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Weingut Hirsch Zobing Riesling 2009
Hirsch takes full advantage of the distinct terroirs found in the Lamm, Gaisberg and Heiligenstein vineyards. Johannes farms his vineyards sustainably and biodynamically and is certified by RESPEKT! Natural efforts have been made to ensure physiologically ripe grapes including high density planting, low trellising, canopy management and handpicking.
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.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
In the Glass
Riesling typically produces wine with relatively low alcohol, high acidity, steely minerality and stone fruit, spice, citrus and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings more redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.
Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice) and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.