, but I think this one is my favourite… it’s elegant, it’s feisty and it’s oh-so-flavoursome. But then it’s a close-run thing with the ‘Orange’ Roter Veltliner. This is properly cloudy in the glass, with a intriguingly dusty nose, like your favourite corner in a library. On the tongue, it’s broad, spicy, citric and aromatic. And, given that it’s made of Roter Veltliner, there’s that ravishing note of extract sweetness too.

If I had to pick one, it would probably be ‘Das Gehölz’. But why choose? Have both! For more information on Holzer’s range click here. And remember, you can pick some of them up from Red Squirrel Wines in the UK.

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Bambule!

12190048_705330112932910_3853219783646823085_nI’m a BIG fan of natural, orange, whatever you want to call them, wines. They’re playful, they match and enhance potent flavours in food and they offer some of the best practical insights into the winemaking process that you can drink. As I’ve written before, Lugeck in Vienna, swift becoming one of my favourite places in the city, has an unrivalled list of natural wines. That’s where I first drank Matthias Warnung’s superb natural Grüner Veltliner, Michael Wenzel‘s Furmint and lots of other joys besides.

But I have to admit that nothing could quite prepare me for Judith Beck’s Bambule Chardonnay. Like Fred Loimer’s Achtung! wines, ‘Bambule’ sounds a bit of a caution. Brace yourself. You’re in for a thrilling ride. The nose is like High Mass, with frankincense, just-beginning-to-burn caramel and a touch of the sweet Sanctifex wine that you’d only ever drink in church. Tasting this Chardonnay then becomes a much more savoury experience on the tongue. There’s an initial rush of direct fruit – three weeks maceration and 22 months in old barriques on the lees haven’t dulled the Chardonnay here – followed by a really powerful solvent-style punch and then a spicy and somewhat meaty finish. It’s quite remarkable. I hadn’t previously been able to find this wine in the UK, but I’ve just stumbled across The Cellar Doors, where you can buy it in cases of six, so I’ll be stocking up… and so should you! 

Cherry Pie

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Writing about the Zweigelt grape in his indispensable guide to Austrian wine, my friend Philipp Blom says that ‘Zweigelt wines are dense and dark, with characteristically mellow cherry fruit’. Well, Philipp clearly hadn’t bargained for the explosion of cherries on offer in Eschenhof Holzer‘s 2014 Eisenhut Blauer Zweigelt. It really is one of the fruitiest Zweigelts I’ve had, though not at the expense of savoury breadth of flavour, with black pepper, allspice and a little liquorice on offer too. But it was those cheery cherry notes that had me wanting more and which provided the perfect accompaniment to some herby lamb steaks on a blustery autumn evening. You can pick up two different Arnold Holzer’s Zweigelts from Red Squirrel Wines in the UK.

Straw-Gold Grüner

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Austria’s Wagram wine region tends to be a little overlooked when it comes to British importers and merchants. So good on Red Squirrel Wine (based in London but with a good mail-order service) for stocking Eschenhof Holzer. This wonderful producer, based in the village of Großriedenthal, is now run by Arnold Holzer, who’s just coming up to his 28th birthday. But he’s already got six vintages under his belt since he took over the family business from his Dad. And both that heritage and his personal innovations at the winery are already shining through.

There’s going to be quite a bit of Holzer’s yummy wines – Grüners, Zweigelts and Roter Veltliner (in white and orange form) – over the coming weeks, but I thought it would be good to start with the Austrian white staple, Grüner Veltliner. So I cracked the screw cap on Arnold’s 2014 Goldberg Grüner Veltliner and poured out a wine which lives up to the single site name, with its straw-gold colour. The nose of this wine also really impressed. And that’s particularly admirable given that 2014 was a year of really tricky conditions. The first impression on the palate is of a bone dry wine, offering spice and pepper more than the opulent fruit you can get in the Wagram. But the wine opens up nicely, with a touch of yummy preserved quince. You can’t get this particular Grüner from Red Squirrel, but you can try out another single vineyard Grüner, the Altweingarten, for just £12.99. What a bargain for subtly complex Grüners like these.  

On the Kittmansberg

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Also from the western side of the Kamp valley is Hiedler’s Kittmannsberg Grüner Veltliner. I tasted a really great Reserve GV from this site at the Annual Tasting of Austrian Wine back in February. Indeed, the whole of the Hiedlers’ range really impressed me, thanks to the breadth of flavours triggered at the outset by spontaneous fermentation. They really bring out the power in their Rieslings and Grüners. This 2012 bottle of Kittmansberg Grüner Veltliner, bought from Berry Brothers, is full enough but it also retains that exciting Grüner acidity. There are the white pepper notes, as well as trace of a more mature black pepper. But rather than fresh apple, you get later autumnal tastes, like quince (thanks to the malolactic fermentation process). Perhaps I wanted a little more residual sugar and body – memories, no doubt, of some of the other Hiedler wines I’ve previously tasted – but this a fine Grüner and a good introduction to the Hiedlers’ range. Click here for more information.

Western Riesling

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Last December I was lucky enough to have a full tasting at Weingut Bründlmayer, the crème de la crème of Kampal (if not all Austrian) winemakers. It was lovely to be reminded of that fantastic day when I opened a bottle of their 2012 Steinmassel Riesling. This is a single vineyard wine, grown just to the west of Langenlois. It offers a goodly balance of Baroque and minerality. This wine doesn’t open up the full spice draw or, indeed, the liquorice and tropical tastes associated with Rieslings grown to the east of the Kamp river, but there’s a hint of all of that, with some great flinty notes and a refreshing dose of citrus. You can pick up a bottle in store or online from Berry Brothers

Saturday Lunchtime Riesling

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We’ve got quite a few bottles of Martin and Anna Arndorfer‘s wines in the rack at the moment – actually, some of them I’ve had to secrete upstairs, as we were drinking a little too much of the good stuff and not leaving any for the colder months ahead. You might have read my post about their 2013 Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Reserve… well, I also bought six bottles of their Riesling Reserve. It’s a really good wine, not quite as opulent as the Grüner, but it has the same kind of breadth, showing citric flair and a nice dose of minerality. It all balances beautifully, particularly come the second mouthful (or second glass), revealing riper notes and a quiet hint of tropicality, perfect for Saturday lunchtime, when I love Riesling best.