There are a group of countries in Europe which are often over-looked when it comes to wine, and Austria is at the top of this list. This is one of the greatest shames as many of these countries have a a real hot-body of new producers - the younger generation - whom are coming through and are some really exciting wines.
Austria, as a country, is a cool climate region. This enables them to produce wines which have immense fruit ripeness and intensity whilst retaining that key acidity. Acidity is the key to the overall balance in wines, both red and white. The leading grape varietal of Austria is Gruner Veltliner. Gruner Veltliner is practically synonymous with white wine over in Austria. This should be of no surprise as Gruner Veltliner is capable of producing some fantastic wines - think white pepper crackers, blanched almonds, white pear and honeydew melon. Gruner produces both light, crisp and refreshing whites akin to Sauvignon Blanc to quite full bodied and concentrated whites akin to unoaked Chardonnay. After Gruner, you will see Riesling taking the spotlight.
Austria is without a doubt a white wine country yet that said the red wine scene is on the rise. The two varietals that are predominant in the red wine production across Austria are: Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt.
We are lucky enough to have access to some of Austria's greatest producers down here in New Zealand. Check out these top producers:
Gut Oggau is a small wine estate in the Burgenland region of Austria. It was started in 2007 by a young couple: Stephanie and Eduard Tscheppe-Eselbock who took over an old property in Oggau. They are now producing some of the most sought after wines in all of Austria.
Emmerich Knoll winery is located in the region of Wachau in northern Austria. It is one of the most lauded estates in Austria with each bottle's traditionalised label being as famous and highly regarded as the wines themselves.
The whites from Emmerich Knoll, in particular those made from Gruner Veltliner, put Austria on the quality-map in a tasting in the 1990s where an aged Gruner Veltliner was ranked higher than a raft of Grand Cru white Burgundies (the most lauded wines in the world).
Franz Hirtzberger winery is located in the region of Wachau in northern Austria. The vineyard was started in the mid 20th century but quickly laid out a quality focus by identifying some of the best single-vineyard terraces around Wachau. The winery starts with Franz, the elder, who set up the winery who was followed by Franz, the second, who now looks over the winery since 1983. Franz, the second, has fueled the winery closer to his high-quality and high-standards of wine which has lead to Franz Hirtzberger becoming one of the world's leading wine estates.
Weingut Robert Goldenits is based in the sub-region of Tadten in the greater Eastern region of Neusiedlersee in Austria. They are a small, organically run vineyard with just over 75% of their land devoted to red grapes. Though not classified as natural wine producers they practically are as they are have a minimal intervention method of producing their wines. Their red wines are absolute stunners and are great value.