Leo Hillinger First Hill White 2011
The source of Austria’s finest botrytized sweet wines, Burgenland covers a lofty portion of Austria's wine producing real estate. It encompasses the smaller regions of Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland. The latter two are most associated with their exceptional red wines. The region as a whole produces no shortage of important whites.
Neusiedlersee, named for the lake that it surrounds to the east, is home to a great diversity of grape varieties. The region’s most notable wines, however, are the botrytis-infected, sweet versions.
Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, which wraps the lake on its western side, includes the town of Rust, a historically esteemed wine community. Its close proximity to the lake’s fog and mist make it another source of some of the more prestigious botrytized wines. Neusiedlersee-Hügelland also produces fine Blaufränkisch, Pinot Blanc, Neuburger and Grüner Veltliner, though a label will usually name the more general, Burgenland, so as not to confuse it with its eastern cousin, Neusiedlersee, across the lake.
Blaufränkisch is well suited to and makes up over half of the vineyard area in Mittelburgenland. The region’s hills and plateaus, which are composed of variations in schist, loess and clay-limestone, produce high quality reds with interesting diversity.
Südburgenland, also known for its deep, complex and age-worthy Blaufränkisch, is beginning to turn out some alluring whites from Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended white wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.