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Kracher Traminer TBA No. 8 (375ML) 1998
Appreciated for superior wines made from indigenous varieties, Austria should be on the radar of anyone who loves bright, elegant wines. These food-friendly, cool-climate reds and whites are quintessentially European in style with racy acidity, moderate alcohol, and tart, fresh fruit flavors. Austrian wines are prized for their near-uniform dedication to excellence, and it is now difficult to find a bad bottle.
Rather than joining in on the worldwide trend to plant international varieties, Austria has chosen to stake its reputation mainly on its native grapes. Grüner Veltliner, known for its racy acidity and vegetal and peppery aromatics, is the most important, comprising nearly a third of Austrian wines. Riesling in Austria is high in quality but not quantity, planted on less than 5% of the country’s vineyard land. Unlike their German counterparts, Austrian Rieslings are almost always dry, with higher alcohol, slightly lower acidity, and flavors that lean more toward the citrus end of the fruit spectrum. Field blends of these two grapes along with Pinot Blanc and other white varieties known as Gemischter Satz are popular for daily consumption in Vienna. Red wines include light, tart-fruited Zweigelt, juicy and spicy Blaufränkisch, and Pinot-Noir-like Saint Laurent.
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.