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!

Never waste a good climate change – Burgundy

One man’s loss is another man’s gain. Climate change is a challenge in many wine regions, but creating opportunities in others. Take Burgundy, for example. 2015 was hailed as a great year by many critics. Very good weather conditions resulting in high quality grapes and wine. At least if you like very rich pinots with loads of ripe fruit. Many of the 2015s I tasted at the wine fair of independent vignerons recently in Lille, France, were very generous, ripe and had moderate acidity levels. Of course, this is my personal preference, but I look more for Burgundies with freshness, fresh fruit, good acidity, tension and elegance. The contrast was immense when I tasted the wines of Domaine Jacob at the same wine fair. They do not put the wines in barrels for very long and were therefore capable of already bringing the 2016s to the fair. Well, they were vibrant! And that’s how I like them. To be totally honest, you don’t find the cream of the Burgundy crop at this wine fair so it would be unfair to judge the quality of the vintage just on the Burgundies I’ve tasted there. But still, it gave me a general idea. And it strengthened my belief that the great vintages according to the wine press, do not always produce the wines that I like.

All of this made me wonder about the effects of the hot weather on the wines coming from the plateau of the much cooler Hautes-Côtes in Burgundy. These vineyards are located on top of the Côte d’Or escarpment, the east-facing hills where you find all the illustrious vineyards of the Côtes de Nuits and the Côtes de Beaune. The Hautes-Côtes are higher than the Côtes, as the name suggests, and are not protected from the winds coming from the west. The difference in temperature can be a whopping 5°C… No wonder it’s difficult to have ripe grapes here. Except perhaps in warmer vintages such as 2015? Curiosity got the better of me, and I bought the Hautes-Côtes de Beane “Les Perrières” from Denis Carré, a winemaker based in Meloisey, a village in the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. I had tried this wine before but from a cooler vintage (2013) and it failed to convince me then, so I was eager to see what the 2015 had to offer :

The nose offers plenty of typical pinot fruit. “Ça pinote”, like the French say. Cherries are singing the tune, with raspberries doing the backing vocals. There is something in the nose that I would like to call “wild”, perhaps a touch of brett even? But it’s not of the sort that overwhelms. It actually adds an intriguing element to the nose. There’s also some herbs on the background, and a whiff of old barrel. The wine kicks off with the cherries and the raspberries but there’s good acidity here that creates a ripe-sour contrast that I like. It lacks a bit of depth and length, but it definitely gives typical pinot drinking pleasure.

 Not too bad for 14,95€, is it? The hierarchy is obviously respected : no great complexity here. But then again, this is a pleasant wine that pinot lovers will like for its typicity and its pretensionless every day drinking character.

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Conclusion : it’s early days to start putting all your money on the Hautes-Côtes in Burgundy, but if temperatures keep rising, the Hautes-Côtes may have good stuff for us in store. New rendez-vous in 20 years or so…

Boutenac : balance in the Languedoc

The Languedoc was known for a long time as the wine lake of France. The region was the main source of very simple wine, often Vin de France. Luckily, things have changed considerably. Winemakers have become aware of the fact that quality is important if they want to gain respect and sell their wines at a higher price. The evolution in the Languedoc to a tiered system with the AOC Languedoc as the basis, with communal AOCs in the middle and Crus at the top of the pyramid, is one of the things that shows how the region is focusing more and more on quality. Things are changing at a fast pace : Terrasses du Larzac was promoted to cru status in 2014, so was La Clape in 2015, and Pic St Loup was the latest to join in 2017. Earlier sub-regions to have become Languedoc crus were Roquebrun and Berlou (Saint-Chinian), La Livinière (Minervois) and Boutenac (Corbières).

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Continue reading “Boutenac : balance in the Languedoc”

If it makes you happy… #Winophiles

…it must be Sud-Ouest! There are two reasons why I love Sud-Ouest, and why their wines do make me happy. First of all, if you’re a bit of a winegeek like me, you will feel very much like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory if you see the multitude of indigenous grapes that the Sud-Ouest has. Fer Servadou, braucol, duras, abouriou, gros manseng, petit courbu, you name it! Sometimes you will find that there’s a good reason why such grapes never  achieve stardom, and that’s simply because they do not produce very interesting wines… That, however, is not the case in the Sud-Ouest. I already wrote here about a hidden gem in Gaillac, made of braucol and duras. And I strongly recommend you to try out this food wine pairing. The reason why you will not find many of these wines in your typical wine shop is simply because there’s not alot being made. Take an appellation such as Marcillac. I once enjoyed a great Marcillac from Lionel Osmin. But all in all they only have 185 hectares of vineyard. Compare that to the 117.000 hectares of vineyard in the whole of Bordeaux and you’ll be able to put things in perspective. Continue reading “If it makes you happy… #Winophiles”

Hidden gems in Gaillac

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One of the things I want to write about on this blog are grapes or wine regions that are not well known, but that sometimes harbour hidden gems. Well, here is one of those : Domaine de Brousse. They are based in Gaillac, a French region that is still not very well known. And yet, you can find almost every style of wine here : dry white, rosé and red, with every year also “nouveaux” wines (as in Beaujolais), semi-sparkling wine (“perlé”), sparkling wine “méthode ancestrale” (interrupted fermentation), and sweet white wine. That doesn’t make it any easier to market your wines, of course. Things get even more confusing if you look at the bigger picture : Gaillac is one of many appellations of France’s South-West, where there are many different grapes, resulting in very different styles of wine. And in fact, Gaillac is closer to the Mediterranean than the Atlantic. So much for being part of the South-West… But don’t let that put you off. As I’ve experienced myself, those who dare venture into something new will be rewarded!

I’ve discovered Domaine de Brousse at the wine fair of independent vignerons in Lille, France. I was impressed by their reds. The entry level wine, Origine, is made of Braucol and Duras, two local grapes. The domaine wine is aged in wooden barrels and is made of Braucol and Syrah. Braucol is the name of the grape in Gaillac, but it is to be found in several appellations in the South-West, such as Marcillac, where it is known as Mansois, or in Béarn, under the name Pinenc. And it also known in general as Fer Servadou. Again not simple… For Duras it’s easier : Duras is Duras, and it is also a local grape that can be found in some of the appellations of the South-West. Instead of telling you what literature says about the typical aromas of these grapes, I will let the wines speak for themselves…

Origine 2014 (70% braucol and 30% duras)
Transparent red. Beautiful ripe red fruit, some herbs, very fine and elegant nose. The acidity here is just right, keeping the wine nicely fresh and well-balanced. The tannins are very mild. This wine made me think of the juiciness I often get in Crozes-Hermitages, but two fellow wine freaks with whom I tasted this wine also linked this wine with the freshness of a Cabernet Franc, the lushious fruit of a Beaujolais, or even an Italian wine, because of the acidity. For me, this shows that this wine is not easy to compare to anything else, and really has its own profile. I really like this wine because of the great drinking pleasure it gives, and… because it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. I bought this bottle for 7€ at the wine fair. This is not the wine you will find in many wine critics’ lists. Why? Because the appellation is not known, because the winery is not known, and probably also because this is not a “big” wine. And if they had reviewed it, this would have been the kind of wine that disappears in the anonymous ocean of wine scores where people don’t look if it’s not 90 or more. That’s why I find it important to say that this wine gives me great satisfaction.

Domaine de Brousse 2014 (50% braucol and 50% syrah)
on day one I had mostly cherries and a bit of wood. Not bad at all, but it had quite a modern and international feel. I was a bit disappointed actually. On day two the wood had integrated more and the ripe strawberries from the Origine started to show here as well. It’s only on day 3 (!), however, that this wine showed its full potential, displaying cherries, a bit of cassis, ripe strawberries, even minerality reminiscent of certain Beaujolais, and some herbs. Velvety mouthfeel, ripe tannins. Great length also, and the intensity of the fruit in the final is remarkable. I had almost given up, but was very happy to have one glass left of this wine on day three! I will keep my remaining bottles of this one tucked away in a dark corner for a couple of years.

So, if you have a chance to pick up one of these bottles from Domaine de Brousse, do give it a chance. You will see that it pays off to leave the beaten track behind.