Wine Dinners: Austrian Wine Night

December 14 2009 - 6:36 AM

A few weeks ago, I had a few people over for Austrian Wine Night, the second of a series of wine dinner parties to spotlight lesser-known regions that produce good quality wines.

We served an apple butternut squash soup, and for dinner, we had Wiener Schnitzel with potato salad and asparagus, along with pumpkin seed oil (an Austrian specialty) and a delicious rye bread from the Austrian Bakery in Lincoln Park.   I knew there was something missing, though, when I realized I forgot to add salt to the Wiener Schnitzel (sorry guests!).   

The dessert was an apple struedel, served with vanilla ice cream.   In addition to the main meal, in absence of an Austrian cheese, seemingly impossible to find, I served a creamy Bavarian Blue and a swiss cheese called "Hoch Ybring", a granular and nutty cheese with a rind washed in white wine from cheese guru Rolf Beeler.

Next part is the wine, and I wanted to point out some highlights.    First I opened a Rudi Pichler (not to be confused with F. X. Pichler) Wosendorfer Kollmutz Smaragd Weissburgunder.  Essentially it's a Pinot Blanc, but much richer than the Pinot Blancs from Alsace with a much more dense, steely concentration and more pronounced fruit.  The Rudi Pichler can be purchased at Que Syrah, roughly in the $30 range.

The second wine was a 2005 Alzinger Liebenberg Smaragd Riesling, a nice crisp, minerally wine, sold at Howard's Wine Cellar.  This was followed by 2006 Weingut Brundlmayer Ried Loiser Berg with notes of white pepper, yeast, citrus, a nice complement to our meal.

Our guests brought over two bottles from House of Glunz, both of which were from Hirsch.  The first was a 2005 Zobing from the Kamptal region. a nice peachy and minerally Riesling.  Especially impressive, though, was the 2006 Heilingenstein Gruner Veltliner,  featuring white pepper with nutty and grassy notes, also from Kamptal, a region adjacent to Wachau in northern Austria.

A couple of highlights to point out, though.  First was the 2001 Kracher #9 Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA).  The TBA, as it is commonly referred to (it's name is too long and too difficult to pronounce in its entirety) is a late-harvest wine that literally means "dry berry selected harvest".  It's a confusing term, given that the word "trocken" is used to reference dry wines, yet TBAs are almost universally sweet.    TBAs are expensive and difficult to produce, as the grapes must be first allowed to raisinate by botrytis (if you have heard of Sauternes or Tokaji, you get the concept), which basically is a type of mold that causes the grapes to shrivel, which concentrates its sweetness.  The alcohol percentage is typically very low, at around seven percent, as the sugars are so concentrated that they do not ferment as normal wine does (usually between eleven and sixteen percent). 

The Kracker #9, sold at Binnys for $39.99 a half bottle, had a distinct note of mandarin oranges.  Kracher makes a wide variety of TBAs with a sweet Muskat-Ottonel (the #8) going for $79.99 a half-bottle.

Another highlight was the 1999 Prager Steinriegl Smaragd Riesling, with a long and steely concentration with hints of pear, petrol, citrus and stones.   It apparently can be found at the Wine Discount Center on Elston. 

We then finished off the evening with two wines: first, a dry muscat from Burgenland called "Zantho" (see previous posts of dry muscat) and a 2006 Salomon Steinterrassen Riesling from the Wachau region.

The objective of the event was twofold:  one, to find great examples of Austrian wine; the second was to create a bit of "influencer seeding" to increase the popularity of Austrian wines and get consumers to experiment a bit more.