Challenge #2 ~ It’s all Foreign To Me!
Any wine blogger ‘worth their weight in wine’ can talk up a storm about their ‘favorite’ wine region… but can you go outside your comfort zone and tackle a foreign wine region? – Pick the wine region you know the least about and write a post on it – be creative and have fun with it!
As a reminder **This (and all subsequent challenges) were altered from the Food Buzz’s “Project Food Blog“. This is just a way for wine bloggers to get in on all the fun!**
So which wine region do I know the least about? Well there are quite a few for me to choose from, but after some giving it some thought, I picked:
Why? Well, I am going to Vienna on October 21st-26th for the 2010 European Wine Blogger Conference (EWBC) and it might come in handy to know a little bit about Austrian wine before I head out there! But, the real decision-maker though was the fact that my FAVORITE movie OF ALL TIME was filmed in Austria … THE SOUND OF MUSIC!!!!
“Do, a deer, a female deer. Re, a drop of golden sun. Mi, a name i call myself. Fa, a long long way to run!”
I am more than a fan really, I watch that movie religiously! I almost don’t even need to watch it anymore, I can act it out – word for word. Whatever, don’t judge me. =P
So what did I learn about Austrian wine in all my research this week? Well, it’s all German to me … hahaha … get it? Anyways, ‘Do-Re-Mi’ and ‘Maria Von Trapp’ aside …. let me share with you what I learned about Austrian wine! This post is going to be a bit lengthy, but I hope I Ceci-Sipperized it enough for you to keep it entertaining! **Please forgive me for the lack of photos .. for some reason I couldn’t upload any for this post?? I’m working on fixing it and I should have some pictures up here soon! Until then, use your imagination! (or the internet, lol!)
Austrians make wine?
You bet your bottom dollar they do! Austria is no newcomer to the world’s wine producing regions – Austria has a winemaking history of over 2,500 years! Today, Austria lies 17th in the list of wine producing countries by volume. Their wine is grown on the eastern side of the country which offers a range of different climates and soils, thus the diversity of wine styles found there! The whites get most of the attention, including the great Austrian sweet wines, but the reds have been improving a lot recently! Austrian wines offers quality that sits with the best in the world!
Where is all this delicious Austrian wine hiding?
Well for a while there, Austrian wines couldn’t be found anywhere due to the 1985 Anti-Freeze Scandal.
The weather in the early 1980s produced some diluted, yet acidic wines that nobody wanted. A few wine brokers discovered that by adding a little diethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze (hence the scandal name), the wines gained some sweetness and body … now they would sell!
I’m still curious how this was discovered. Were they just sitting there daring each other to drink crappy wine with various chemicals? Sounds like a bad game of truth or dare to me!
Anyways … this would have gone unnoticed, as the chemical is very difficult to detect on wine, but one of the wine brokers tried to claim the cost of the chemical on his tax return! No joke! I mean, I know lying on your taxes is against the law, but damn.
Only a few were involved and the amounts of this chemical were actually less dangerous than the alcohol in the wine … but no one wants to hear ‘antifreeze’ when buying a wine … thus the export market vanished and some countries even banned Austrian wine! It was years before the Austrian wine market was able to recover.
Tough break right? Well not exactly…
The ‘Anti-Freeze Scandal’ was actually a blessing in disguise for the current Austrian wine industry.
This scandal didn’t seem so great at first, but in hindsight, it led the massive change in the culture of wine production in Austria towards an emphasis on quality production and away from the low standards that existed pre-1985. Because of this scandal, Austrian wine laws were overhauled and now are some of the most strict wine laws out there! Ain’t nothing getting by them now! Don’t Mess With Texas Austrian Wine! In addition, Austrian wine producers decided to switch to what the 1990s market was demanding, so they started making more red wine and a more dry style of white wine, which has shown to be very successful for them today. The scandal also helped expose the local Austrian terroir (as opposed to just blended for bulk wine) as it forced the wine brokers out of business and forced the wine producers to sell directly.
You still don’t find much Austrian wine though, right?
The reason? Those Austrian’s ain’t stupid! They know Austrian wine is gooooood! They snap up most of the good stuff (local wines account for 75% of the Austrian wine consumption), the bottles that do make it outside of Austria’s borders first have a well-established export market in Germany to get through, then what is ‘left-over’ is fought to the death
by wine geeks everywhere else, who know that Austrian wine is goooood, leaving the rest of the wine consumers with … well you get the picture. So now you are in on the ‘Wine Geek Fraternity’ secret … Austrian wine is gooooood! Say that at your next cocktail party and impress all your friends!
So what kinda wine are we talkin’ about here?
Like I mentioned above, Austria is well-know for its white wines, including the great Austrian sweet wines, so it should come as no surprise that 66% of Austrian vineyards are planted with the 22 permitted white grape varietals. As for the reds that are so deliciously improving and being invested in? 34% of vineyards are planted with the 13 permitted varietals. (Woot! Woot! 13’s my lucky number!) The varietal that Austria is most well known for is the indigenous Grüner Veltliner (pronounced groo-nuh-velt-leenuh) a.k.a. “GV” a.k.a. GrüV (pronounced groovy).
Hey! I just thought of the wine pairing for my next 70s Theme Party! GrüV Baby!
I don’t really want to get into what each varietal tastes like, this post is already long enough as it is, but you can see the complete list of varietals on the Austrian Wine Marketing Board’s site, here. I came across a cool list to help you find the Austrian varietal that may best suit your wine preference though!
- Red lovers: Try a Blaufränkisch, St.Laurent, or Zweigelt
- Pinot Noir lovers: Try a Spätburgunder
- White lovers: Try a Grüner Veltliner
- Pinot Blanc lovers: Try a Weissburgunder (it is Pinot Blanc! Weiss=Blanc)
- Pinot Gris lovers: Try a Grauburgunder (it is Pinot Gris! Grau=Gris)
- Chardonnay lovers: Try a Morillon
- Dessert wine lovers: Try a Bouvier, Riesling, Strohwein, or Ausbruch
(Source: 2B A Snob)
So you find an Austrian wine … but now you have to learn how to read the label!!
Like most all wine producing countries, you have your generic ‘ Table Wine’ (Tafelwein) and ‘Vin de Pays’ (Landwein) categories, that just means your wine is coming from all wine regions or one in particular, respectively. Moving up to the ‘Quality Wine’ (Qualitätswein) category (2/3 of the wine production in Austria), this category is broken up further into 2 sub categories of ‘Quality Wine’:
- Qualitätswein from the generic appellations of the 4 federal states: Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), Burgenland, Styria and Vienna (which has a special status).
- Qualitätswein from one of the 16 specific appellations, some of which have been classified as DACs (Districtus Austriae Controllatus ~ similar to the French AOC system). There are 7 DACs.
All Qualitätswein has a red/white band on the bottle seal, stating the identification number of the winery.
You can read more about each of the wine producing regions on the Austrian Wine Marketing Board’s site, here.
A very important piece of information on an Austrian wine label is the level of sugar and ripeness of the grapes when picked. This is where the ‘Sugar Pyramid’ comes in handy!
The levels, which you will see below give you a sort of indicator as to how sweet/rich the wine will be. In an effort to keep this post from being any more content heavy, I will let you read more about each of these levels on your own, but just to give you the basic idea behind this “Sugar Pyramid”, here are the basics:
~Dryer Side of Sweet~
Eiswein (Ice Wine): $$$
Strohwein (Straw Wine):$$$
~Dessert Side of Sweet~
If you want to learn how to pronounce those crazy names like a true Austrian, visit the Wine Rap Page on the Austrian Wine Marketing Board’s Website!
To finish up what I learned about Austrian wine …Food Pairing!
If you’re anything like me (well, then I am scared for you!), but it means you love to cook/eat! One of the things I HAD to research about Austrian wine, was what types of food I can pair with them! The Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) provides a great list of food ideas to go with the various styles of Austrian wine!
Interestingly, Austrian wine is a ‘match made in heaven’ for Asian cuisines, including sushi!! If you are a fan of Asian cuisines like I am, you have to check out the Austrian Wine & Asian Cuisine pairing PDF from the AWMB site!
Just as a little bonus for y’all, I took some of the major food pairings from the AWMB site and decided to link up some recipes for you in case you want to get all adventurous in the kitchen (or maybe you prefer to supply the Austrian wine and get your friend that likes to cook to make the food!?)
~ Sparkling Wine ~
Dry Austrian Sekt & Smoked Salmon Mousse
~ White Wines ~
Light & Fresh –
A Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau & Austrian-Style Stuffed Peppers
Classical & Dry –
A Weißburgunder from the Burgenland & Brettljause Meat Platter
Strong & Full-Bodied –
A Rotgipfler from the Thermenregion & Wiener Schnitzel
~ Rosé Wine ~
Racy & Fruity –
St. Laurent from Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) & Liptauer Cheese Spread
~ Red Wines ~
Elegant & Complex –
A Blaufränkisch from Mittelburgenland & Italian Pasta Dishes (you pick!)
Dense & Intense –
A Zweigelt from Burgenland & Viennese Beef Goulash
~ White Dessert Wines ~
Sweet & Strong –
Spätlese & Topfenknödel – curd cheese dumplings filled with fruit
Noble Sweet Wines –
An Eiswein & Apple Strudel
If all that information wasn’t enough for you =) you can also check out the the AWMB’s Austrian Wine Powerpoint Presentation!
I hope you learned a thing or two and maybe have some ideas for an Austrian Wine & Food night!
Looking forward to Challenge #3! Hope you will join me! It would be really GrüV! =P