Great Austrian Reds

A guide to going beyond Gruners


Austrian wine! Who’d have thought we’d be talking about Austrian wine in 2010, particularly red wines from Austria? The truth is most of us had no idea these wines even existed a decade ago, and that’s not our fault. There were scant examples in the marketplace and little impetus to add more. But the truth, as we have seen it, is that Austrian reds can be great wines and, even more surprisingly, they can be great wines for Thanksgiving!

The surge in interest in Austrian wines can pretty much be attributed to the popularity of Grüner Veltliner, and the Internet. Without the Internet, Grüner Veltliner may very well have remained a fringe wine, favored by sommeliers and wine geeks everywhere, but kept from the mainstream by the slow flow of old media. But this is not an article on the power of new media, rather the amazingly persuasive quality of the new Austrian wine industry!

So, what’s the deal with Austria and why am I suggesting red wines with difficult names from a small mountainous country in the middle of Europe, where they not only don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but don’t even eat turkey? Though I do hear Turkish food is popular!

Well, the bottom line is that these wines, this group of reds from Austria, are remarkable food-friendly wines that are crisp and refreshing, sure to complement your meal and not try to overpower it. Pairing these wines with your meal will be a victory by submission, not a knockout!

2007 Weingut Juris St. Laurent Selection 13%

Very sweet and assertive on the nose, with more of a new world note than many other St. Laurent. This shows some distinct vanilla and sweet, if transparent, red currant, cranberry, wild cherry-toned fruit. Velvety in the mouth and nicely bright with earthy and lightly mineral-framed pure wild berry fruit flavors. This is decidedly fruit and fresh with soft tannins and integrated acids providing a rather seamless feel. The fruit has a gently earthy edge to it, but is a touch simple and finishes on the shorter side. 87pts

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2007 Schloss Schönbrunn Rotleiten 13%

Just a hint of fudge right out of the gate with smoky, earthy undertone, and some nice woodsy, oak spice top notes to the mix of boysenberry and blueberry on the nose. A bit austere up front with curiously soft, lush tannins. The acid lends a certain nervous character to the wine. The mid-palate shows nice wild blueberry and cherry notes with a hint of oak that adds complexity to the woodsy finish that ends on a note of wild strawberry jam. This is complex and savory with fine balance and length on a medium-weight frame. 88pts

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2006 Heinrich St. Laurent 13%

A classic St. Laurent nose: earthy spice, and filled with dusty cherry fruit. This is particularly smoky on the nose, with a hint of carob. Lovely entry, silky yet bright with hidden acids. The lush quality of the fruit conceals the tannin and acidity here with a mélange of blue and red fruits accented with a touch of fudge covering the palate. With air, this firms up a little but it retains its soft yet bright character right through the lightly spicy, medium-length finish. 88pts

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2007 Weingut Christ Blauer Zweigelt Bisamberg 13.5%

This smells of crushed berries with a touch of fresh juniper and notes of earth, a very light dusting of vanilla, with touches of marzipan and violets. On entry this is soft and broad, fruity and fleshy with bright acid and soft tannins supporting the bright, juicy berry fruited mid-palate. There’s a little spice on the backend and this gains good focus in the mouth, finishing with a firm, earthy tone. This is fruity, uncomplicated and refreshing. 88pts

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2007 Zahel Antares Grande Reserve 13.5%

A light layer of lightly toasty oak greets the nose followed by soft notes, a warm cherry, rose petals, wintermint and a touch of antiseptic chalkiness with a real chocolate Necco wafer element. That lightly minty choco tone is the first thing you get in the mouth as well, followed by a nice depth of black fruits with a touch of black olive and chalky tannins. The backend is nice and focused, with more of the medicinal/floral aspects of the nose that lead to a firm, moderately long minerally finish with coffee cream notes on the finale. This is a rigid, complex wine with a slightly matte character that may very well improve with ageing. 89pts. 

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  • I just came back from Vienna. Here are my impressions on Austrian Wine - Not Just Gruener Veltliner

    Nov 11, 2010 at 3:50 PM

  • Austria is becoming an increasingly important wine-producing country in central Europe with an annual production of about 30 million cases, 30% more than Germany.

    Dec 17, 2011 at 12:30 AM

  • This is really very informative. Thanks for sharing.


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