Austria is one of the most consistently reliable wine countries, delivering beautifully clean, fresh whites time and again, as well as supple, soft, elegant reds. So, it’s something of a surprise to learn that Austrian wine still lags behind the big guns of Europe. Times are changing, however, and wine drinkers are beginning to realise the potential of this underrated country.
The national grape of Austria is, without doubt, Grüner Veltliner, which accounts for three out of every 10 vines planted. The two classic flavours associated with the grape are grapefruit and white pepper, which not only gives whites made with Grüner a racy zestiness, it also makes them incredibly food-friendly, ideal to cut through the richness of a schnitzel or potato salad, or something a little spicier.
Little wonder, then, that the grape accounted for four of the five Gold medals awarded to Austrian wines at this year’s IWSC. Weingut Rabl’s Ried Dechant Alte Reben Grüner Veltliner 2019 was one fine example, scoring 95/100pts and wowing the judges with its sumptuous palate of apple, quince and nectarine, with touches of warm hay and spice.
Grüner also makes delicious sweet wines, too, such as Vom Grüner Veltliner Eiswein 2018 from Weingut Türk. Another 95pt scorer, it showed aromas of ripe mango, stone fruit and caramelised pineapple, with a touch of ginger and grapefruit.
Riesling is the other key white-wine variety in Austria, and it performs fantastically well. In fact, Weingut Rabl Riesling 2017 was the highest-scoring Austrian wine in this year’s IWSC, with 96/100pts. Offering seductive notes of manuka honey, apricot marmalade, this off-dry Riesling is a mere 8.5% abv.
Austria is starting to make waves with its sparkling wine, too – known as Sekt. Sektkellerei Szigeti’s Cuvée Prestige Brut 2018 is a tri-varietal fizz made with equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and red grape Blaufränkisch, which impressed with its citrus notes and hints of cherry blossom and lemon.
Every Austrian wine at this year’s IWSC was tasted blind by some of the best palates in the industry, led by Sarah Abbott MW. She was assisted by fellow Master of Wine Alistair Cooper, along with Master Sommeliers Eric Zwiebel and Svetoslav Manolev.
If you’re bored of the same old Sauvignons and Pinot Grigios, Austria is the first country you should consider. The overall standard is incredibly high, and you may find you have a new favourite grape variety. Here is the pick of the best Austrian wines from this year’s IWSC.
8 of the best Austrian wines from the IWSC 2021
- Weingut Rabl, Riesling 2017. 96/100
- Weingut Türk, Vom Grüner Veltliner Eiswein 2018. 95/100
- Weingut Rabl, Ried Dechant Alte Reben Grüner Veltliner 2019; Kamptal. 95/100
- Weingut Türk, Ried Kremser Thurnerberg Grüner Veltliner 2019; Kremstal. 92/100
- Waitrose & Partners, Blueprint Grüner Veltliner 2020. 90/100
- Lenz Moser, Grüner Veltliner 2020; Kremstal. 90/100
- Morrisons, The Best Grüner Veltliner 2020; Traisental. 89/100
- Sektkellerei Szigeti, (Sekt) Cuvée Prestige Brut 2018. 88/100
HOW DO WE JUDGE THESE WINES?
We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.
HOW DO WE SCORE THESE WINES?
Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.
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