Austrian Wine Adventures – Part 5; Reaching in the dark

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Blind tastings. What’s it good for? Is it just for the ego and a way to boost the self-confidence when nailing a wine? Or perhaps a need to separate the good tasters from the great? A sort of worshipping for wine geeks. Some would argue blind tastings makes no-one happy. Why compare wine? Is there any need for finding the best one in a line-up? Wouldn’t a Bordeaux steamroll a Burgundy in a blind tasting?

Blind tasting is my thing. But not for the reasons mentioned above. Nope. I love to compare in order to distinguish wines and understand what influences an end product’s style. I want to understand the differences of the growing conditions and the grapes structure.  Searching for a winner in a blind tasting can easily be misleading. A tasting with this objective needs to line up wines that can be compared. Ten different vintages from the same Bordeaux Chateau for example. Putting up a blind tasting of reds from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Coonawarra, Douro and Mendoza not only is pointless. If the purpose is to find a “winner”. But if the reason says “learn”, then it’s another thing.

I’m at AWMB’s comparative blind tasting at Schloss Esterhazy in beautiful Eisenstadt. If the tasting will demonstrate just as great red wines as the impressive 2007  Imperial Schloss Halbturn (91-92 p), served at the preceding lunch, this tasting is going to rock.  It does. Rock.

If you’re able to skip all the performance anxieties and realize you’re blind tasting for your very own learning, I can’t think of a better way to enhance one’s understanding of wine. Also, would I have rated the 2006 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (now 95-96 p) higher if I would have had it with the label in front of me? The risk is surely there. After all, I’m just human and a victim of consciousness, knowing Mouton-Rothschild should make my world rock. Unaware of the fact there’s a well-known label in the tasting is, for me, more rewarding.

Three flights; great atmosphere, great wines and great conférenciers. Here we go!

Round 1 – Chardonnay

2009 Nehrer, Leithaberg, 87-88 p
2008 Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne, 93-94 p
2008 Kollwentz, Gloria, Burgenland, 92-93 p
2008 Velich, Darscho, Burgenland, 91-92 p

Comments: Glass 2. A quick sniff and I write Corton-Charlemagne. There’s something special with the wines of Bonneau de Martray and I have been too spoiled the last year tasting several vintages of them. I just love the elegant and restrained style of their Corton-Charlemagne. Lots of wet rocks, smoke, Granny Smith’s and perfectly toasted oak. Gracile style. A prototype wine in my world and one of the reasons I cherish Chardonnay the most. Another reason is the Kollwentz Gloria. Totally different in style showing more concentration and tropical scents. Still, lots of mineral feel and so elegant. The Velich wine makes me write Chablis Grand Cru and I actually thought there were two French representatives in the line-up. Wool, smoke and fine toasted oak. A fine mouth-fill. Gunpowder and rocks. Cool. The Nehrer a good bottle with gentle notes of yellow fruit and lemon peel. A bit shy but fine mineral and decent length. Surprised to see Grüner Veltliner blended into this one. 4 different styles and I especially thought the Darscho was tough to place.

Round 2 – Pinot Noir and Blaufränkisch

2008 Claus Preisinger, Neusidlersee, 91-92 p
2008 Méo-Camuzet, Clos de Vougeot, 93-94 p
2008 Jagini-Moric, Jagini Zagersdorf, Burgenland, 90-91 p
2008 Paul Achs, Ungerberg, Burgenland, 90-91 p

Comments: Tougher, although I note that glass number two has a special air surrounding it, something that reminds me of Côte de Nuits. Though, no further attempts to be even more detailed. Lacking the knowledge there. The Clos de Vougeot shows a young vibrant nose of darker red berries, leather and a quite concentrated style. I like it a lot and although young it shows fine pinosity. I’m stumbling on the Preisinger Pinot thinking Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch or Zweigelt. Sure, there are compost, leather and crushed red berries but I never think Pinot. Maybe the oak disturbs? Or the sage brush? A fine wine but perhaps the producer has been a bit too generous with the querqus? The Blaufränkisch wines are more Austria. Sour cherries, fine acidity and some green notes, in a positive way. The Moric bottling being more easy to like if you want grape character since the Achs version is just too oak dominated at the moment. Will it integrate? Blaufränkisch do show Syrah-oak chewing character, so patience here?

Round 3 – Blends

2007 Grassl, Bärnreiser, Burgenland, 88-89 p
2007 Gernot & Heike Heinrich, Salzberg, Burgenland, 93-94 p
2006 Ch. Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac, 95-96 p
2006 Gesellmann, G, Burgenland, 91-92 p

Comments: What a line-up! Three really amazing wines with lots of personal and unique character. The Mouton makes me write Pichon-Lalande for the pipe tobacco and elegance, reminding me of some great glasses of May-Eliane de Lencquesaing’s property. So sad this wine is only for the rich and wealthy now days. Mouton that is. I cry a bit and move on to a wine which I’d like to sit with for some hours, the 2006 Salzberg. This is a fantastic wine. Definitely one of the best Austrian reds I’ve had. It’s starting to mature and I just love the bouquet of cedar notes, violets, sour cherries, soy sauce, hay and integrated oak. Gorgeous taste with top harmony, intensity and long clean finish. I. Need. To. Find. This. One. The Gesellmann is also an outstanding glass. I am more in doubt here what’s in the glass due to the dark berries and more concentrated style. More generous oak than the Salzberg makes me think Zweigelt. Wrong! Blaufränkisch and Sankt Laurent; what an oddity. The Grassl is strange and I don’t know how to define it. There’s scents reminding me of Valpolicella and also the green notes you find in Loire Cabernet Franc. And a high sweetness in the taste. What on earth is this? I haven’t tasted anything like it before. Ah, a blend with 60 per cent Zweigelt. Lesson learned.

A quick summing-up of the tasting; this I bring with me:

  • I was able to figure out which wines weren’t from Austria, although I thought there was one additional non-Austrian wine.
  • How much I love a great Corton-Charlemagne.
  • A great Pauillac is a great Pauillac.
  • There are some truly amazing blends in Burgenland.
  • Austrian Chardonnay differs a lot from Burgundy. Diversity rocks!
  • Everyone can use oak but it takes experience to know the right balance.

Next: The DAC of Leithaberg

PS. Worthy of a repeat. I was invited by AWMB to take part in the tour around Carnuntum and Burgenland.

PS.2. If you need just one bottle to convince you of how great an Austrian red can be, then go Salzberg! Vinopedia searched here.

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