Archive for October, 2015

10 interesting facts about Austrian wine

October 30th, 2015

10 interesting facts about Austrian wine

By Joseph Temple

Dating back to the Celts who planted the first vines approximately 3000 years ago, Austria has a wine growing history that is rich in tradition.  During the Middle Ages, monasteries situated along the Danube River played an invaluable role by introducing pinot noir and riesling grapes to the terroir.  In fact, vineyards back then covered ten times the amount of soil that they do now.  And just like the land of Austria, its wine industry has seen many peaks and valleys, overcoming plenty of obstacles to become one of the most prestigious producers of premium wine.  Below are ten facts to keep in mind the next time you spot a bottle at your local store.


Austrian wine production

1. With an average annual yield that is less than half of Germany’s, Austria makes less than one percent of all the wine in the world – around 28 million cases per year. 75% of it is consumed locally.
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Austrian wine grape varieties
By Roberto Verzo [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Austrian wine law has 35 regulated grape varieties – 22 of them fall within the white wine category.
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Austrian vineyards are located on the eastern part of the country

3. All commercial Austrian vineyards are located in the eastern part of the country, away from the Alps. Unlike most of Western Europe, the climate is known for colder winters and hotter summers.
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Main Austrian wine regions
By No machine-readable author provided. Golbez assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

4. The four main wine-growing regions in Austria are: Lower Austria, Burgenland, Vienna and Styria.
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Gruener Veltliner grapes Austrian wineBy Rosenzweig (Own work (own picture)) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5. After suffering from phylloxera and numerous harsh winters in the 19th century, an emphasis was placed on hardier grapes such as Grüner Veltliner, one of the most important varietals in Austria today – representing nearly a third of all the nation’s plantings. It produces a full-bodied and crisp wine with herbal and spicy/vegetable flavors such as green peppers, which can be excellent for food pairings.
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White and red wine in Austria

6. While Riesling is grown mainly in the region of Lower Austria, Red wines come mostly from Burgenland, bordering on Hungary.
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Austrian wine Danube River Wachau

7. One of the most famous wine growing valleys in Austria is Wachau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located west of Vienna on the Danube River. Consisting of just 3,500 acres of vines, the Danube helps to moderate the climate, resulting in some excellent Riesling.
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Austria Neusiedlersee wine

8. Austria’s best sweet wines come from near the Neusiedlersee area of Burgenland. The Neusiedlersee is a large shallow lake separating Austria from Hungary and benefits from outbreaks of noble rot, an essential component for the production of complex sweet wines.
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Austrian wine bottling estates

9. Austria produces only a fifth as much wine as Australia – but has three times more bottling estates (6,000). The average estate covers less than seven acres.
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Austrain wine quality since 1985 scandal

By Véronique PAGNIER (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

10. In 1985, it was discovered that numerous Austrian wineries were adulterating their wines with diethylene glycol, giving them more body and sweetness. This resulted in a huge scandal and severely damaged the reputation of the country’s wine industry. In response, the country turned the corner by enacting vigorous quality standards.
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Sources:

Brostrom, Geralyn G. & Brostrom, Jack. The Business of Wine: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2008.
McCarthy, Ed & Ewing-Mulligan, Mary. Exploring Wine For Dummies. West Sussex: Wiley, 2011.
Parker, Robert M. & Rovani, Pierre Antoine. Parker’s Wine Buying Guide. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Rapp, Alyssa. Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips. Avon: Adams Media, 2008.
Slinkard, Stacy. Idiot’s Guides: Wine. New York: Penguin Books, 2013.


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Ask Sid: Cognac 1811 Reserve Imperatrice Josephine

October 28th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Ask Sid: Cognac 1811 Reserve Imperatrice Josephine

Question: I have two bottles of Cognac Grande Fine Champagne, 1811 Reserve, Imperatrice Josephine. Bottled in France 11/4/1934. Both bottles have leakage, one 1/2 way down the bottle, the other 1’’ from the neck. Both have damaged corks. I believe that they had been stored properly. Do you think they are still drinkable and do they have any value?

Answer: Lucky you! These are quite valuable despite the leakage issues. Once bottled Cognac won’t improve further but the high alcohol spirit will protect it against oxidation or deterioration. Josephine is named after Napoleon’s first wife and the bottles have a unique shape. One bottle of this 1811 sold at Christie’s New York about 5 years ago for over $7000. Check it out for a possible resale at auction or indulge by opening it enjoying an amazing example of the very best in Cognac.


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Marquis D’Angerville in Volnay

October 26th, 2015

angervillePhoto Credit: Marquis d’Angerville (@gdangerville)

Prices for fine Burgundy continue to climb. Lots of factors influencing this including increased world demand for a very limited supply (especially with smaller crops the last few vintages). Grand crus are very expensive and top premier crus still escalating. Encourage you to look for the best growers in less celebrated regions from Fixin and Marsannay in the northern Cote de Nuits down to Santenay and Remigny in the southern Cote de Beaune. Don’t forget the value still to be found in the Cote Chalonnaise from Rully, Mercurey, Givry and Montagny. I remain a big fan of Savigny-les-Beaune (with that smaller section of the amazing La Dominode vineyard and the larger more available Vergelesses) and Volnay. The latter appellation epitomizes what I really admire in a pinot noir showing that seductive signature of fragrant delicate elegance. In my opinion the Volnay region still remains undervalued for the quality generally delivered. A top producer is the 12 hectares of Marquis d’Angerville run by the legendary Jacques d’Angerville from 1952 to 2003 and since then by his son Guillaume and the long time experienced Renaud de Vilette. Guillaume told me the 2 key tips he received in 2003 and continues to rely on are: don’t listen to others who are acidifying & avoid over extraction to keep the freshness and reduce time in barrel by finishing off in stainless steel. My latest update visit there on April 21, 2015 impressed me with their continuing emphasis on the distinct terroir given to them by their 6 outstanding crus (they also have Mitans, Pitures and some village Volnay):

CLOS DES ANGLES: Near Pommard at the beginning of the slope with less chalk. They had .5 hectare and bought another .5 in 2007/2008 and first vintage 2009. Nose of 2013 a bit reductive.

FREMEITS: Located on the Pommard border suffered terrible hail in 2012 and late again in 2013 as well but shows the typical sturdy minerality which Guillaume described well as “eating an oyster with sea water on it”.

CAILLERETS: They had a small holding of .45 hectare but found it distinct and bought .2 more for .65 total. Quite high on the south side of the village that Guillaume describes as “sweet fruit coated with stone dust”. Still 100% destem for purer fruit. Tried their 2004 that was a tough greener vintage tainted by lady bugs that shows better with food.

CHAMPANS: Richer, structured with full plummy fruit and smoother finish from their large 4 hectare holding with low yields in 2013 of 15-16 hl/ha. Guillaume calls it “Very Volnay curvy & feminine” and “will develop some spice with age”. A freshly opened bottle of 1990 (Guillaume says he doesn’t think of decanting even though lots of sediment) had a wonderful colour in a big rich fat style typical of Champans with licorice spicy complexity.

TAILLEPIEDS: Another top cru (along with Champans, Les Caillerets, Clos des Chenes, and best sections of Les Santenots) just above Champans — has high slopes with very stony terrain that “ruin your shoes & cut your feet”. Guillaume says this cru has even more firm structure and though “austere early on it ages and lasts forever”. Always with that defining cherry fruit terroir in “exuberant years” like 2009 & 2005 but also “non-exuberant years” like 2013, 2011, 2010, and 2008.

CLOS DES DUCS: A monopole at highest elevation with old vines and unique clones on a steep limestone chalky slope with wonderful drainage that sees the first rays of sun in the morning. Peppery floral roses aromas and multi layered concentration with depth and long persistence. 2012 only in magnums. 1996 tasted with full complexity and length balanced by good acidity. Guillaume calls it a top year along with 2002, 1999, and 1990.

If you haven’t tried this producer or others from Volnay I encourage you to do so. Under appreciated and in top vintages age superbly.


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Movie Review: Mondovino (2004)

October 23rd, 2015

Mondovino movie review
By Joseph Temple

***WARNING – SPOILER ALERT***

“Wine is dead.”

It is a controversial statement that makes filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter eager to find out why and how the business of wine is transforming at a rapid pace. The result is the Palme d’or nominated documentary Mondovino, shot entirely with an inexpensive handheld camera, proving that with interesting subject matter, substance can certainly trump style. Exploring how the industry is dealing with the impact of globalization as trade barriers are brought down and tastes are universalized, the film excels at giving viewers a candid look at a business dealing with a whirlwind of change.

The documentary begins by interviewing the key parties that went to war in the small village of Aniane, France. Back in 2000/2001, when mogul Robert Mondavi expressed interest in cultivating the land, the locals responded militantly by electing a communist mayor who pledged to stop the American from turning their community into the wine equivalent of EuroDisney. Brushed off as gullible “hicks” by prominent consultant Michel Rolland, the entire grassroots affair serves as a microcosm for what is going on in vineyards all over the globe, according to Nossiter.

Throughout the film, many local winemakers speak about a sort-of Wine Spectator/Robert Parker industrial complex that leads to a greater emphasis on marketing to a largely American audience. But as we see, this isn’t some pie in the sky conspiracy theory as numerous vineyards do enlist the help of scientists and consultants who instruct them on how to modify their wine to ensure a good score from mostly U.S. critics—who can make or break their entire business.   This practice, of course, is an affront to generations of winemakers who take great pride in their exceptional terroir.

Described by many as the “Parkerization” of wine, Nossiter decides to speak to the man himself by visiting his secluded home on the outskirts of Baltimore. When asked pointedly about the enormous influence he has had on the industry, Parker responds with great pride about giving little-known winemakers a chance to be noticed while tearing down the caste system synonymous with the old world. The democratization of wine –what could be more American than that?

This is one of the film’s greatest strengths. From a visit to Christie’s legendary auction house in London to the Frescobaldi archives, which includes a letter from Henry VIII requesting their wine, oenophiles will soak up all the wonderful scenery. They’ll also recognize some of the industry’s biggest icons like Robert Mondavi and Michael Broadbent. Where Sideways, also released in 2004, attracted a wide crossover audience, Mondovino will mostly appeal to the aficionados.

More importantly, the film raises legitimate questions about potential conflicts of interest. Will the amount of advertising dollars that a winery spends result in a better score? Is too much power in the hands of a few? While many would argue that in 2015, the influence of wine critics is diminishing, especially now with the internet being so dominant amongst younger drinkers, there is no denying the enormous weight these people still have eleven years after the film was first released. And whether you agree or disagree with the arguments heard throughout Mondovino, there is little doubt that it’ll still provoke a passionate debate between serious wine drinkers.

 


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Ask Sid: Best Wine with roast turkey?

October 21st, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Ask Sid: Best Wine with roast turkey?

Question: Just celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving with a roast turkey dinner. Going to San Francisco for the US Thanksgiving on November 26 which probably will result in an encore. What is the best wine choice?

Answer: Turkey by itself is quite versatile for most wine pairings that work. It is all the other accoutrements served with it that brings in lots of other diverse flavours. No single choice is necessarily best though Andre Simon in Partners gave us a good one – Domaine de Chevalier Red from Bordeaux. Almost any white (riesling, chardonnay), rose, or red (except a too big and powerful one) should match well for you. Lots of correct choices. I usually choose a lighter pinot noir. Cop out by choosing a wine you really like drinking.


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