Coming home from a wine trip and adjusting to more normal life again is always a difficult process. After all, over the course of the four or five or more days that you’re traveling through a different part of the world, eating great food, tasting more wine than most people do in a year, and spending your days and nights with colleagues from all over the planet--well, it’s easy to lose track of the more ordinary aspects of your life back home. (It’s always good to come home, of course, but also very easy to get spoiled while you’re away.)
I spent this past week, as I mentioned in my blog post the other day, at the bi-annual Wine Summit, sponsored by the remarkable Austrian Wine Marketing Board. The specific leg of the excursion I was on focused on Burgenland and Carnuntum and, as such, leaned heavily on the excellent Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch they produce.
The trip started in Vienna, which is actually home to one of the world’s best wine regions located within a major city’s boundaries. (The photo above, in fact, is taken from the Rotes Haus, where our first night’s festivities began. You can see the city itself in the background, behind the vines.) After that, we headed south to Carnuntum, where we focused on Austria’s famously spicy Zweigelt, and then to the huge Lake Neusiedl, which does so much to moderate the temperature of the surrounding areas.
West of Lake Neusiedl (or locally, Neusiedlersee), we tasted in what proved to be one of my favorite spots on the trip--Leithaberg DAC, whose fresh, food-friendly Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and crisp Blaufränkisch were some of my top wines throughout. These are bottlings that sing with a bright minerality that screams out for food--just my style.
Later that day we were treated to a fascinating, eye-opening blind tasting at the Esterházy Palace, where I had one of the best Pinot Noirs I’ve sipped in a while, the 2008 from rising star producer Claus Preisinger: Fragrant, balanced, age-worthy, and delicious already, like some sort of fabulous Gevrey-Chambertin. That night, four colleagues and I celebrated Memorial Day with a barbecue just shy of the Austria - Hungary border, at Weingut Hans Igler in Deutchkreutz, with winemaker Clemens Reisner and his father manning the grill. They were generous enough to open not just the current-release wines they were planning on, but also a number of older bottles that demonstrated how beautifully Austrian reds can age. (Their 2006 “Biiri” bottling, 2001 “Ab Ericio,” and 2000 “Jewel” were show-stoppers.)
More wines followed in the remaining time on the trip, including focused tastings of wines from Mittelburgenland DAC and Eisenberg DAC, both of which demonstrated decidedly different aspects of Austrian wine. This country, like all of the best in the wine world, possesses a wide enough range of terroirs and winemaking talent to be able to call itself home to a huge range of styles and expressions. That diversity is what makes a national wine culture exciting, and Austria, as I’ve said for years, is among my favorite in the world.
We ended the trip back where it started--in Vienna--with a closing-night party at the famous Prater, with live music and more food and wine than a group twice this size could have consumed. The night was highlighted by crowd-rousing musical performances by the AWMB’s Managing Director Willi Klinger and wine writer and budding wine-travel impresario Ben Weinberg. Between Willi’s “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” Ben’s “Stormy Monday,” and the glass of Grüner Veltliner Ice Wine I sipped afterward, I cannot think of a better way to have ended this spectacular experience.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting tasting notes and impressions of specific wines and regions. Keep your eyes open for them. In the meantime, start stocking up on the great wines of Austria.