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Recap of Austrian Biodynamic White Wines #WineChat

Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend a ‘natural wine‘ tasting in New York that included a passionate sermon about the virtues of Biodynamic viticulture by fervent believer and practioner, Nicolas Joly.

Though all of the talk about cow horns, manure, fruit days, and gravity in the context of winegrowing sounded fantastical to me at the time, I appreciated Joly’s unique personality and authentic passion, and the Biodynamic wines I tasted at that event were impressive (and ‘new‘ to me).

Admittedly I do not fully understand all things Biodynamic and can’t square up with some of the practices, but I do believe there is ‘something‘ to this holistic approach to agriculture.  (Ed. Note — for a comprehensive treatment of Biodynamic viticulture, I recommend starting with Jamie Goode’s 10 part series on Biodynamic wine. For those interested in Biodynamic viticulture on the U.S. east coast, please read the piece I authored on this subject.)

It is this ‘something‘ that keeps me reading and learning about the seemingly infinite subject of Biodynamics and also buying Biodynamic wines.

Wanting to better under this ‘something‘ is the primary reason I jumped at the chance when the Austrian Wine organization (on Twitter: @AustrianWineUSA) asked me to participate in a virtual tasting featuring four notable Biodynamic producers from Austria.

AusCap

Each wine from the four producers was not just Biodynamic, the wines were certified by Demeter (TM).  A reference to the Greek goddess of grain and fertility, Demeter is the largest certification organization in the world for biodynamic agriculture and the only one with a defined set of international standards.  Established in 1928, the Demeter Biodynamic certification program includes farms growing all types of agricultural products like strawberries, coffee, olives, tomatoes, and of course vineyards.  There are over 4,000 Demeter certified farms in over 50 countries, with 176 in Austria.

Unfortunately I did not return to the U.S. as scheduled due to a last-minute change in travel plans so I was not able to participate in the virtual #WineChat tasting on April 24th along with the winemakers and other participants.  However, we did invite a few friends over last weekend to have our own Austrian wine chat.

A few Austrian wine factoids for context:

  • In Austria, there 35 grape varieties (22 white, 13 red) approved for the production of ‘quality wine’ (called Qualitatswein).
  • Grüner Veltliner is still the most planted grape in Austria, nearly 30% of all vineyards plantings.  Though cultivation decreased by 22% from 1999 to 2009.
  • The proportion of red wine has doubled over last 20 years, now accounts for 1/3 of Austria’s vineyards.
  • Of all cultivated land in Austria, 20% is farmed organically.
  • Austria’s three most noted wine regions: Burgenland, Neiderosterreich and Steiermark.
AustriaWineMap

Picture Credit: AustrianWine.com

* Each wine provided as sample.

MieklangAustrian

Meinklang Burgenland White 2012
Austria, Burgenland, Neusiedlersee
50% Gruner Veltliner, 40% Welschriesling, and 10% Muskat
11.5% abv | $15
Light, refreshing, with an inviting what-you-see-is-what-you-get simplicity.   This delicious wine offers lemon, pineapple candy, and apricot with lime spritz.  At just 11.5% abv, this aromatic beauty would make a great lunch pairing with a spinach salad.   I’ve seen this particular wine at Whole Foods so I believe this has fairly wide distribution here in the US.  Add this wine to your summer list.
Find this wine via Snooth.

NikoGruner

Nikolaihof Hefeabzug
 2011
Austria, Wachau
100% Grüner Veltliner
12.5% abv | ~ $28
This Gruner is from the oldest wine estate in Austria, and first biodynamic vineyard.  Straw in color, this wine offers demure aromas of lemon, lime, pear and slate, with flavors of white pepper, lemon, unripe green apple, stone fruits and wet stone.  Hefeabzug is German for ‘yeast aged.’ Our French friends call it sur lie.
Find this wine via Wine-Searcher.

WimmerCzerny

Wimmer-Czerny Fumberg Grüner Veltliner 2011
Austria, Niederosterreich, Wagram
100% Grüner Veltliner
13% abv | ~ $21
The shyest of the bunch — this wine played hard to get until it reached room temperature.  This wine offered aromas of apple, seashell, and white pepper with yeast on the edges.  In the mouth, flavors of spices, lemon zest and granny smith apple wrapped around a mineral core.  I liked the lemony acidity of this wine but feel it wanted to give more.  I’d like to visit another bottle of this wine at some point.
Find this wine via Snooth.

SeppGruv

Sepp Moser Schnabel Grüner Veltliner 2011
Austria, Kremstal, Rohrendorf
100% Gruner Veltliner
13% abv | ~ $27
My favorite of the bunch, this wine could lead a clinic on chalky minerality.   Though I usually reserve oyster pairings for sparkling wine or Muscadet, I found myself wanting a dozen briny oysters to pair with this (not normally considered an ideal pairing).    We paired this with my wife’s spicy seafood stew of prawns, mussels, littlenecks, and snapper — a tasty pairing.  Complementing the chalky minerality, this Gruner offers green apple, star fruit, pepper, spice and subtle lemon with flavors of apple and spices.  The briny acid finish makes this wine even more appealing.
Find this wine via Wine-Searcher.

Thank you to the Austrian Wine team for organizing the tasting.  This was a great group of Gruners to enjoy with friends and seafood stew.  I’m hoping the Austrian Wine folks organize another tasting of reds.

Want to learn more about Austrian wines or attend a tasting in your area?  Check out the inaugural Austrian Wine retail weeks schedule — May 8 through June 9 at select retailers throughout the US.   A great reason to explore Austrian wines!

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