Friday, February 28, 2014

Unit 6 – Day 3: Hungary

On Day 3 of Unit 6 of the Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center we studied Austria & Hungary. But, due to the amount of information for both of these countries wrote a separate review for each wine region for Austria. Covered the Austrian learning objectives and reviewed the 7 Austria wines we tasted in class. In this review I’ll cover Hungary, the Hungarian learning objectives and then review the one wine we tasted from Hungary - a Tokaji Aszu.


While Hungary may not be one of the leading wine producing nations in the world today, in the 1600s through the early 1900s it had developed a winemaking culture. Unfortunately their wine culture was devastated after WWII when the country became communist as previously privately owned wineries became the property of the state, many traditional vineyards were torn up and the new focus was on high volume rather than quality wines.  However, since the fall of communism Hungary has slowly been on the rise with renewed foreign interest. Some of the top estates include the Royal Tokaji Company, Vega Sicilia’s Tokaj Oremus, Disznókõ, and Királyudvar.

The Climate of Hungary

Hungary primarily has a cool continental climate with a few warm areas in the south, but its most well-known wines are produced in the north. Soils are predominantly volcanic loess and clay, and many of the better vineyards occupy south-facing slopes.  When climate conditions are right warm conditions leading up to harvest and moisture in the air provide the perfect environment for the development of botrytis cinerea (“noble rot”) called Aszú in Hungarian.

Bull’s Blood – The Red Wine of Hungary

One of the most important wine regions is located in the northeastern corner of Hungary about 70 miles east of Budapest, Eger which gives its name to Egri Bikavér (“Bull’s Blood of Eger”). The wine is made from a blend of red grapes most importantly, Kardarka and Kékfrankos (also known as Blaufrankish).

Tokaji – The Sweet White Wine of Hungary

Further north-east from Eger is the Tokaj region (formerly Tokaj-Hegyalja, or the Tokaj “foothills”) located near the Carpathian Mountains along the border of the Czech Republic. Here the most important grape in Hungary is grown Furmint, which is used to produce dry wines but most famously the sweet white wines called Tokaji, meaning “of Tokaj.”
Aszú Grapes
The two principal grapes of the region are Furmint and Hárslevelű. Sárgamuskotály (Muscat Blanc à Petite Grains), Zéta (Oremus), Kabar and Kövérszőlő are authorized but generally used in small quantities.  Furmint is the important grape for the production of Tokaji Aszú, as it is particularly susceptible to botrytis and is naturally high in acidity. 
Rather than harvesting whole clusters of grapes, the aszú grapes are individually handpicked and gathered in containers called puttony which hold about 25 kg of grapes.  The aszú is then stomped into a doughy paste which is then mixed with barrels of base wine from non-aszú grapes.  The number of puttony added to a gönc (a Hungarian oak cask of approximately 136 L) determines the final sweetness of the Tokaji Aszú wine, and it is labeled on a scale of puttonyos.  

Aszú Level
Minimum Residual Sugar
3 Puttonyos
60 g/l
4 Puttonyos
90 g/l
5 Puttonyos
120 g/l
6 Puttonyos
150 g/l
Aszú Esszencia (7-9 Puttonyos)
180 g/l
Natúr Esszencia
450 g/l (formerly 250 g/l)

The wine then rests in cask for a minimum 2 years and undergoes an additional year of ageing in a bottle age prior to being released. 

Styles of Tokaji

Esszencia is the most rare and luxurious styles of Tokaji. During the pressing stage, a small amount of syrupy, free-run juice is allowed to settle out of the aszú must which is then vinified separately as Esszencia.  The Esszencia, created from free-run juice ferments at an extremely slow rate, and can sometimes taking decades to reach 4-6% alcohol.  Richer than honey, the wine can retain upwards of 800 grams per liter of residual sugar.  Esszencia, or Natúresszencia, is rarely available commercially, and it is everlasting nectar, unique in the entire world of wine.

Tokaji Szamorodni (“as it comes”) is produced from a mixture of aszú and non-aszú grapes. It is often created in an oxidative style as it is matures in a cask for at least 2 years sometimes under a film-forming yeast similar to flor.  These wines may be édes (sweet) or száras (dry). 

Tokaji Fordítás/Máslás wines are the by-products of aszú-making technology. Fordítás is pressing and refermenting of aszú-marc after a mix of new wine. Máslás is a maceration of lees of aszú and fordítás wine.

Late Harvest Tokaji wines may also be produced in a wide range of styles without extended aging or as dry varietal wines, made from non-aszú grapes. 

Protecting the Name Tokaji

There was a time in which is was common to find sparkling wines made in new World Wine regions labeled as “Champagne.” In order to protect their name and reputation in the marketplace major wine producing countries now prohibit the use of the name for any wine produced outside of Champagne, France.

This same scenario has taken place with the names “Jerez” (Sherry) and “Tokaji”. As of 2007 all other countries in the European Union are prohibited from using the term “Tokaj” or its derivatives (“Tokay”, “Tocai”) on labels. Consequently,  Alsatian producers lost the right to label Pinot Gris as “Tokay d’Alsace” and Italian producers now refer to what was previously known as Tocai Friulano as simply Friulano.

The Wine Regions of Hungary
Hungarian is one of only two European languages, which has its own word for ‘wine’ (bor) that is not derived from Latin. There are currently 22 total wine appellations in Hungary, each with a different microclimate producing different tastes and styles, both indigenous varieties and French and Italian varieties. The regions are as follows:[1]

Wine Regions of Hungary
Chardonnay is the leading variety, followed by Savignon Blanc, Riesling, Szürkebarát (Pinot Gris) and Olaszrizling (Italian Riesling)
Furmint is the primary grape followed by Hárslevelű and Sárgamuskotály (Yellow Muscat).
'Bull's Blood of Eger' (Egri Bikavér), Pinot Noir, Syrah, and the traditional Eger whites including Debrői Hárslevelű, Verpeléti Olaszrizling and Egri Leányka
Rosé, Portugieser, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Kékfrankos, Merlot.
Kadarka Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, Kékfrankos, Pinot Noir and Zweigelt.
Pinot Gris, Olaszrizling
Italian Riesling (Olaszrizling), Rizlingszilváni, Tramini, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Gris  (Szürkebarát), Muscat Ottonel  (Ottonel Muskotály). Red grapes such as Kékfrankos, Zweigelt, Merlot and Cabernet are grown mainly in the Tihany peninsula.
Olaszrizling (Italian Riesling), Chardonnay and Sárgamuskotály (Yellow Muscat).
Pinot Gris (Szürkebarát) and Italian Riesling (Olaszrizling), Rizlingszilváni, Chardonnay, Ottonel Muskotály (Muscat Ottonel), Rajnai rizling, Zöld Veltelini (Green Veltelini) and Tramini.
Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Olaszrizling (Italian Riesling)
Mór is known for one indigenous variety, called Ezerjó, which makes a dry white wine with high acidity. They also produce Tramini and Chardonnay
Tramini, Chardonnay, Irsai Olivér
Hárslevelű, Furmint, Juhfark, Welschriesling, Tramini and Chardonnay.
Kékfrankos accounts for 60% of all the plantings. Other varieties include Zweigelt, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Portugieser and Sauvignon Blanc.
Olaszrizling (Italian Riesling) is the dominant variety here, other important grapes include Rizlingszilváni, Zala Gyöngye and Zöldveltelini.
Olaszrizling (Italian Riesling) is the most common type of vine planted in the region. Other varieties include Chardonnay, Rizlingszilváni, Leányka, Muscat Ottonel, Tramini and Sauvignon Blanc.
Italian Riesling (Olaszrizling), Chardonnay, Cserszegi fűszeres, Leányka, Pinot Gris (Szürkebarát), Kékfrankos, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kadarka, Kékoportó, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zweigelt.
Italian Riesling, Chardonnay and Cirfandli.
Chardonnay, Italian Riesling, Cserszegi Fűszeres, Sauvignon Blanc and Királyleányka. Red wine include Kadarka, Blaufränkisch, Blaue Portugieser, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon
Kékfrankos, Cabernet Sauvignion and Zweigelt. White varieties include Italian Riesling (Olaszrizling), Chardonnay, Rajnai Rizling, Hárslevelű, Kövidinka and Ezerjó.
Kadarka, Kékfrankos and Zweigelt, Italian Riesling (Olaszrizling) and Kövidinka, a Hungarian variety,
Kunsági Ezerjó, Kecskemeti Cserszegi Fűszeres, Soltvadkerti Irsai Oliver, Jánoshalmi Ottonel Muskotály, Kiskunhalasi Cserszegi Fűszeres

Learning Objectives of Unit 6 – Day 3: Hungary

At the beginning of class lectures a list of learning objectives is provided to the students. By the end of the class, the students should have a certain degree of understanding from their own reading and the lectures and be able to provide the answers to a list of questions. The Learning Objectives for Unit 6 - Day 3 along with the answers are as follows.

By the end of class, students should be able to answer the following questions:

(1) Name 3 grapes of Tokaji
Answer: Furmint, Hárslevelű, Sarga Muscotály
(2) Define the term Aszú
Answer: Shriveled and botrytis-infected grapes individually picked, used to make Tokaji.
(3) Explain the term puttonyos
Answer: The name given to denote the level of sugar and hence the sweetness in Tokaji (or tokay). It is traditionally measured by the number of hods of sweet botrytised grapes (Aszú) added to a barrel of wine, but is now measured in grams of residual sugar. The Puttonyos was actually the 25 kg basket of Aszu grapes, and the more added to the barrel of wine, the sweeter the eventual wine.
(4) Define Aszú Eszencia and True Eszencia
Answer: Aszú Eszencia is the sweetest wine in the Aszú category, above 6 puttonyos. It is very rare and expensive. Unlike most other wines, alcohol content of aszú typically runs higher than 14%. A minimum of 180 g/l of sugar is required. True Eszencia is also a very rare and expensive wine and seldom available outside the area of production. It is made completely from free-run juice of aszú berries. The must is so sweet that it can take years to ferment. Alcohol is usually less than 5% abv. The legal minimum sugar level is 450 g/l. The wine is able to retain its freshness for over a century.
(5) Describe the attributes of any Hungarian wines tasted today
Answer: See below

The Wines

On the first day of Unit 6, after tasting 7 Austrian wines, we tasted the following wine from Hungary:

1. 2006 Királyudvar, Tokaji Aszu, 6 Puttonyos

This is a clear wine, brass/copper in color at the base to a watery rim with high viscosity. On the nose it has pronounced aromas of marmalade, canned peaches, apricot preserves, honey, decaying yellow flowers, with a hint of musty wet wool. On the palate it the nose is confirmed, it is very sweet, it has HIGH mouthwatering acidity, it is full bodied, it has low alcohol, it is very viscous but ends with a very pleasant clean and long finish. Definitely the high point of the line-up! This wine sells for about $70 per bottle.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Unit 6 – Day 3: Austria

On the Third Day of Unit 6 of the Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center we studied Austria and Hungary. But, due to the amount of information available for both of these countries I’ll provide a separate review for these two countries. In this review I’ll provide an overview of Austria, cover the Austrian learning objectives and then provide a review of the 7 Austrian wines we tasted in class. In the next review I’ll cover Hungary, the Hungarian learning objectives and then review the one wine we tasted from Hungary - a Tokaji Aszu.

Austria (Österreich)

Like Germany and many other European nations, winemaking has been made in this region for thousands of years, but its biggest advancements are due to the efforts of the Romans, Charlemagne and the Cistercian monks of Christian church that succeeded the Roman Empire. By the 13th century the city of Vienna had become a major center for wine trade along the Danube River.

The Grapes of Austria
Grüner Veltliner
Austria produces less than 40 grape varietals and many are foreign transplants such as Riesling and Chardonnay. About 65% of Ausria’s wine production is dedicated to white wines. The most important white grape is Grüner Veltliner which makes up about 30% of Austria’s total vineyard acreage. Other important white grapes include Welschriesling (also known as Laski Rizling and Olasz Riesling), Müller Thurgau, Weißburgunder (Weissburgunder/Pinot Blanc), Riesling and Chardonnay (known locally as Morillon or Feinburgunder).

Austria also produces some red wines such Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt, (which is a cross between Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent) as well as Blauer Portugieser, and Blauburger (a cross between Blaufränkisch and Blauer Portugieser). Blaufränkisch (known as Lemberger in Germany and Kékfrankos in Hungary) typically generates wines of medium weight, with supple texture, deep color and spicy red and black fruit flavors.  

Austria’s “Anti-Freeze” Wine Scandal

The United States, France and Italy and many other countries have had wine producers engage in some less-than-honorable winemaking practices and yet none of them have gained the notoriety as that of Austria.

In the 1860s a viticultural research institute was founded in Klosterneuburg which in time became the epicenter for creating grape crossings, trellising systems, vineyards with higher yields, and later the mechanization of the vineyards. Following WWII wine production in Austria shifted to large mass production with little focus on producing quality wines. In fact, for a time they were the world’s 3rd largest producer of wine. By the 1980s this emphasis on quantity over quality took its toll when some producers decided to artificially sweeten their wines by adding Diethylene glycol (a colorless, odorless, poisonous chemical).  Adding stupidity to criminality, the practice went unnoticed until one of the guilty parties attempted to claim the chemical tax deduction as a legitimate winery expense on his tax return.  Subsequently bottles in every market tested positive for the chemical and consumers worldwide associated Diethylene Glycol with Ethylene Glycol (antifreeze) and the result was catastrophic for the reputation of the Austrian wine industry.

Austria’s Wine Terminology

Like Germany, to the English-reader Austria has many very long words that are difficult to pronounce, remember and sometimes understand. Some of the following, listed according to category rather than alphabetically, may appear on wine labels:

Austria’s Wine Label Terminology
White wine
Red wine
Wine with between 11.5% and 12.5% alcohol
Wine with over 12.5% alcohol and max. 9 g/l residual sugar
Wine with over 11.5% alcohol
Extra Trocken
Extra Dry
New lease wines served at licensed taverns.
Bottler or shipper
Producer-bottled wine
Estate-bottled wine
Wine estate
Winegrowers co-operative

The Wine Laws of Austria

Another challenge to quality wine production in Austria, along with the rest of Europe’s vineyards, was the arrival of American fungal diseases (oidium, peronospera) and the root louse. But, in positive response to this crisis and the “Anti-Freeze” scandal Austrian winemakers doubled their efforts to steer away from cheap mass quantity wine to focus on better quality wine. But they have yet to regain their former glory and I have yet to experience a wine from Austria that were as impressive.

Today Austria’s wine laws and terminology are very similar to that of Germany with a few minor tweaks. In fact, some of Austria’s wine styles and terms predate that of Germany. The first record of Trockenbeerenauslese in Austria dates to 1526, predating Spätlese in Germany by over 200 years.

Austrian wine law defines three levels of quality, all of which share a maximum yield of 9,000 kg/ha (67.5 hl/ha) but minimum must weights increase with each level of quality. In ascending order the 3 levels are:

Austrian Wine Levels of Quality
A generic category (formerly “Tafelwein”) it may carry a vintage date and a varietal on the label, but may not exhibit a more exclusive statement of origin than “Österreich”. May contain under ripe grapes and need to be chaptalized.
It means “country wine” and it falls under the Euro-wide IGP category and is roughly equivalent to France’s Vin de Pays. It may contain under ripe grapes and need to be chaptalized. Production is restricted to the same 35 varietals permitted for Qualitätswein, but the wines are labeled with 1 of 3 broad geographic areas (Weinbauregionen): Weinland, Steierland, or Bergland.  Weinland covers the areas defined as Niederösterreich, Wien and Burgenland, Steierland corresponds to Steiermark, and Bergland includes around 500 ha of vineyard land scattered throughout the remainder of Austria's mountainous countryside. 
Grapes are sourced from a single Weinbaugebiete or one of the 16 smaller wine regions and may be produced from one or more of 35 permitted grapes. 
This category consists of wines made from late harvest grapes and beyond.

Qualitätswein accounts for approximately 2/3 of Austria’s total production and the wines are required to pass a tasting panel and chemical analysis, indicated by a State Control Number (Prüfnummer) and the inclusion of the red and white banderole, a banner on the bottle’s capsule or screw top closure. Qualitätswein may be further subdivided into the categories of Prädikatswein and Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC), which are similar to that of Germany, with the additional categories of Strohwein and Ausbruch.

Qualitätswein Ripeness Categories
In Austria, Kabinett wines are considered a subset of Qualitätswein rather than a beginning rung on the ladder of Prädikatswein. Chaptalization and adding Süssreserve is prohibited.
Prädikatswein Ripeness Categories
A minimum alcohol content of 5% is required for wines labeled by Prädikat.
Means ‘late harvest’, and denotes that the grapes were picked at least a week after the start of harvest, at a minimum of 19 KMW.

Means ‘selected harvest’, and is made from ripe grapes (min. 21 KMW) affected to some degree by botrytis.
Beerenauslese (BA)
Means ‘berry selection’. Super-ripe grapes (min. 25 KMW) remain on the vine and are selected only if affected by botrytis.
(aka Schilfwein)
Austrian for “straw wine,” an additional Prädikatswein wine made from grapes of at least Beerenauslese ripeness that have been dried on straw mats to concentrate their juice. The result is similar to that of the ice wine process, but suitable for warmer climates.
Means ‘ice wine’, and indicates that the grapes (min. 25 KMW) were harvested and pressed while still naturally frozen.
Literal meaning “break-out” One of two additional Prädikatswein wines, a classification between Beernauslese (BA) and Trockenbeernauslese (TBA) a sweet dessert wine typically made from grapes affected by noble rot.
Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)
Means “dry berry selection”. Grapes are left on the vine until reaching a botrytized and raisin-like state, with highly concentrated sugars (30 KMW).

 Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC)

In 2001 Austria introduced the DAC wine classification system which focuses on regional typicity. Thus DAC titles convey both a region of origin and the region’s style of wine. For example, the Kamptal DAC title is reserved exclusively for the wine styles which best represent the region which are dry Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. This system is more akin to that of the appellation system of France, Italy and Spain than the previous traditional German/Austrian system. Each DAC has two subtly different sub-styles:

DAC Sub-Style Designations
Lighter, fruit-driven wines.
Slightly weightier wines, possibly with a subtle influence of oak or botrytis

As of 2013 there were 8 DAC titles, each representing the typical wine style of its region:

 Most of Austria’s lusciously sweet wines are produced around the lake of Neusiedlersee in Burgenland, but the vast majority of the country’s white wines are fermented dry which are the focus of the DAC system. Each DAC prescribes limited grape varietals, minimum alcohol content and stylistic choices for the producer.  Other wine regions within the 4 major Weinbaugebiete are currently working to define their own classic styles. The goal is that eventually all of Austria’s 16 smaller wine regions to gain DAC status.

The DAC system has not replaced the Prädikatswein system but in regions that have a DAC title, the designation takes precedence over any consideration of Prädikat. This dual system can make understanding Austrian wine labels rather challenging.

For the consumer, it is easier to identify the quality levels simply by looking for Austria’s unique capsules and screw-caps, which are decorated with the red and white stripe’s of the Austrian flag. These indicate that it is a quality wine that has passed official quality testing procedures.

Klosterneuburger Mostwaage Scale

In the USA grape sugar is measured on the Brix scale (named after Adolf Brix) and in the wine it is measured by grams of Residual Sugar (R/S). In Germany the sugar in must is measured on the Öchsle (Oechsle) scale. In Austria grape must is measured on the “Must Weight” scale known as the Klosterneuburger Mostwaage (KMW) scale in which KMW roughly equals 5° Öchsle or roughly equivalent to 1 % Brix or 1% sugar content in must.

Minimum Must Weights in Austria
Generic Wine
10.6° KMW
14° KMW
15° KMW
17° KMW
19° KMW
21° KMW
25° KMW
25° KMW
25° KMW
27° KMW
30° KMW

The Four Weinbaugebietes of Austria

In Germany the major wine producing regions are referred to as Anbaugebiete (QbA), of which there are 13 QbAs. In Austria the vineyard areas major wine producing regions are referred to as Weinbaugebiete most of which are located on the eastern side of the country.  From north to south, the four major Weinbaugebietes are Niederösterreich, Wien (Vienna), Burgenland, and Styria (Steiermark). 

Niederösterreich Weinbaugebiete

Niederösterreich Vineyards
The largest winegrowing region in the Austria is Niederösterreich (Lower Austria). It has twice the acreage of vineyards as Burgenland, the second largest Weinbaugebiete.  In southern Niederösterreich, the forested terrain that characterizes western and central Austria yields to the Pannonian Plain, a former seabed of loess soils stretching from eastern Austria through Hungary and many countries of the former eastern bloc.  It has a continental climate with hot and dry summers and severe winters.  Most of Niederösterreich’s subzones are located along the Danube River (and its tributaries) as it flows through the region with the exception of Weinviertel and Thermenregion.  Within Niederösterreich there are 8 subzones: Weinviertel, Carnuntum, Traisental, Wagram, Kremstal, Kamptal, Wachau, and Thermenregion.

Weinviertel DAC

The Weinviertel DAC is Niederösterreich’s largest subzone and is located in the hills north of the Danube and the Pannonian Plain, it has a cooler climate which is expressed in lighter wines.  As indicated in the DAC chart above, the wines must be produced from Grüner Veltliner, with a minimum 12% abv.  The wines must then be approved by a tasting panel and display a distinct peppery note with no obvious wood or botrytis tones.  Reserve wines are fuller-bodied with a minimum alcohol of 13% and may reveal hints of both botrytis and wood, supported by the richer character of the wine. 

Traisental DAC, Kremstal DAC, and Kamptal DAC.

The Traisental DAC, Kamptal DAC, and Kremstal DAC have regulations very similar to Weinviertel DAC.  The wines may be produced from either Grüner Veltliner or Riesling, and may be labeled either “Klassik” (12% abv.) or “Reserve” (13% abv.) with the same wood and boytris restrictions as the Weinviertel DAC.

The Kremstal DAC and Kamptal DAC are located in western Niederösterreich along tributaries of the Danube - the Krems and Kamp Rivers.  In 2010, 52 top sites throughout Kremstal, Kamptal, Wagram and Traisental were elevated to the status of Erste Lage (“First Site”) by an association of producers founded in 1992 known as the Österreichischen Traditionsweingüter (“Austrian Tradition Wineries”).  Although the classification currently has no legal status, the organization is closely aligning itself to the DAC model and only Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are permitted to carry the Austrian Erste Lage logo.

Wachau DAC

The Wachau is located in Niederösterreich’s westernmost sub-region.  The Wachau is a narrow band of steep terraced slopes between Melk and Krems along the banks of the Danube River, which moderates the otherwise severe continental climate.  The river and cool northern winds chill the summer nights significantly which enables the grapes to retain their high natural acidity.  The soil structure is a combination of loess and gföhler, or gneiss, with a proportion of alluvial sand in the lower vineyard sites closer to the river.  Both Grüner Veltliner and Riesling produce quality wines in this region and the unique climate, soil, and aspect of the Wachau provide Austria with some of its most extracted and age-worthy white wines.

The Wachau Classification System

Rather than using the typical Prädikatswein hierarchy, producers in the Wachau have developed their own 3-tiered classification system:

Wachau Classification System
Named after a local grass found in the vineyards, it is the lightest style, with a minimum must weight of 15° KMW and a maximum alcohol of 11.5%. 
Named after a falconer’s tool, it must have a minimum must weight of 17° KMW and a final alcohol range of 11.5%-12.5%. 
Named after an emerald (green) lizard that basks on the terraces, it must have a minimum alcohol of 12.5% and a minimum must weight of 19° KMW - the approximate equivalent of 95° Öchsle, or Spätlese ripeness. 

All of these wines must be dry and show a high degree of extract and display tones of botrytis.  Smaragd wines can also reach higher alcohol levels.

The Vinea Wachau

The vineyard of Achleiten, located in the village of Weissenkirchen, is home to some of the region’s most prestigious vines and highest requirements for wine production. The Vinea Wachau (founded in 1983) is an organization of estates dedicated to uphold the tenets of natural winemaking as spelled out in the Codex Wachau which prohibits additives (including chaptalization), aromatization (including the use of new barrique), and “fractionation” (techniques such as de-alcoholization).  All wines released by members must be bottled in the region and vinified from grapes grown in the Wachau.  The Vinea Wachau members control more than 85% of the region’s vineyard acreage and FX Pichler, Prager, and Emmerich Knoll are amongst the Wachau’s finest estates. 


Until 2007 the Wagram region was previously known as Donauland and it is located east of Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal.  Wagram follows the course of the Danube as it passes out of Vienna.  The primary grape of the region is Grüner Veltliner but they also produce a white wine from Roter Veltliner, an unrelated red grape.  The rare white grapes Rotgipfler, which is almost exclusively found in the Gumpoldskirchen district of the Thermenregion, and Zierfandler (also known as Spätrot which means “late red”) are also grown here. They are bottled varietally or as the blended wine Spätrot-Rotgipfler


Carnuntum and Thermenregion are both located south of Vienna, far from the moderating effect of the Danube River. Consequently Thermenregion experiences the very hot Pannonian summers. Carnuntum’s climate is similar to that of Burgenland and production is geared toward red wines, particularly Zweigelt and traditional field blends known as Gemischter Satz,   (“mixed set”) which is a traditional field blend of up to 13 varietals that are co-planted and co-fermented, which was once a common practice in many regions of Europe.[1]

Burgenland Weinbaugebiete

Burgenland in Winter

Burgenland produces some of best Austria’s sweet white wines and red wines.  Bordering Hungary, Burgenland is the other half of Weinland Österreich and it experiences a hot continental, Pannonian climate. But in Burgenland the heat is tempered by the cooling influence of the Neusiedlersee lake which divides the subzones of Neusiedlersee and Neusiedlersee-Hügelland to the west.  The other two subzones, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland, are located to the south.  Burgenland has four DAC zones: Mittelburgenland DAC, Leithaberg DAC, Eisenberg DAC, and Neusiedlersee DAC. 

Mittelburgenland DAC

Mittelburgenland DAC produces red wines from Blaufränkisch, which are required to have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5% and may be sold after March 1 in the year following the harvest.  Reserve wines are required to have an additional year of aging and have a higher minimum alcohol content of 13%. Although many producers in the region are experimenting with barriques, the regulations require that large casks or used barrels be utilized when barrique-aging wines. 

Leithaberg DAC

The Leithaberg DAC is located in the district of Eisenstadt within Neusiedlersee-Hügelland. It is the first DAC to allow both red and white wines.  White wines may be blends or single varietals produced from Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, Neuburger, or Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc, Klevner). The Leithaberg DAC also produces red wines, which must consist of at least 85% Blaufränkisch, with similar regulations as Mittelburgenland on barrique-aging wines. 

Eisenberg DAC

Eisenberg is located in Südburgenland and it is predominantly a red wine region. There are approximately 150 hectares (370 acres) of Blaufränkisch (also spelled Blaufraenkisch) as well as Zweigelt and its parent grape, the thin-skinned, low-tannin St. Laurent (Sankt Laurent). 

Neusiedlersee DAC

Neusiedlersee gained DAC status in 2012 for Classic and Reserve red wines based on Zweigelt. The area is located in the heart of the Pannonian climate zone and extends from the North on to the eastern shore of Lake Neusiedl. 

The Sweet Wines of Burgenland

While there are some white wines being produced in Burgenland they are in decline.  However, there are some of sweet wines coming out of this region such as from the village of Illmitz in Neusiedlersee where the Alois Kracher estate produces Eiswein, Beernauslese (BA) and Trockenbeernauslese (TBA).[2] 

In Neusiedlersee-Hügelland in the town of Rust they produce Ausbruch, a traditional sweet wine dating to the 17th century.  The method for producing for Ausbruch is similar to the process of Tokaji (which will discussed in the next review on Hungary). Ausbruch is created by adding richly concentrated botrytis-affected grape must to less concentrated grape must that was derived from fruit harvested in the same vineyard. The two grape musts are then fermented together and aged in barrel before release.  Like Tokaji, traditionally Furmint grapes were used but modern Ruster Ausbruch is more often produced from Chardonnay, Muskateller, Grauburgunder, Neuburger, Welschriesling, Traminer and Pinot Gris.

Styria Weinbaugebiete

Styria (Steiermark) is a mountainous region to the south of Burgenland.  There are 3 subregions (Südsteiermark, Weststeiermark, and Südoststeiermark) but no DAC zones.  The region is home to approximately 9% of the Austria’s vineyards which are planted to Welschriesling, Weißburgunder and Sauvignon Blanc which performs especially well in the Südsteiermark. In the Weststeiermark, the ancient Blauer Wildbacher, which dates back to the time of the Celts in the 16th century, comprises over 95% of the red grape acreage and is often used to create a rosé known as Schilcher.

Wien (Vienna) Weinbaugebiete

Austria’s capital Wien (Vienna) lies on the Danube River and is surrounded on 3 sides by the Niederösterreich subzones of Thermenregion, Carnuntum, Weinviertel, and Wagram.  It has over 700 ha (1,730 acres) of vines making it the only capital city in Europe to have its own wine appellation within city limits.  Viennese winemakers commonly produce Gemischter Satz and heuriger, a primeur wine consumed young in taverns of the same name.  In 2013 Wiener (Viennese) Gemischter Satz received its own DAC.

Learning Objectives of Unit 6 – Day 3: Austria

At the beginning of class lectures a list of learning objectives is provided to the students. By the end of the class, the students should have a certain degree of understanding from their own reading and the lectures and be able to provide the answers to a list of questions. The Learning Objectives Unit 6 - Day 3 for Austria along with the answers are as follows. The questions and answers on Day 3 for Hungary will be provided in the next review.

By the end of class, students should be able to answer the following questions:

(1) Name 2 white grapes and 2 red grapes of Austria

Answer: White grapes = Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling. Red grapes = Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch

(2) Name 2 major regions and 2 sub-regions of Austria

Answer: 2 major regions = Wien, Burgenland. 2 sub-regions = Weinviertel DAC, Kremstal DAC

(3) Define the terms Ausbruch and Strohwein

Answer: Ausbruch literally means “break-out”. It is one of two additional Prädikatswein wines, a classification between Beernauslese (BA) and Trockenbeernauslese (TBA) a sweet dessert wine typically made from grapes affected by noble rot. Strohwein is Austrian for “straw wine,” it is an additional Prädikatswein wine made from grapes that have been dried on straw mats to concentrate their juice.

(4) Describe the attributes of any Austrian wines tasted today

Answer: See below

The Wines

On the first day of Unit 6 we tasted the following wines from the Austria and Hungary:

1. 2010 Pratsch Grüner Veltliner, Rotenpullen Weinviertal

This is a clear white wine, straw in color with a touch of green at the rim, day bright with low viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate aromas of oxidized green apples, green peas, melon rind and a hint of white pepper. On the palate it has flavors of zesty citrus and melon with a salty minerality and a touch of white pepper. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium body, medium+ alcohol, low complexity and a medium length finish. This wine sells for about $20 per bottle.

2. 2011 Nigl Grüner Veltliner ‘Priva’ Senftenberger Pellingen Kremstal

This is a clear white wine, straw in color with a touch of green at the rim, day bright with low viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate aromas of melon, lemon-lime and a hint of white pepper. On the palate it has flavors of zesty lime, grape fruit and melon rind with hint of white pepper. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium body, medium+ alcohol, low complexity and a medium length finish. This wine sells for about $32 per bottle.

3. 2011 Weingut Leo Alzinger Loibner Loibenberg Grüner Veltliner Smaragd, Wachau

This is a clear white wine, straw in color with a watery rim, star bright with low viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate aromas of melon, lemon-lime and a hint of white pepper. On the palate it has flavors of ripe grape fruit, zesty lime, and melon rind with hint of white pepper. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium body, medium+ alcohol, low complexity and a medium length finish. Of the three Grüner Veltliners we tasted I preferred this one over the other two wines. This wine sells for about $33 per bottle.

4. 2009 Heidi Schrock Grauburgunder Neusiedlersee

This is a clear white wine, yellow-gold in color with a watery rim, star bright with medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate aromas of oxidized apples, lime, jasmine, blanched almonds, with a hint of honey and floral soap. On the palate it has flavors of oxidized apples, jasmine, bees wax and nuts on the finish. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium body, medium+ alcohol, low complexity with an oily texture on the mind palate and a medium length finish. This is a 5-year-old Pinot Gris which I think is a bit past its prime. This wine sells for about $20 per bottle.

5. 2011 Bründlmayer Riesling Zöbinger Heilgenstein Kamptal

This is a clear white wine, yellow-gold in color with a watery rim, star bright with medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate aromas of lime, mango, white peach, white flowers and a hint of petrol. On the palate it has flavors of lemon-lime margarita mix, canned fruit cocktail and bitter orange peel on the finish. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium body, medium+ alcohol, and a long finish. This wine sells for about $35 per bottle.

6. 2009 Nikolaihof Riesling Steiner Hund Reserve Wachau

This is a clear white wine, straw in color with a watery rim, day bright with medium- concentration and viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate+ aromas of rose water, floral soap, gardenia, Old Spice shaving cream, ginger and a hint of lemon-lime. On the palate it has flavors of rose water with a round mouth feel and a minute amount of melon. It is dry with HIGH acidity, medium body, medium+ alcohol, and a long finish. This wine is unbelievably floral and many people in the class liked it, but I didn’t care for it. This wine sells for about $60 per bottle.

7. 2010 Prieler Blaufränkisch Ried Johanneshöe Burgenland

This is an opaque red wine, dark ruby at the core to garnet at the rim with medium concentration and medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of cooked blackberries, black pepper with a hint of leather and smoked meat. It has flavors of dried black fruits, bramble bush, loads of fresh cracked black pepper with a hint of clove and black licorice. It is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium body and a medium length finish. While all this may sound appealing and the wine in some ways seemed like a blend of Zinfandel and Syrah, the wine wasn’t harmonious, the way the flavors come across seem disjointed and the fruit seemed tired. I have only experienced Blaufränkisch on two previous occasions so I don’t have a good basis for comparison, but I suspect that there is no such thing as a fine bottle of Blaufränkisch. This wine sells for about $22 per bottle.