RICHARD ESLING: Wonderful wines to make you yodel

Austrian wines from Pfaffl Winery
Austrian wines from Pfaffl Winery
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“As he struts through the door in his rakish lederhosen, all the wenches blush – they’re crazy about him. And who couldn’t be? He is not just the freshest and boldest in all the land, he’s also quite dashing.”

The introduction to a new romantic novel, or scene setting for a new West End Play, perhaps?

But No! This is the description of a wine, taken from the marketing material of Pfaffl Winery in Austria.

This novel approach seeks to give the different wines they produce a ‘personal’ profile to describe the wine’s character. The above was for the iconic Austrian white grape variety Gruner Veltliner.

Wait until you get to Riesling.

“She is beguiling, breathtaking and she exudes the fragrance of a fresh peach. She tenderly soothes your palate...”

Pfaffl Winery was in fact named ‘Best European Winery 2016’ by the wine specialist magazine The Wine Advocate. It is located in the southern Weinviertel region just outside the Austrian capital, Vienna, and its 90 hectares of vineyards appear to produce wines from every white grape variety known to man. Well not quite, but there is Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and others, apart from the all-time Austrian great – Gruner Veltliner. The family business is now run by the young team of Roman Pfaffl, the winemaker and his sister Heidi Fischer who takes care of marketing, coming up with the great ideas and brilliant descriptions.

Austrian wine is not exactly on everyone’s radar at the moment, which is a shame, because wineries such as Pfaffl are producing some stunning wines of world-class quality.

Wine-making in the country goes back nearly 3000 years and the wines were prized by many a Roman Emperor. Although some parts of the country see metres deep snow, great for skiing even late in the season, other parts have ideal vine growing conditions, producing high quality wine grapes.

Although other grape varieties are successfully grown, both red and white, the white Gruner Veltliner remains supreme. Its cause is now being helped by plantings in other countries such as New Zealand, recognising the attributes of the variety for making great wine. The characteristics are of fresh fruit with peppery spice and a juicy, zippy finish. I tasted a range of three of the wines, all of which were great quality, with very different characters – just like the marketing. The 2016 Austrian Pepper was fresh, appley and zingy, light bodied, lively and charming. The 2015 Gruner Veltliner had hints of fresh Williams pears, with white peach and white pepper, medium body and refreshing finish. The 2015 Reserve wine, coming from the best, hand-selected fruit from the oldest vines, was outstanding. A delicious cross between a subdued Viognier and a light but full Chardonnay in character. Deep flavoured, full bodied, peppery, spicy with a long finish. It is fermented in acacia wood casks and left on the lees for two months to give greater complexity and enhanced flavour profile. It is described as a Hommage to Gruner Veltliner.

So perhaps it’s time to rediscover Austrian wines, starting with Pfaffl and their quirky marketing with phrases such as “…. like the Sound of Music gone hip-hop-hot..” and “If our wines make you feel like yodelling, just yodel!”

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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