Austrian Wines at the Miami Wine Fair

If you’re a wine novice, the best way to get a quick education is to attend a wine tasting.  For a lot of learning and tasting crammed into a short amount of time, you can’t beat the Miami International Wine Fair.

Miami International Wine FairHeld at the end of the September, this year’s wine fair featured more than 1,500 wines from 20 countries.  It’s a bit intimidating when you first walk into the convention center, especially if you don’t have a game plan for where to start.

One of my favorite things about the Miami International Wine Fair is trying new or unfamiliar varietals.  My first destination: Austria.

Austrian wines are sometimes overlooked because of their lesser known and hard to pronounce varietals.  Sure you’ll find Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (often called Blauburgunder) from Austria, but it’s those other varietals that will give you a real sense of Austrian wine.

Austria’s most popular white grape is Grüner Veltliner.  It produces food-friendly dry wines that have citrus and apple flavors with high acidity and minerality.  Grüner Veltliner can pair with shellfish, seafood, poultry, spicy foods and Asian cuisine.

At the Miami International Wine Fair I found a pair of nice Grüner Veltliner wines from Dürnberg Wine Estate.  This winery is located in Weinviertel, Austria’s largest wine growing area located in the northeast of Lower Austria.

Austrian white winesThe Grüner Veltliner 2007 Select (middle bottle in photo) is fermented in stainless steel to preserve its crisp fruitiness.  It’s very aromatic, with fresh green apple and herbal notes.  On the palate, flavors of green apple, pear and tart white grapefruit are enhanced with a hint of pepper.  The limestone soil of the vineyards gives the wine a nice minerality that’s well balanced with bright acidity.  The Grüner Veltliner 2007 Select is $18.

Slightly higher in quality and price is the Rabenstein Grüner Veltliner (far left bottle in photo).  It’s made with grapes from 50 year old vines and aged on fine lees in oak casks.  Sophisticated and silky in structure, this white has notes of golden apple, ripe sweet lemon and white pepper.  It is more well-rounded and less citric than the 2007 Select.  The Rabenstein Grüner Veltliner is $23.

I also enjoyed Dürnberg’s Blanc de Noirs 2007 Select (far right in photo).  It’s a white wine made from Zweigelt, a red wine grape.  Zweigelt is the most widely-grown red grape varietal in Austria and is a cross of the Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent varietals.  It is similar in taste and style to Gamay, used in wines from Beaujolais.

The Blanc de Noirs has fresh red berry aromas, with flavors of raspberry and strawberry on the palate.  Lively acidity and a hint of sweetness make this wine refreshing and pleasing to drink.  It’s a nice match for fish, chicken or turkey, or enjoy the wine on its own.  A bottle of the Blanc de Noirs 2007 Select costs $18.

Austrian red winesFor another taste of Zweigelt I tried the 2006 Aconit from Anton Schoefmann.  This red wine is a blend of Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and St. Laurent from Lower Austria.  It’s light to medium bodied and dry, with flavors of cherries, strawberries and a hint of cedar.  Soft tannins give the wine an elegant mouthfeel.  A bottle of the 2006 Aconit costs $19.

Next I moved on to Blaufränkisch, a more full-bodied red grape.  It is the second most important red grape varietal in Austria after Zweigelt.  Blaufränkisch wines typically have flavors of dark berries, black cherries and spice, with medium tannins.  This varietal is grown across Central Europe and is in the Hungarian red blend called Egri Bikavér, also known as Bull’s Blood (click here for more on this type of wine).

For a taste of Blaufränkisch I tried the Lenz Moser Prestige Blaufränkisch Barrique 2007.  This wine is from Burgenland, the easternmost state in Austria.  Deep ruby red in color with some purple, the wine has aromas of berries and vanilla.  Blackberries and cherries give the wine a juicy and rich taste, enhanced by notes of vanilla and spice.  Soft tannins give the wine a firm yet supple structure.  The Lenz Moser Prestige Blaufränkisch Barrique 2007 costs $23.

Austria produces a variety of delicious sweet and dessert wines.  Click here for my article on Kracher, a family winery in Burgenland.

When it comes to Austrian wines, you must try a bottle — even if you can’t pronounce the name.

Stay tuned for more articles on wines from the Miami International Wine Fair