Discovering Austria

Discovering Austria

The wine world knows all about the Australians. Big bold reds…zingy whites. But what about the Austrians? Even though they’re also making bold reds and zingy whites, this country’s wines haven’t resonated with American consumers as much as they deserve to. That needs to change…especially since we’ve recently sourced and shipped some delicious examples to Direct Cellars members.

I admit…it’s a bit confusing that Austrian wines are labeled with much the same system used in Germany. They’re classified by sweetness, then by the region of origin, and then by quality, from ordinary table wine to the higher-end versions. So if you see a label that reads “Velich Welschriesling Trockenbeerenauslese Neusiedlersee,” nobody would blame you if you stood there scratching your head.

Today, however, the Austrians have climbed aboard the international bandwagon in a big way. They’ve simplified the labeling, put the name of the grape on the bottle, and directed their efforts to create more commercial – and more fulfilling – reds and whites with traditional flavor profiles.

About those grapes: they’re not your typical international varietals with names we all know and love. Even though the Austrians are becoming internationally minded in their marketing and labeling, the grapes they grow are very much their own. And that’s a good thing.

For white wines, aside from the sweet ones, Grüner Veltliner is well worth a try. It’s generally dry, with tropical fruit overtones, and we enjoy it with Indian food, Thai, and similar dishes that are hard to match with conventional wines. Of course, they grow Riesling, and another white grape known as Müller-Thurgau (don’t forget the umlaut…), though you’re not likely to see it bottled as a single varietal.

The reds are big. The real interest is in the native grapes like Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, and St. Laurent. For me, the St. Laurent grape is capable of producing wines of true elegance and power. However, about half the red wine produced in Austria comes from the Zweigelt grape, and that’s not a bad thing.

Zweigelt is an easy-drinking wine, not too tannic, that usually displays cherry and cassis flavors, much like a Cabernet, only lighter. If you’ve received this wine in a recent shipment, let us know how you like it.

Sample widely.

If you have questions or comments, please email

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