The lust that most so-called Pinot people feel about their beloved grape variety still doesn’t stretch, to the extent that it should, to Austria. This is wildly unfortunate: Austria is home to some of the most delicious, interesting Pinots on the planet, and the fact that more people don’t know much about them is one of the great mysteries of the wine world.
The same, really, could be said for the other great reds of the country, too: Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent--all of these offer pleasures far, far greater than their still-niche reputation might indicate.
What sets Austrian Pinot apart in particular, for me at least, is the specific place it occupies on the Pinot Noir continuum: It seems most at home somewhere between the more earthy delicacy of Burgundy and the fruit-forward lustiness of Russian River. Of course, Austrian Pinot Noir is much more than simply a stylistic middle-ground: It is, rather, a wholly unique (and at the same time wonderfully accurate) version of the beloved grape variety--utterly drinkable, capable of great nuance, and, in the case of the bottling I tasted yesterday, irresistible.
The Stadlmann Pinot Noir ‘Classic’ 2005, from Thermenregion, south of Vienna, was a stunner. It started off with a concentrated, peppery strawberry nose, a hint of anise, a touch of licorice, and, unexpectedly, Mandarin-orange oil. On the palate, the silkiness of the texture stood out right away, a tactile creaminess that was balanced perfectly by the kind of acidity that you find in just-picked wild strawberries. This was complicated by cherry fruit, a hint of orange, sage, more high-toned spice, a wisp of bonfire smoke, and something seductively brambly.
In other words, this is serious Pinot Noir, and a wildly successful argument for the virtues of Austrian Pinot. More people should make a point of learning about these Pinots in particular and Austrian wines in general: Their rewards are significant.