Austrian Wine Adventures; Part 9 – Going south to Eisenberg

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The season starts around mid-April and ends on the 24th of June. Spargelsaison. The Germans are crazy about their asparagus but I’m wondering if the Austrians isn’t taking it even a step further? Don’t get me wrong. Asparagus is great and next to a green salad drenched in a simple vinegar, it’s one of my favorite starters. But when sitting in Wachter-Wiesler’s restaurant, in Ratschen, it’s almost a relief to see the spargel presented in purée form. Served with a dry-cured ham and a delicious Weissburgunder in the glass, it is actually one of the best asparagus and wine pairings I’ve had for a long time. Sadly, Wachter-Wiesler’s only producing around 700 bottles of their 2009 Königsberg Weisburgunder. Shame. I wanted to let the world know what to pair with their spargel….

Eisenberg. Last visit on the Burgenland tour. A young Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC), the Austrian Appellation d’origine contrôlée so to speak. The Blaufränkisch wines with the region’s typical style may use the Eisenberg DAC designation from the 2009 vintage, the reserve wines may use it from 2008.

Many of the vineyards in Eisenberg borders Hungary and there are still left signs, in form of watching posts of a rigorously controlled line where west meat east. Hard to believe it is only roughly twenty years since it all opened up and Europe took that longed for step towards a border free continent. Still, being a thinker, my mind starts visualizing the reality back then. At one side of the border, you were free to create what you wanted, and just a few meters across the line, the Blaufränkisch vines were strictly controlled but not in the sense that quality led the way if you know what I mean.

Eisenberg is associated with a mineral driven style due to its iron-rich soil. Combined with the location, in the south of Burgenland with forests surrounding the hill side vineyards, the wines tend to get a bit richer in style than for example in Mittelburgenland. The continental and Mediterranean climate meets in Eisenberg and helps the grapes reaching ripeness on the higher situated vineards as well.

So, what can you expect from an Eisenberg wine? The Blaufränkisch wines tend to be less sour cherries, more leaning towards the dark ones. Add a gentle spicy note to that, humus and ripe fruit in a quite elegant design. Perhaps not as consistent as the Leithaberg or Mittelburgenland wines, but do keep in mind this is a younger DAC worthy keeping an extra eye on. Perhaps a more careful use of oak and avoiding too ripe expressions of Blaufränkisch would make the region even more interesting, but this is surely something that will come with increased experience and empirical learning.

One thing is worth keeping in mind; the entry wines are generally speaking spectacular values. Especially the 2009’s. For example the straight-forward but lovely mineral driven 2009 Klassik from Willi Dorner, is one of those you want to buy by the case and pop as a great every day wine. The same goes for the 2009 Klassik from Schützenhof. If a riper fruit is preferred then go for either Herbert Weber’s 2009 or Rabold’s ditto.

When tasting through two dozens of interpretations of Eisenberg Blaufränkisch, it is the sweetness that hits me. Ok, two or three grams of residual sugar in a red is nothing conspicous, but 3,5 – or even 8 grams – then I react. Honestly, how should one use a red with eight grams of residual sugar?

Moving up in price, the 2009 Reserve from Rainer Stubits impresses. Classic stuff. A bit more oak but still a fine and balanced glass, is the Erika Grosz 2009 Reserve. Also modern, and really nice, is the 2008 Reserve Óvár from Wachholder. This goes for Franz Weninger’s darker 2008 Reserve as well. A producer that’s worthy of a closer follow. A personal favorite is the elegant and mineral driven 2008 Reserve Selektion from Kopfensteiner.

Perhaps it’s a vintage thing but I react on the fact that I prefer many 2008’s from Eisenberg to the 2009’s, but in Mittelburgenland and Leithaberg the 2009 wines rocks. This goes for the nice 2008 Reserve Jancsch from Clemens Hafner. Also showing well from the 2008 vintage are the Wachter Wiesler Reserve and Eduard and Silvia Wachter’s ditto. Good stuff all three although not for long keeping. Mineral driven wines with classic cherry and spicy notes.

Then there’s the Krutzler wines. Modern, extremely well-made and very international in style. Still, I’m not really convinced. Or perhaps I just don’t understand? The 2008 Perwolff for example plays in its own league but why all this new toasted oak? It almost becomes cloying in both the nose and on the palate. The fruit is amazing and the structure so good, but when the oak turns coca cola-like I’m just not getting it. Perhaps this is how many likes their premium wines but for me it just decreases a potentially great wine to something that could origin from anywhere. Be proud of your place and let your wines proclaim; Eisenberg, Eisenberg!

PS. Have you missed any of the previous parts of my journey through Carnuntum and Burgenland? Like what you read? Then click here for part 8, part 7part 6part 5part 4part 3part 2and part 1.

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