Austrian Reds: Jury Duty ~

no not that endangered species, the Eurocommie—

I mean the red wines, mostly but not exclusively from Burgenland…

thank Facebook for this one.

Helmut Knall, editor of the Viennese online blatt Wine Times, sees me on FB, remembers me from a notable drinking bout with Pronay and Schildknecht one night in Krems five years ago, is reminded that I know my way around his native tongue—

invites me to Austria to sit on the jury tasting the latest batch of big reds, for publication.

since there were virtually no big reds—or reds of any international interest—when I started hanging out in Vienna fifteen years ago—this is an invite that I won’t pass up.

never mind which ones I sell. I enumerated them to Herr Knall, who said, no these are blind tastings, not to worry.

so I’m signed-up for seventy wines per day for five days, sequestered in a resort hotel down on the Lake—

question for the community is, what do any of you make of these wines?

Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, Zweigelt and Pinot Noir.

people will ask me what America thinks.

any of you drink them?

no matter if your experience is slight, or negative. If you’ve got a moment, spend a couple syllables in the cause of international understanding.

this note is posted only on Wine Berserkers.

thanks and best regards


I had a 2004 Pöckl Zweigelt a couple years ago and thought it a real lip smacker-good red fruit and acidity, and no oak makeup. I felt I got a good impression of the grape-bit Zin-like, but much more elegant. Sadly couldn’t find anymore, must’ve been a closeout.

Josef Pöckl is one of the better growers in Neusiedlersee—

and one who does not emphasise Blaufränkisch, but favours cuvées and Zweigelt.

good pinot noir.

they vanished from the stateside scene when their American importer cut its number of Austrian estates down from 26 to 5.

Pöckl will be back, don’t worry about that!

I wish there was a better selection available in the U.S.

In general I prefer the indigenous varieties - Zweigelt, St Laurent and Blaufränkisch.

I really like the Moric Wines.

Some of us are working intently on improving the selection here in the US.

and certainly the autochthonous varieties are the most interesting, in that there’s really very little in the wide world of vitis vinifera that tastes like them.

Austrian pinot noir I find fascinating, although it seems to me that it’s most often more like Santa Barbara than it is old world.
exceptions are Fritz Wieninger in Vienna, and Michael Moosbrugger from Schloss Gobelsberg.

Moric is pretty distinctive. I have the good fortune to represent them on the East Coast." onclick=";return false; takes you to my translation of an in-depth interview with the proprietor, grower Roland Velich.

Jim, I like what I’ve tried, which has mostly been concentrated on entry-level to mid-priced reds, primarily blaufrankisch and blends, as that is what I generally find are easiest to obtain. Prieler, Paul Lehrner and Paul Achs all come to mind as wines I’ve sampled in the past, and I may be missing one or two others - never had any of the Moric wines.

I guess my thoughts on their potential “penetration” in the US market is sort of on the fence. I think I’ve read in the past (probably in Terry Theise’s annual report) that the wines sell so well locally that the Austrians have little if any motivation to price their export production aggressively, and given the fact that the country doesn’t spend any discernible money promoting it’s product in the states, I think it’s hard for these wines to get any real recognition in the market. That said, I have liked what I’ve tried, but will also say that I’ve yet to have what I consider to be a “world-class” red from Austria, whereas I can think of numerous whites I’ve tried (Alzinger, Nikolaihof, Hirtzberger, Prager & Brundlmayer immediately come to mind) that I would have no problem whatsoever placing into a tasting line-up with other great white wines.

James, my favorite retailer in Frankfurt was specialized in Burgundy, Alsace, Germany and… Austria. So he kept opening bottles for Mike and me, and we went to several tastings of the bests and so on. My experience was mostly negative though. I guess I just don’t “get” it (whereas that retailer managed to find them great in diners with Latour or DRC). For me blaufrankish is another version of Gamay, a grape I have a clear aversion to.

I also tried some Zweigelt and St Laurent but without more success really. Also the prices are really a big issue for me, pretty much the same issue as with German PN (which I also don’t like). Should I buy this blaufrankish or another Chambolle or Cote-Rotie? That’s the definition of a no-brainer to me.

Now if we were talking about Austrian whites, that’s another issue altogether.

Bob, Guillaume ~

exactly what I was looking for.
thanks muchly.

A restaurant in DC (Vidalia) had a very enthusiastic somm who provided me some wonderful St. Laurents and I have found the odd bottle at MacArthurs. But I very much enjoyed the minerally aspect of the reds that I tasted but I also enjoy Arbois reds so I am hardly typical.


St Laurent is a funny animal. One parent has been typed as pinot noir, but they don’t yet know who the mommy is.

it’s even more susceptible to heavyhanded oak treatment than Blauf or Zweigelt—I think we are just now seeing the first wines that show it at its best potential.

Are you saying that “heavyhanded oak treatment” is necessary for St Laurent to “show its best potential”. I’m confused.

no, certainly not, pas du tout, ganz im Gegenteil—

I mean that St Laurent is more easily damaged by oak treatment than Blaufränkisch or Zweigelt, almost equally badly as pinot noir.