Hofkellerei Wilfersdorf Weinviertel Clos Domaine Zweigelt 2007
Appreciated for superior wines made from indigenous varieties, Austria should be on the radar of any curious wine drinker. A rather cool and dry wine growing region, this country produces wine that is quintessentially European in style: food-friendly with racy acidity, moderate alcohol and fresh fruit flavors.
Austria’s viticultural history is rich and vast, dating back to Celtic tribes with first written record of winemaking starting with the Romans. But the 20th century brought Austria a series of winemaking obstacles, namely the plunder of both world wars, as well as its own self-imposed quality breach. In the mid 1980s, after a handful of shameless vintners were found to have added diethylene glycol (a toxic substance) to their sweet wines to imitate the unctuous qualities imparted by botrytis, Austria’s credibility as a wine-producing country was compromised. While no one was harmed, the incident forced the country to rebound and recover stronger than ever. By the 1990s, Austria was back on the playing field with exports and today is prized globally for its quality standards and dedication to purity and excellence.
Grüner Veltliner, known for its racy acidity and herbal, peppery aromatics, is Austria's most important white variety, comprising nearly a third of Austrian plantings. Riesling in Austria is high in quality but not quantity, planted on less than 5% of the country’s vineyard land. Austrian Rieslings are almost always dry and are full of bright citrus flavors and good acidity. Red varietal wines include the tart and peppery Zweigelt, spicy and dense Blaufränkisch and juicy Saint Laurent. These red varieties are also sometimes blended.
Savory, spicy and fresh, this is Austria’s most popular red variety. While native to Austria, it is actually a fairly recent cross, bred by Dr. Zweigelt in 1922. He crossed two native varieties, Blaufränkisch, for its peppery bite, with St. Laurent, chosen for its elegance. Zweigelt can make a charmingly light and fruity, slightly tart and spicy red that’s great in the summer. Look for one-liter bottles to take to an afternoon barbecue. Zweigelt is capable of more serious, age-worthy version as well, which will be concentrated in fresh red and purple berries and boast delicate, autumn spice and pepper aromas. It grows well in various eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as in western Hungary. There are rare occurrences of the vine in some New World countries.