It is impossible to mention Austrian wine without immediately thinking of Grüner Veltliner. With its fresh pear fruit, peppery verve and chameleon-like ability to pair with food, it is the wine that put Austria on the map. Grüner Veltliner, in its myriad styles, is of course Austria’s calling card, but perhaps you are ready to move beyond Groo Vee?
The Austrian capital of Vienna not only boasts 1,574 acres of vineyard but also is home to its very own, historic wine style: Wiener Gemischter Satz, German for field blend. Various white grapes like Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Traminer, Muskateller, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are planted in one vineyard, harvested together at the same time and co-fermented. No variety is allowed to exceed 50 percent and there must be at least three used in the blend. Reflecting the characteristics of each of the varieties, these wines really are greater than the sum of their parts and truly Viennese.
Those who love Sauvignon Blanc should turn their attention to Styria in Austria’s verdant south. The climate is cool but sunny, allowing aromatic grape varieties to develop their full flavor potential without becoming heavy. While Styria is famed for its long-lived, oaked and age-worthy single-vineyard Sauvignon Blancs, much lighter, unoaked styles are also made.
Austria holds another secret: Gelber Muskateller. It is the same, ancient grape variety as Muscat Blanc that elsewhere in the world is often turned into sweet wine. Yet in Austria, it is made in a fully dry style, which not only delivers the most appetizing honeysuckle and elderflower notes, but also exquisite lightness. It is a deliciously weightless summer wine, and on a hot day, it makes a perfect spritzer when mixed with soda water. Some of my Austrian friends even add a dash of elderflower cordial and a slice of lemon for a lovely warm-weather cocktail. All we need now is sunshine.
Weingut Christ 2017 Wiener Gemischter Satz; $20, 92 points. A touch of fragrant rose petal meets ripe pear and juicy peach on the nose. That playful nature of mingling fruit and florals continues merrily on the expressive palate that shows texture, flavor and freshness as a harmonious, fragrant and attractive package. This delivers long after the dry finish. Carlo Huber Selections.
Zahel 2017 Wiener Gemischter Satz; $18, 90 points. Both green and red apple, earth and orange zest play on the nose. The light but expressive palate echoes these notions and backs them with a lightly phenolic texture and zesty freshness. This is a vivid, fresh and utterly versatile white, with a clean dry finish. Winemonger.
Gebeshuber 2017 Querfeldein. in weiß (Thermenregion); $20, 90 points. Fragrant notes of ripe crunchy red apple on the nose carry their vivid freshness and scent over to the light but zesty, fresh palate. The idea of zestiness also informs the lip-smacking texture of the wine and lasts long on the dry zippy finish. Vignaioli Selection.
H.& C. Nittnaus 2017 Obere Wies Sauvignon Blanc (Burgenland); $30, 92 points. A tropical touch of passion fruit hovers above grassy freshness on the nose. The palate is zesty and light, bright with passion fruit and mandarin, playing out its vivid fruitiness on the light, dry and expressive palate. The flavors persist and leave you in no doubt that you are in the presence of a great wine. GD Imports.
Sattlerhof 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (Südsteiermark); $25, 90 points. Subtle notes of ripe lemon and nettle mingle on the nose. The palate remains resolutely light and is bright with lemon freshness, with a dry finish that closes on a herbal tisane note. Craft + Estate–The Winebow Group.
Gunter Triebaumer 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (Burgenland); $12, 89 points. Earth and lemon unite on the nose. The palate comes in with immense freshness that is expressive and vivid despite its translucent lightness. Bright lemon is a constant feature from first whiff to dry finish. Magellan Wine Imports. Best Buy.
Strauss 2017 Classic Sauvignon Blanc (Steiermark); $20, 89 points. Yellow plum is boosted by bright ripe notes of Amalfi lemon alongside some grassy hints. The palate has a similarly bright, fruity and expressive outlook. Zesty citrus dominates the light dry body and leads onto a dry finish. KWSelection.com.
Weingut Christ 2017 Bisamberg Gelber Muskateller (Vienna); $25, 91 point. Peach and honeysuckle notes on the nose are wonderfully heady and promising. They continue their merry fragrant dance on the light but expressive palate where zesty lemon freshness makes them even more expressive. The body is light and the finish is dry and utterly moreish. Carlo Huber Selections.
Schwarzböck 2017 Gelber Muskateller (Niederösterreich); $14, 90 points. Tender honeysuckle notes on the nose lead onto a lemony palate that is bright with freshness. Lemon sets the tone with zesty verve on the very light, dry, utterly refreshing and fragrant body. Skurnik Wines, Inc. Best Buy.
Stadlmann 2017 Badener Berg Gelber Muskateller (Niederösterreich); $23, 89 points. Honeysuckle and ripe Amalfi lemon make for a winning and fragrant combination on the nose. They also come together on the light dry body. Bright lemon is the central vivid seam on this almost weightless summer wine. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd.