Wine from the land of Edelweiss? The Sound of Music’s von Trapp Family? The birthplace of Hedy Lamarr? Are you kidding?
No. Not kidding at all. This wine, a real find for me, is said to be Vienna at its finest. It is complex and rare and will grace any table.
When I began this column I knew that I had a definite comfort zone, wines and foods that I liked or disliked for a variety of reasons. Growing up in a family that put an importance on that part of life was an education in itself. My grandparents believed that “to eat is to live,” and as they told more than once, I lived to eat! But in that environment, you developed an appreciation for the foods, for the drink, and more importantly for the time spent with family, eating, talking and just passing the day. But we were set in our ways. By that I mean, for example, Sunday gravy was consistent and whatever came after the macaroni was a bonus. Wine came from one source, which was actually about four blocks away, down someone’s basement. Any reference to anything but Italian wine is new, and an adventure for me.
Traditionally, Viennese vintners planted up to fifteen different grapes in one field at a time. The thinking here is that the early blending, actually beginning on the vines, added a flavor and a character found nowhere else. In this process, all the different grapes are grown and harvested together, then blended in a single barrel. Most other vintners in Europe prefer to grow a single grape in each field, then blend as seen fit according to the type of wine produced just before bottling.
Geographically, Wieninger grapes are grown in two locations which are separated by the Danube River. The winery itself is a family operation with 10 employees and has been producing internationally only since 1999. So to produce a wine of this quality in such a short period is a major accomplishment.
After a long cold winter spring comes suddenly to this region with temperatures rising sometimes 30 degrees during the course of a day. With this quick change the growing season is shortened and usually harvested around July. By then the grapes are plum and soft and mix well. As I said, each variety is harvested together, so the blending process has now begun in earnest. All of the grapes, grown in bio-certified vineyards, are gone through by hand so that only the prime fruit is used, thus ensuring a truly high quality product.
This winery is really a tribute to the old school, a family endeavor from end to end. Located in the hills just outside Vienna, the fields date back to a time when they were cultivated by the Romans. Fritz Wieninger grew up actually serving the wines his mother had made to both family and guests. He studied in California, but returned to Austria hoping to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but soon saw the value of tradition and switched gears to his current products. Founded originally in the 18th century by Fritz’s great, great grandfather, winemaking duties were passed down until Fritz took control in 1987. In keeping with modern standards, the winery is operated with only the highest regard for nature and for sustainability. Truly with this winery tradition meets technology and this is evident throughout the winemaking process. As I have so often said, a family business only thrives when attention to detail is primary. If you can produce a product of which your grandfather would be proud, you have accomplished something. Production is limited to about 300000 barrels per year and exported to about 40 countries.
The flavor of this wine is just spectacular. Its acidity, a tinge of citrus and apple with a bouquet which immediately pleases all add up to a wonderful experience. Just the fact that this wine comes from out of my comfort zone, a region of which I never would have thought, adds up to an education and a new world. Even as a young wine it delivers a spicy character which complemented our meals,as a good wine should. We were a party of three and each order, turkey, scallops and pecan-crusted chicken breast, was uplifted to a unique dining experience. In its native Austria, it is usually paired with dark breads and light cheeses, but has also found favor with some pork sausages
Life can be great. It can be dull or it can be an adventure. There is something to be said for quiet time. That is time playing solitaire, time for reading, resting, relaxing. But there are times when adventure, a journey into the unknown is really needed. That is what keeps us going, keeps our mind and spirit working, our juices flowing. Vacations to unknown places, exploration into the unknown are needed to continue our life-long education. This wine was an adventure for me, and I think my wife and son felt the same. Europe is replete with fine wineries and has been for centuries so tasting a wine from an unexpected source does justice to it, as well engages our thirst for adventure, something new. So if the opportunity presents itself, I would urge you strongly to venture out, if you find this wine available near you, don’t hesitate. For myself, I would rate it a 9 out of an unattainable 10. (My apologies if I sound like a commercial.)