Austria is best known for white wines made from grüner veltliner and riesling grapes. Reds have long taken a secondary position. With climate change and warmer temperatures, however, grapes in the country are reaching fuller maturity and the quality of reds is improving.
On wine lists expect to see more wines with grape varieties such as zweigelt, blaufränkisch and St Laurent. The names of Austrian grapes and regions may be difficult to pronounce but if you can master them, you will be rewarded with very drinkable wines replete with fresh, vibrant fruit with moderate alcohol levels at an affordable price.
One wine producer setting the benchmark high with its quality red wines is Weingut Heinrich, by Gernot and Heike Heinrich. The couple established their vineyard with one hectare in 1990 and, over the years, have expanded to about 90 hectares. In 2006, Gernot Heinrich started to convert his vineyards to biodynamic viticulture. His goal is to make them “more resilient, more vital and more heterogeneous”. His winemaking method encapsulates his definition of a natural wine. “What we are trying to do is continue the biodynamic philosophy that we practice in the vineyard, which is minimal and gentle intervention in the wine cellar,” he says.
The resulting wines are pure in style, elegant and without heavy oak influences.
HEINRICH ZWEIGELT 2012
Zweigelt (also known as blauer zweigelt and rotburger) is the most popular red variety in Austria, accounting for about 14 per cent of vineyards. It is a cross between St Laurent and blaufränkisch, and is named after Dr Fritz Zweigelt, who created it in 1922.
Grapes are harvested by hand and sourced from mature vines averaging 30 years old, close to Lake Neusiedl. Fermentation is spontaneous, with no added yeast. Extended maturation in large old oak and used small barrels.
Fresh, perfumed, red cherries with a touch of floral notes. Medium body, soft, juicy red fruit, ripe tannins balanced with fresh acidity. Resembles beaujolais made from the gamay grape. HK$168
Heinrich Blaufränkisch 2013 Leithaberg DAC
Blaufränkisch is Austria’s second most planted red grape variety. Its history can be traced back to the 18th century, when it was known as lemberger or limberger.
The blaufränkisch vineyards are situated on the eastern slopes of Lake Neusiedl, which has a moderating climatic influence, allowing grapes to reach optimum ripeness. Wines have been fermented using indigenous yeast. Aged in large used barrels for 20 months.
Blackberry, cherry, spice with some savoury notes. Medium body, crisp acidity with balanced tannins. Elegant and drinking well. HK$278
Heinrich Pannobile 2013
Pannobile is a collaboration of nine wine producers established over 20 years ago. The group gathers to experiment and look for innovative techniques in the vineyards and winemaking.
Pannobile is a blend of 60 per cent zweigelt and 40 per cent blaufränkisch.
Black cherry, some leather, earthy and savoury meaty notes. Fuller bodied, high fruit intensity with crisp acidity, and ripe integrated tannins. Mature and drinking well. HK$328
All the wines are available at bachmairwines.com