Austrian wine adventures – Part 4; The liquid gold of Burgenland

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Hot summers and cold winters. The Neusiedlersee basically does all the work. Without the lake acting as a temperature-regulator, the region would probably not have the high humidity and fogs of the fall. In other words; Botrytis Cinerea is a common and most welcome returning guest – if you’re into residual sugar…

I’m in Rust, on the western side of the lake. A beautiful town which is something of the wine center of the region. We’ve just crossed the shallow Lake Neusiedl on a boat trip and are now at the Austrian Wine Academy. 3 flights of liquid gold are about to be presented. I’m quite enthusiastic knowing the No. 6 will be poured. Kracher. My kind of sweetness. I’m a bit skeptic when it comes to the dessert wines of the region. I sometimes get the feeling the climate almost is a bit too perfect and that the consistency of botrytis results in wines lacking the real vintage variation. Time for the Academy to prove me wrong and end some prejudice?

Spätlese

Mainly linked with the German wine regions but is also a Prädikat in Austria. Requirements? Perfectly ripe grapes and a minimum of 94.2 in Öchsle. I’m tasting something of a rarity, a Muskat Ottonel.

2009 Muskat Ottonel Spätlese, Fink Hermann (86-87 p)

Light color. Aromatic stuff. Lots of elder blossom, citrus fruits and wet rocks. On the palate the acidity adds refreshing balance to the sweetness and you get the feeling of a quite restrained floral wine. Decent length. Not for those who can’t manage the aromatic kind of wines. 50 grams of residual sugar per litre (RS).

Auslese

Again a term mostly connected with Germany. Requirements? A stricter selection of grapes with the removing of unripe, not suited or rottened grapes. Öchsle must be at least 105.

2009 Welschriesling Auslese Schrammel, Josef Lentsch (87-88 p)

Golden color. Generous nose with summer honey, dried apricots, pineapple and lime peel. Again, good balance between sweetness and acidity. Honey, tropical fruits and some botrytis feel. Clean taste and finish although a little heavy on the alcohol. 59 grams of RS. Worth noting: Welschriesling is the most common grape in the sweet wines of Neusiedlersee-Hügelland.

Beerenauslese

Time for overripe grapes and noble rot with a minimum requirement on 127.3 in Öchsle.

2008 Beerenauslese Prestige, Lenz Moser (87-88 p)

Golden color. Dried fruits, pineapple juice, glue and honey. Slight oak feel? On the palate it’s concentrated, almost nectar like, with botrytis, honey and viscous mouth-feel. Good length but perhaps lacking the nerve? 136 grams of RS. A blend of grapes.

2009 Furmint Beerenauslese, Giefing (91-92 p)

Golden color. This is interesting. Furmint is for me synonymous with Hungary and a certain wine. Lots of mineral character in the bouquet; wet rocks, white peaches and a slight green apples feel. Elegant and restrained nose. Vivid taste, botrytis and mineral character. Fine balance and length. I like this. A lot! 109 grams of RS.

2010 Beerenauslese Chardonnay, Lang Helmut (90-91 p)

Quite light in color. Interesting stuff here. Wool, green apples, wet rocks, smoke in a restrained style. On the palate it shows green apples, a herbal note, boiled vegetables, gun-flint powder and wool. Viscous. Long finish. Not for me but nevertheless a good wine. 150 grams of RS.

Ruster Ausbruch

Completely overripe grapes. Noble rot and naturally dried grapes. Extraction of the natural sugar content may be improved by adding freshly-made grape juice or Spätlese, Auslese or Beerenauslese wine which comes from the very same vineyard. The Öchsle must be at least 138.

2006 Ruster Ausbruch Essenz, Feiler-Artinger (92-93 p)

Golden yellow. Generous bouquet  with lots of tropical fruits, herbal honey, dried apricots and a surprisingly refreshing feeling of citrus. Intensely sweet and nectar like taste. My mouth hurts. Dried fruits, oily and honey like flavors. Despite the sweetness it shows balance. Tokaj similarities. Honestly, an admirable effort but what am I supposed to do with it? 429 grams of RS. Yes, you did read 429 grams!

2007 Ruster Ausbruch, Ernst Triebaumer (91-92 p)

Yellow with a green brim. Coconut,papaya, wet rocks and glue. Some dried pineapple. Sweet but with some refreshing acidity. Tropical flavors and nectar like. Long honey driven finish. Fine glass. 200 grams of RS.

Trockenbeerenauslese

Mostly noble rot grapes and dried shriveled grapes of extraordinary quality. Öchsle must be 156.

2006 Grande Cuvée No. 6, Kracher (94-95 p)

Yellow with slight green brim. Hello elegance! Wet rocks, mushrooms, slight asparagus note, wool and perfectly integrated oak. Rich and sweet with lovely refreshing acidity. Papaya and pineapple. Honey. Long intense and beautifully balanced finish. Simply put; this is me. Kracher still reigns. Last vintage of Alois? 190 grams of RS.

Eiswein

Grapes must be frozen during harvest and the pressing. Öchsle needs to be 127.

2009 Eiswein Exquisit, Nittnaus Hans und Christine (91-92 p)

Yellow color. Refreshing, reminds me of the Sicilian Cassata cake, litchies, herbal and slightly perfumed notes. Clean taste with balancing acidity. Litchies, green apples and herbal honey.Long finish. 184 grams of RS. Blend of grapes.

2009 Gelber Muskateller Eiswein, Angerhof Tschida (90-91 p)

Yellow color. Aromatic nose with floral notes and an interesting gun-powder feel. Floral taste – elder blossom – with elegant notes of wet rocks and bonbons. Delicate but again, not for everyone. 154 grams of RS.

Schilfwein

Completely ripe and rich in sugar. Then dried on straw mats or hung for at least three months prior to pressing. Öchsle at least 127.

2007 Schilfwein Tradition, Nekowitsch (91-92 p)

Golden yellow color. Tropical nose with scents of clay, herbs and some dried fruits as well. Intense taste with dried apricots, spring flowers and honey. Nicely balanced with good length. 238 grams of RS. Blend of grapes.

2008 Schilfwein Zweigelt, Opitz One (91-92 p)

Pale red color leaning towards a brownish brim. Fudge, nutmeg and a moist feeling. Slightly oxidative nose. Generous taste with cocoa, dark chocolate, oak and syrup. Good acidity although the wine is a bit rustic. Toffee like finish. Long 206 grams of RS.

Summary: A good variation in styles. Something for every palate. Personally I might lack a bit of that extra to allow the wines to raise a level, the je ne sais quoi emotion that makes you remember why you’re a wine nut. Kracher is still the unrivaled king in Neusiedlersee-Hügelland in my most humble opinion.

Next: the highlight of the trip – Blaufränkisch.

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