What do you think of when you hear ‘Austrian wine?’
Austria is well known for making amazing white wines – Grüner Veltliner (one of my favourites) and Riesling but they also make beautiful red wines too. In fact, Austrian red is making such a name for itself, it’s becoming fashionable!
Austria’s main red grape is Zweigelt. Zweigelt is known for producing wines that are light bodied, low in tannin and have enough bite to grab your attention. They can also be slightly chilled in the summer.
The other Austrian red grape to be aware of is Saint Laurent. It’s quite rare (only 2% of Austrian vineyard acreage). It’s aromatic and tends toward complexity. It’s quite often mistaken for Pinot Noir!
In dealing with these grapes, it’s often best to combine them, which is exactly what Judith Beck has done with this brilliant 80/20 split. (80% Zweigelt, 20% Saint Laurent).
Judith Beck wines are made in Gols in Burgenland in South East Austria, near Lake Neusiedlersee. This is the warmest region in Austria for wine production. The area is well known for ‘Big Reds’. Some producers will use new, toasted oak in an attempt to make their reds even bigger, adding power and richness to the wine……Judith Beck does not follow suit!
Judith Beck studied at Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux and Errazuriz in Chile before returning to Austria in 2004 to take over from her father and take the winery forward. This new direction included adopting natural wine making practices. The winery now has a 15 hectare estate and has been biodynamic since 2007.
The Beck philosophy is about attention to detail, respect for the environment and using native grapes: Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Saint Laurent and Weissburgunder. With all Judith Beck wines, the aim is to make authentic wines with individual flavour profiles, while at the same time maintaining healthy soil and vines. (This includes the absence of yeasts). Fermentation of the red wines starts spontaneously in stainless steel tanks, then in open wooden casks. Part of the wine matures in large wooden barrels made from third generation acacia wood. The barrels are used to support and enhance the natural characteristics of the wine, while keeping the fruit aspects centre stage.
From the first sniff, the nose on this wine is trying to show off! It wants you to see how opulent it really is. Aromas of juicy, black cherry, freshly squeezed blackcurrants and pencil shavings spring from the glass. After some time in the glass, cedar makes an appearance, accompanied by hints of liquorice and warming spices – cinnamon and nutmeg. This is followed by violets.
The palate is silky smooth but to avoid you getting too comfortable there’s a peppery edge to the wine. The palate continues with the dark fruit theme, however, here it’s more blackberry than blackcurrant with flavours of hedgerow and hints of nettle. The palate has good oaky complexity that comes through, it’s not dominant but it provides structure and balance to the wine.
This is a great wine with which to end summer and embrace autumn.
As I said last time, I’m a piano teacher. One of the things I do is rather than pairing wine with food, I pair wine with classical music! My choice for this wine is the first movement (Maestoso – poco più moderato) of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor. The piece opens boldly and dramatically but then softens into a poetic and graceful experience. It’s as though the music and the wine were made for each other!
Summer may have ended and be waving us goodbye but that’s no excuse not to grab yourself a few bottles of the Beck Ink. Use it as a toast to a great summer and welcome in autumn.
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Blog posted by Simon – Follow him on Instagram
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