Austrian wines are among the most compelling on the planet. The reds deserve a regular place at the table, with depth and complexity alongside elegance and length. The whites are versatile with styles, structures and flavour profiles that can suit almost any occasion. Many indigenous grapes make wonderful wines. The biggest issue is finding them. Austrians consume 75% of their wine production domestically. Austrian wine is also not cheap, with many of the wines of character starting at $30+, with a couple notable exceptions. This has resulted in Austrian wines occupying an extremely niche category in our local market here in B.C., the province mostly of dedicated wine geeks or Germano-Austrian expats (one of the great secrets of Bauhaus is its geeky and serious German and Austrian wine list, with gems not otherwise available in the market).
Marquis Wine Cellars has made several valiant attempts to introduce the local market to Austrian wines on a larger scale. Their latest will see some of the largest quantities of the country’s wines in the market in the last 10 years. The wave of producers begins with a series of Gruner Veltliners and Rieslings from Rudi Pichler and the oustanding 2015 vintage.
A Farmer’s Winery
Rudi Pichler’s family has been living in the Wachau village of Wosendorf since 1731. He lives in a house his family has owned since 1884. His background is not, however, one of great wealth or nobility like some of the long storied wineries in Europe. Rather, his father was a simple, poor, farmer who raised animals and grew other crops alongside wine grapes. Rudi Pichler was the one who turned the farm into a fully-dedicated winery after a trip to Napa in 1989 to work the harvest at Walter Schug.
Pichler’s approach is to ensure high quality fruit and meticulous cleanliness in order to produce highly transparent wines. For example, Pichler does not have drains in his winery, instead cleaning everything by hand and without high pressure spray. He picks through 6-7 passes. Grapes are crushed by foot and the juice macerated for 3-36 hours on the skins. Pichler believes skins are essential to terroir expression, and so all the whites have some maceration. Production is a very small 8,000 cases (and often as little as half that in a bad vintage).
This is top notch Gruner. It derives from fruit grown in the Kollmutz vineyard, which has fractured schist soils. The vines average approximately 40 years of age. Expect deeply scented orchard fruit – particularly quince, alongside a distinct mineral edge. The wine retains precision despite the fact the 2015 was quite warm in the summer and produced very rich wines. It was the perfect fall conditions that allowed this, with warm days but very cool nights that resulted in extended phenolic development alongside lower potential alcohol. Every 2015 white I’ve had has been outstanding.
Though Austrian wines are lesser known here in B.C. (though they have been well appreciated in the US for some time) and so can thus seem expensive to some, a wine like this Kollmutz from Rudi Pichler proves that the top Austrian whites are actually great bargains. From such producers you will get wines at the very upper echelon of white wine quality for 30-50% less than its peers. And the wines age very well, pair with many foods, and are a sheer joy and intellectual pleasure to drink.
$73.82 plus tax at Marquis Wine Cellars