St Laurent : an alternative for pinot noir?

The last leg of my Austrian tour brings me to another black grape : Sankt Laurent. The jury still seems to be out on the origin of this grape. Some say it is a seedling (raised from seed) of pinot noir, others say it is a crossing of pinot noir and savagnin, a white grape mainly used in the Jura. But apart from the different versions I find, there always seems to be a link with pinot noir. The latter being a wine lover’s favorite, I thought this link would guarantee an interest in St Laurent. It seems I was wrong! When I asked the shopkeeper of Wein&Co in Vienna for St Laurent he said that there is not much demand for it. The numbers on www.austrianwine.com confirm this : the share of St Laurent in the total value of Austrian wine in 2015 was a meagre 1,6%. Zweigelt (which is actually the progeny of blaufränkisch and St Laurent) is the most popular blue grape with 13,8%, just to give you an idea. Since there is so little St Laurent planted, it’s hard to say which region specializes in it, because none really does, although Carnuntum (south-east of Vienna) and the Thermenregion (south of Vienna) seem to be areas where it is more commonly found.

Master of Wine Jan De Clercq told me he does not always sell St Laurent because it is not an easy grape and it sometimes has difficulties to ripen in challenging years. So he only has it on offer in vintages where it ripened well and has no vegetal aromas. Still I was eager to get a taste of St Laurent, remembering a nice 2010 of Weingut Glatzer a few years ago.

St Laurent Selection 2015, Carnuntum, Weingut Netzl

The nose is surprisingly ripe with black cherries, even a bit lactic, and also a whiff of tobacco. The mouthfeel is very round and soft, with the acidity only emerging in the final. The black cherries define this wine, which is not very complex, but it is soft, velvety even. I had this St Laurent in a wine bar and had it with a mixed plate of cold cuts, and that went actually very well together. (12€ on the webshop of Netzl)

St Laurent Classic 2016, Carnuntum, Weingut Grassl

Very expressive wine immediately after opening. The first aroma I get is again something lactic, just like I had in the St Laurent of Netzl and one or two blaufränkisch. It’s pretty volatile here, however, because after a whirl or two it makes place for forest fruit, a bit of raspberry on the background, a hint of minerality and a touch of wood. This opens up beautifully and gives a rather complex and attractive nose. The wine balances between the forest fruit and the markedly higher acidity than in the Netzl St Laurent. Like I have found in so many of the Austrian wines I had, there is again this very exciting tension between ripe fruit and refreshing acidity. Not everyone might fall for this, but I particularly like this style of wine. Just when the wine seems to disappear there is some tobacco and forest fruit that pop up in the final, giving good length here. I bought this for 13€ in Wein&Co. Pretty good value for money, I would say! This is the kind of wine that I could keep sipping on. Until it’s finished…

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One of my favority St Laurents

Sankt Laurent Ried Hochschopf 2015, Traisental, Markus Huber

A St Laurent from a different area than the previous two. Traisental is situated next to Wachau, from where the top grüner veltliners come. A “Ried” in German is a single vineyard. The aromas remind me of the St Laurent of Grassl, without the lactic aromas then, with ripe cherries, raspberry and again a hint of minerality. The start is fruit driven, but quickly all of your attention is drawn to the razor sharp acidity that forms the backbone of this wine. Forest fruit heals your palate in the finale and prepares you for another sip. This wine is definitely not a crowd-pleaser, but it pleases me, although I suspect this might be a difficult wine in a cold vintage… You might also remember the zweigelt rosé of Huber in a previous post. That rosé was also surprisingly fresh and completely built on the acidity rather than the fruit. So it seems that Huber, who was Austrian winemaker of the year in 2015, really goes for freshness. Does that ring a bell, pinot noir lovers?

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An attractive bottle, and an attractive wine. But perhaps not for everyone’s palate.

St Laurent 2015, Burgenland, Andreas Gsellmann

Another one of Austria’s top wine makers. His organic St Laurent is pretty consistent with everything I’ve found so far in the previous wines. Again a lactic, kind of yogurt, aroma that finds its way to your nostrils first. To be gently sent off by a couple of whirls. Sour cherries and tobacco come in its place. The mouth feel is again a playful interaction between the ripeness and roundness of the dark fruit and the zingy acidity that cuts right through it. Again a wine that will appeal to lovers of fresh, elegant wines.

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In case you wonder if such fresh wines actually pair with anything. Well, we experimented with this mediterranean quiche with lamb mince, raisins and pine nuts. And that went surprisingly well, the freshness of the wine counterbalancing the ripe and sweetish flavors of the quiche.

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St Laurent and this lamb quiche : very complimentary!

Conclusions? Well, the style of these St Laurents was very consistent, apart from the first one of Netzl perhaps. A lactic touch here and there, cherries, forest fruit, raspberry sometimes, minerality, and especially the trademark acidity that shakes you up and keeps you focused. Probably not a grape for people who like a bolder style of wine, but is it reasonable to say that St Laurent is an alternative for pinot noir? Actually, I wouldn’t go as far as that. St Laurent clearly has its own style, and that’s good, a grape with an identity. But I do think that pinot noir lovers might also enjoy St Laurent and that it has its place in the cellar next to your burgundies and spätburgunders. To bring a bit of variation in what you drink. Without pulling you too far out of your comfort zone…

So, this is the end! My Austrian tour, I mean. At least for now, because I have to say I liked these wines very much and I definitely want to try more. In fact, I am very curious now what all these grapes can do once they are blended. Most wineries have what they call a “cuvée”, a blend of the different grapes they have. I Vienna I had one such blend : the Opus Eximium 2015 of Gesellmann. It was wonderful, very refined, complex, deep and long. So this one triggered my interest for sure! Another thing I’m curious about is how these wines age. Do they get better? I didn’t find the ones I had disturbingly young, but it would be interesting to explore the evolution of these wines. So, as you see, plenty of reasons to continue my investigations into Austrian wine.

For now, though, auf wiedersehen!

 

Blaufränkisch : the Austrian parade horse

 

If zweigelt is regarded as the « easier » red Austrian wine, then blaufränkisch is seen as the grape with most potential. The parade horse, as the Austrian magazine Falstaff calls it. In general it produces wines that are medium to full-bodied, quite aromatic, spicy, and have a good acidic backbone. It’s mainly produced in Burgenland, which is in the east of Austria, most quality wines coming from those parts of the country. There are three different appellations or DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus – who invented this name?!) in Burgenland where blaufränkisch is either the only or the dominant grape for red wines.

Leithaberg is the most northern one, followed by Mittelburgenland, and then Eisenberg in the south. Burgenland lies at the west side of the Pannonian plain, a big basin in Central Europe, which means that the climate is decidedly continental, so hot summers and cold winters.

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The red area is Burgenland (map from http://www.austrianwine.com)

Leithaberg is the most northern DAC of the three DACs in Burgenland where blaufränkisch dominates and has a soil that’s rich in slate (= schiefer) and limestone. This is supposed to produce elegant and mineral wines with a good acidic structure. The two wines below are from that region but don’t actually carry the DAC classification. Not sure why though.

Blaufränkisch Fölligberg 2014, Weingut Leberl

The first aroma I have is rather lactic, like forest fruit yogurt. Then some peppernut, tobacco, a bit of smoke, and black cherries. The wine is fresh and quite structured with bold but ripe tannins. Ends with a chocolate bitter. A noble wine, but it deserves further cellaring. Contrary to what you’d expect from Leithaberg, no minerality here though. The vineyard is situated on a hill called Fölligberg, where there is a lot of clay. Maybe this explains the more powerful character of this wine.

Blaufränkisch vom Kalk 2015, Weingut Altenburger

Very refined and noble aromas coming from the glass. Blond tobacco, fresh cherries, and yes, a bit of minerality! These aromas remind me somewhat of a good Beaujolais, or even Burgundy. The wine starts fresh and ends fresh, and is nicely structured by the fine tannins. Very elegant, very fresh. This wine reflects the reputation of Leithaberg. Markus Altenburger is specialized in blaufränkisch and has a hands-off approach, not using selected yeasts for example. I would definitely like to try more from this winery!

Mittelburgenland is, quite logically as the name suggests, in the middle of Burgenland… It has a heavier, loamy soal. Add to that a minimum of 300 days of sunshine and only 600mm rainfall per year and you have a recipe for richer, more concentrated wines. 

Blaufränkisch von Lehm 2016, Gesellmann

Ripe forest fruit, cedar wood, a minty touch. The wine is very smooth, not overly powerful, rather medium-bodied with good acidity. Goes down very easily, pleasant to drink.

Blaufrankisch 7301, Weingut K + K Kirnbauer 2015.

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Probably meant as a quaffer, but I enjoyed this very much!

The nose seduces with its black fruit, underwood, and a touch of tobacco. This wine is very light on its feet, joyful an yet nicely structured. The finish is carried by the refreshing acidity. This is lovely! While this is an entry level wine, it is better than average and makes you pour another glass as soon as the first is finished. Great drinking pleasure. One of my personal favorites.

Blaufränkisch 2015 Mittelburgenland DAC Gold Reserve, Weingut K + K Kirnbauer

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This is the premium blaufränkisch of the same winery as the 7301. It has a very luxurious and luscious nose with ripe red fruit, cedar wood, it really jumps out of the glass. The wine is ripe, has a lot of fruit, kept in balance by the refreshing acidity. Black chocolate in the background gives it more depth. This is very approachable as it is now, no need to put this wine away. I cannot help thinking, though, that this wine is a bit “made” and perhaps a tad too easy for its price (+/-25€). Still, I can drink this anytime…

Eisenberg is the furthest down south of the Burgenland DACs. The landscape here is more hilly and slate dominates the soil on the hills. At the foot of the hills there is more ferrous loam, giving more powerful wines while the wines of the hills should be more elegant and mineral.

Blaufränkisch Ried Weinberg 2015, Eisenberg DAC Reserve, Kopfensteiner

This wine does not come from one of the hills but a plateau with heavy loam soil. Cherry liquor, cedar wood, a bit of caramel. The mouth feel is warm and the tannins are rather harsh. The high acidity gives freshness, but this is not my favorite blaufränkisch to be honest.

Food pairing

With all these wines of blaufränkisch I was curious what would match well with them. Duck was a pairing I found on several websites, so off I went to buy duck fillet, or magret de canard.

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Perfectly cooked duck, even if I say so myself!

I made the duck with a mash of celeriac and sautéed greens. The duck had a very powerful, earthy taste. We had the blaufränkisch of Gesellmann and Kopfensteiner with it :

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Even though the wines went relatively well with the duck, I somehow felt that a heavier wine would have been better. I rarely drink Cahors (= malbec) but here I could perfectly picture a good glass of black wine with my duck. The combination with the Kopfensteiner was a perfect illustration, however, of how red meat can completely absorb the tannins of a wine. This blaufränkisch had quite harsh tannins that made the wine not so pleasant without food. With the duck, though, all tannins were gone…

So, conclusion? I thoroughly enjoyed these wines of blaufränkisch. They are hardly ever heavy. Even if they are concentrated and structured, most of them have beautiful fruit and great mouthwatering acidity that make these wines approachable and digestible. In fact, with the trend away from very concentrated oak-driven wines, I am convinced there is a market for blaufränkisch. Another argument for blaufränkisch is that the qualit of the entry-level wines is already quite good, so if you spend 10-15€ on a blaufränkisch, chances are high that you will have a wine that is very pleasant and offers a good price quality ratio. Chances of finding that in Burgundy, for example, very low… Speaking of which, I am not going to pretend that blaufränkisch is an alternative for Burgundy pinot noir, but there were a few that made me think of a fruit-forward pinot noir, like the ones they make in New-Zealand for example. You might find it a bit hard to find these wines though. Even though there are quite a few shops where you will find a grüner veltliner or a zweigelt, if you want to buy a selection of blaufränkisch, you will have to revert to webshops. Or be lucky that you have a specialized shop in your neighborhood. But if you find a bottle, give it a try, and as always, let me know what you think!

Enjoy!

Zweigelt : Austrian glug glug?

In France they call glug glug wines the easy-drinking kind of wines, like a simple Beaujolais. Nothing wrong with glug glug wines. A light and refreshing red can be very nice in summer or with a simple meal. In France they also call these vins de bistrot, wines to drink in bar. In France it is very common to just have un ballon de vin, a (round-shaped) glass of wine when you’re out with friends. In many other countries the preferred drink will probably be beer, but bear in mind that in France beer costs more than wine… In Austria zweigelt is a grape that often makes this kind of easy-drinking, pleasant ànd affordable wines. In my recent exploration of Austrian wines, however, I have also come across very different styles of zweigelt, such as a very dry and tight rosé, and a very serious, must-have red. Here’s a taste of zweigelt :

Zweigelt 2015, Umathum, Burgenland

Burgenland is a region in the east of Austria that stretches all along the border with Hungary. Mostly red wine is produced there, and this zweigelt is produced by Umathum, a well-known winery from this region. This zweigelt is a very good example of the easy-drinking fruit-forward wines that this grape produces. It has a attractive smoky nose with a bit of leather and ripe cherries. The ripe fruit is the key element in this wine, no difficult tannins here, and it’s kept sufficiently fresh so it doesn’t get boring after one glass. This is einfach lekker, or simply good! Really the kind of wine that I would be happy with if I got this in a bistrot. Bought this at 12,90€.

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Zweigelt Rosé 2016, Markus Huber

As you might have read before, I am not a big enthusiast of rosé wines. I don’t mind them, but it is rare that there is actually a rosé that will stick with you for longer than the actual time in your glass. So I didn’t expect that much from this rosé. Remembering the ripeness of the Umathum Zweigelt, I expected this to be yet another sweetish rosé. No such thing with this Zweigelt Rosé, quite the contrary actually. The nose was very fresh and mineral, and actually did not have so much fruit. This perfectly could have been the nose of a very fresh white wine. The mouth feel continues in the same vein. There is a racy acidity here that makes this wine extremely tight and fresh. The acidic backbone give this wine structure and length. Absolutely no mediterranean rosé feeling here! I paired this wine with an eggplant oven dish and that was a complete mismatch… This rosé should actually be paired like a very fresh muscadet for example, so rather with a sole or a cod fillet, or sea fruit even. Very surprising!

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Zweigelt Luckenwald Reserve 2015, Nittnaus, Neusiedlersee DAC

And then the biggest surprise still had to come. I grabbed this bottle from a shop in Vienna’s airport, taking as much wine as I could in my suitcase and hand luggage, knowing that Austrian wines are not so commonly found in Belgium. It had a big sticker on it with a 93 score of Falstaff, an Austrian wine magazine. I tend to be rather prudent with medals, scores and what not, so again my expectations were not very high for this airport bottle. Was I wrong! The nose is a feast of all the black fruits you can imagine, very abundant and very chique! There is a cedar wood touch here that gives the wine a luxurious feel, while not overdoing it. From the first sip you feel that this wine is incredibly deep and long. There is a lot of everything here, and yet it is all perfectly controlled. Ripe black fruit, freshness, bold but ripe tannins. Big and structured, and elegant and balanced at the same time. There is only one word for this : impressive! I had no idea that zweigelt was capable of producing such a classy wine. And the best is yet to come : I paid 15,90€ for this at the airport. I think I urgently need to go back to Vienna!

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This wine even looks classy!

Time for Austrian wine : Grüner Veltliner

After my posts about Vienna and Vienna’s wine bars, it’s time to finally talk about Austrian wine! I focussed on the typical Austrian grapes : grüner veltliner, sankt laurent, zweigelt and blaufränkisch. I’m pretty sure Austria produces very taste bud worthy sauvignons, chardonnays and rieslings, but for now I reserved my taste buds for the indigenous grapes. Today I’ll share a couple of grüner veltliners that I liked with you. The white wines made from this grape are described as light, very fresh and often you will read that these wines have an aroma of white pepper. While you will certainly find wines that match this description, I found that grüner veltliner is capable of producing very different styles, from light and fresh to powerful and heady.

Light and floral

The first grüner veltliner is an easy going one that goes easy on your budget as well. It’s the “Sandgrube 2013” of 2016 produced by Winzer Krems, a cooperative and the biggest wine producer of Austria. The wine is very aromatic and an instant pleaser, with loads and loads of floral aromas that jump out the glass. It also has a nice underlying minerality, peach, and a somewhat yeasty nose. The wine has a light sparkle, which is also very typical of grüner veltliner, and that adds to the freshness of this wine. The fizz and the acidity make that this wine is light on its feet despite the ripe aromas of white flowers and peaches. This is pretty dangerous stuff to drink, as it goes down all too easily. Perfect wine for a summer pick-nick. No great complexity or refinement, but a cheerful, easy-going wine. Bought at 11,50€.

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Fresh and elegant

The Zöbinger Terrassen 2016, Kamptal Reserve is quite something else than the previous one. While it also has a light sparkle, the nose is much more refined, with the minerality dominating. The whole profile of the wine can best be described as fine : the aromas, the acidity, the fruit. It’s all very elegant and well-balanced. This clearly stands one step above the easy-going grüner of Winzer Krems. You obviously pay a bit more, but the difference in quality justifies the difference in price. Grab this one if you can find it! Bought at 15,95€.

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Powerful

The most powerful grüner I had was at the Eulennest, a wine bar in Vienna. It’s the Brunntal Reserve 2016 of Kolkmann, Fels am Wagram. The color alone already tells you that this is going to be something completely different. Instead of greenish yellow, the color here is much darker, rather golden yellow. The nose is fuller, riper, with peach, apricot, quince, and something that reminds me of curry. I also have a touch of yeast here like I had in the Sandgrube 13. The wine is very round and full-bodied. This not a grüner that is defined by its freshness anymore, but rather by its power. I like it, but this is definitely not a summer pick-nick kind of wine anymore. Rather something to accompany a salmon fillet, for example. Unfortunately no picture of this wine. I see it’s available in Belgium for 21,30€.

I was very happy with my little tour of grüner veltliner. There’s so much more to discover of course. Some of these grüners can age very well, actually, and then develop honey and quince aromas. I haven’t had an opportunity now to try one that has aged, but will look out for more grüners. They are all-rounders really. They are perfect on a sunny day as a refreshing apéritif, but will also accompany a summer salad, or even a light fish dish. In that way they have a profile that is a bit similar to a classic sauvignon blanc : from very light and easy to fresh and refined and even quite powerful wines. And yet, they have their own touch, that typical fizz, but also the floral and somewhat yeasty aroma’s. Plenty to discover in other words, and in general at reasonable prices. So grab a grüner veltliner if you find one and let me know how you liked it!

Discovering Vienna’s winebars

Austria is a wine producing country. About 2 to 2,5 million hectolitres every year. That’s not so much in comparison to a country like Italy, which produced 50 million in 2016. But what I like alot about Austria is that it has very interesting indigenous grape varieties, such as grüner veltliner (for white wine), and zweigelt, blaufränkisch and sankt laurent (for red wines). So when I knew I was going to Vienna, I didn’t have to think twice to go and explore what Austria has to offer.

Vienna has quite a few winebars and restaurants with a focus on wine. I went to a few of those winebars curious to sample a couple of Austrian wines.

Eulennest, Operngasse 30

My favorite winebar in Vienna. It’s not in the area within the ring road around the historical centre of Vienna, so you won’t stumble upon it by chance. But it’s really not far from the opera house, so within walking distance from the main sights in Vienna. Stefan and his wife have a very cosy place where you can have a decent selection of, mainly, Austrian wines by the glass. Actually, it’s the only place where I could try a sankt laurent, the grape obviously not being very popular. You can also have a plate of cheeses and/or hams, quiches and other tapas styled dishes. This is the kind of place where many locals come for a glass and where everyone seems to know each other. The house wine is very reasonably priced, around 3€ and most wines are around 5-7€. Within that range you can try several grüner veltliners, zweigelts, blaufränkisch and at the time there was also one sankt laurent. I absolutely loved the 7301 Blaufränkisch of Kirnbauer there. But more about that in a next post. All wines can be bought there, so it’s basically a winebar and wineshop at the same time, something I’ve seen in several places in Vienna. I can definitely recommend the Eulennest (Owl’s Nest)!

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The Eulennest is a very friendly place.

 

Vis-A-Vis, Wollzeile 5/Durchgang

Another interesting place is Vis-A-Vis, situated in the heart of Vienna just across Figlmüller, where you’re supposed to get the best schnitzel in Vienna. (Make sure to book in advance if you want to go there, there were literally queues to get in!) It’s a tiny, tiny place. I counted 4 tables for two people each. The atmosphere was interesting, I’d say. The music was a bit “suave”, think Barry White, and the people there could have come directly from the Loveboat.

Also here you get a good selection of Austrian wines by the glass. And I saw, but didn’t try, a nice range of cheeses and hams on offer. What was interesting here, if you fancy that, is that they also offered several kinds of tresterbrand, an Austrian liquor, much like grappa. Finally, they also had a couple of sweet wines by the glass.

Nice place for a glass of wine, or to digest your schnitzel from Figlmüller’s with a schnaps. But you might find yourself in the company of tourists who come in for “a beer and a whisky”. I suppose “Weinbar” doesn’t sound anything like wine bar.

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Wein & Co, Linke Wienzeile 4

Wein & Co is a big chain in Austria and Germany, and has 8 shops just in Vienna alone. It’s a wine bar and shop in one, and in most places you can also eat. I was in the Wine & Co Naschmarkt, a huge wine bar, with a big shop next to it. A very different kind of place than the other wine bars I visited. It’s young, it’s hip and the people come here to meet their friends and chat. That makes it a bit busy and loud, but at the same time that gave the place a not unpleasant, sort of rowdy atmosphere. What was less pleasant here, however, was the fact that the smoking part (I was very surprised to see that so many places still had smoking zones) and the non-smoking part were not well separated, so the cigarette smoke spread also to the non-smoking part. I don’t mind if people smoke in the designated zones but I prefer to know when the tobacco comes from the wine or from cigarettes.

Anyhow, a good selection of wines per glass, and a wider, also international, range of wines by the glass. Because Wine & Co is such a big chain, I didn’t expect the staff to be very knowledgeable, but I was wrong. Both the staff in the wine bar and in the shop were very knowledgeable and friendly. The number of wines on offer in the shop is quite impressive. Unfortunately, keeping a shop open until 24h00 has a price, and that was reflected in the prices of the wines, both in the wine bar as in the shop. But still, definitely worth a visit.

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Weinorgel, Bäckerstrasse 2

Weinorgel is situated in the heart of Vienna and actually has an organ inside. It looked like a very cosy place, with many locals sipping on a glass of wine. Unfortunately, when I entered, I noticed the place was full of cigarette smoke. I suppose there was no separate smoking zone here. I hate it when my clothes smell of cigarettes, and most of all, I don’t see how you can really enjoy the wine if you can only smell cigarettes. So, off I went. No wine in Weinorgel for me.

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And that was that. I discovered a few nice places, all very different, and had good Austrian wines. But more about those in the next posts!

Enjoying Vienna

Work brought me to Vienna for a couple of days. In the next few posts I will tell you more about Vienna’s wine bars and some of the Austrian wines I had. But today I want to share a couple of pictures with you from this beautiful city, because I liked it so much. I had been in Vienna a few years ago, but didn’t have time then to really explore the city. This time I had a bit more time and luckily the weather was good as well.

In 2018 Vienna was voted the most liveable city in the world for the ninth time in a row. Quite a feat! (Baghdad is the worst in case you wonder.) And I must say that in the little time that I had to wander around, Vienna really made a big impression on me. What I find really unique here is that the city is packed with beautiful historical buildings in a relatively small area. Vienna has a total area of 414.65 square kilometres. The metropolitan area of Paris is about 2300 square kilometres, just to give you an idea.

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Amazing, isn’t it?

In Vienna impressive palaces, old churches, and elegant houses keep appearing in every new street you take. And there is absolutely no need to take a bus or a metro anywhere, you can cover the whole historical centre by Foot. Even outside the historical centre, you will still find beautiful and stately houses like the one below.

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Probably not in any guide, but this was just one block away from where I was staying.

One day I finished early and took advantage to go to the Leopold Museum. As there was little over an hour left to visit the museum, I almost ran through all the exhibitions, but I’m glad I did it. There was a beautiful exhibition dedicated to Egon Schiele. I will not post a picture of his work here because I would probably be banned from WordPress. Rather explicit!

An artist whom I did not know before, but really impressed me, was Koloman Moser, one of leading artists of the Vienna Secession movement, a group of “rebel” artists at the end of the 19th century, amongs whom also Gustav Klimt. He was known for his graphic art, but also his paintings and his furniture.

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I wouldn’t mind having this in my living room

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And a loungy couch for on the terrace perhaps?

The Leopold Museum is situated in an area that concentrates quite a few museums around a square. The square was a great place where people just chilled, had a beer or soaked up the sun.

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You’d probably need a week to visit all the museums around this square.

And of course, when in Wien, you need to have a sausage at one of the many food stalls in the city. I had a great curry sausage, with a sauce that was actually quite spicy, but I liked it very much. Purists will say that curry wurst is actually from Berlin. And they’re right, but they make darn good ones in Vienna too.

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Comfort food

I just want to show you the food stall that sold these sausages :

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Have you noticed the rabbit?

And on the other side there’s the Opera House :

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How often do you get to eat street food with a view like this?

And they actually sold wine! And not just any…

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Do you fancy a glass of champagne with your sausage, sir?

I’ll stop it here. I could go on forever about the wonders of Vienna. If you have a chance to visit, don’t hesitate. It’s a great place!

Next time, I’ll talk about wine again, I promise!

 

 

Reviewing James Suckling’s The Miracle of Alto Adige

On 22th of March, the Miracle of Alto Adige was released, a documentary produced by James Suckling and his son Jack about this wine region in the north of Italy. On 29th it was released for the general public on his website. I was pretty excited about this documentary and eager to see it. I’m a big fan of audiovisual productions about wine. Probably because I’m not the most avid reader there is, but also because the treshold is lower than reading a thick book. After a long day at work, I find it quite relaxing to watch a documentary or listen to a podcast. On the train for example, since I spend at least two hours per day commuting.

One of the series I really enjoyed watching, already quite a few years ago, was Jancis Robinson’s wine course. When I started getting interested in wine that was the perfect introduction for me to the subject. It was very educative and had a good mix of factual information, beautiful images of the world’s best known wine regions, and interviews with key winemakers. When I heard about James Suckling’s documentary about Alto Adige, I expected something similar. I was particularly happy to see that someone like James Suckling chose a fairly unknown region like Alto Adige. I might be wrong, but I think of him as a critic who has a preference for “big” wines, while I know Alto Adige as a wine region that’s especially known for somewhat lighter and fresh wines. Anyhow, it’s a region that doesn’t get a lot of attention, even among lovers of Italian wines, Tuscany and Piedmont still being the go to regions for many.

The documentary starts off with very impressive footage of the mountainous area. The images, shot by drones and helicopters, are really breathtaking, immediately driving home the point of the “miracle” of Alto Adige. That probably should not come as a surprise, the director of the documentary being James Orr, known for popular Hollywood movies such as Three Men and a Baby, and Sister Act 2. The scenery is the perfect introduction to the winemakers of the region, including top winemakers such as Alois Lageder and Elena Walch, but I was happy to see also a few cooperatives such a Cantina Tramin. They only get a few minutes each to talk about their experiences with wine making in the region. After all, the documentary is only 23 minutes long and that seriously limits the possibilities of what you can show. If you want to showcase 6 wineries, well then there’s not an awful lot of time left to show or tell anything else.

Unfortunately this means that you don’t get to know much about the region in general : where is it situated? what kind of wines are made there? and which grapes are used? Particularly the last question is of interest, I find, because Alto Adige is home to a few indigenous grapes such as the well-known gewürztraminer, but also less well-known, but not less interesting, grapes such as schiava and lagrein. Especially lagrein is a grape that I find interesting. It produces medium-bodied, sometimes floral, but mainly spicy, peppery red wines,  reminiscent of syrah. Alas, no word about lagrein or any wine of the region for that matter. It makes you wonder a bit about the point of this documentary. Perhaps James Suckling has a personal preference for the wines coming from Alto Adige? Well, again, you won’t find out by watching this documentary! James Suckling is not to be seen anywhere. You only hear him saying a few lines at the beginning of the documentary.

I won’t hide that I find this documentary a bit of a missed opportunity. James Suckling uses his popularity to draw the attention to a less-known wine region, such as Alto-Adige, and that’s great. But he does not use his knowledge or tasting experience to share his insights, or to let us in on a few talented but yet undiscovered wine makers for example. Nor do we really learn anything about Alto Adige. Pity…

Well, let me give you at least one lagrein to look out for then! It’s the Staves, a Lagrein Riserva of Weingut Kornell. This is a wine that is defined by its pureness, its elegance and yes, the black pepper that could lead you to northern rhone syrah. In its youth the wood can still dominate the fruit a bit, but I drank the 2012 and the wood is perfectly integrated now. I found this wine just under 30€, so quality also has its price in Alto Adige, but what you get in your glass is definitely worth the money.

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So, if you watch The Miracle of Alto Adige, then treat yourself with a nice peppery lagrein or a flowery schiava. They go well with the beautiful scenery.