Austrian Success



Ivica Vastic must be a national hero after last week’s stay-of-execution for Austria in Euro 2008. Austria might not often find itself celebrating the success of its football heroes (last September over 4,000 Austrian fans actually petitioned for their national side not to play in the tournament, given the team’s poor form) but it should certainly celebrate the success of its fantastic wines.

I was in Vienna for the bi-annual Austrian Wine Fair, Vie Vinum. Football fever was just beginning to sweep the city but I was experiencing a revelation about Austrian wine. I’ve always been fond of Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Riesling but the passion with which a new generation of winemakers approached their work was quite inspiring.

Austria went though a pretty hard time after the wine scandal of the early 80s but you wouldn’t know that now. Not only has the industry been transformed it has been sharply focused. There’s no big brand, commercial production here (23,000 growers (some part-time) with average estates of 2.2 hectares don’t make that possible). The industry, guided by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (whose excellent website will give more information than you could ever possibly want to know) is instead concentrating on its strengths: individual, handcrafted, boutique wines from family-owned wineries which are dedicated to providing the purest possible expression of their terroir.

If your taste buds are intrigued, try Schloss Gobelsberg’s 2006 Grüner Veltliner Lamm with its lovely well-balanced fruit and minerality or the amazingly complex 2006 Riesling Wachstum, Bodenstein, Weingut Prager. Given the hard work and individual attention involved in these wines, they don’t come cheap, but to me Austria represents a breath of fresh air in a world dominated by commercialised production.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if other wine-producing nations followed suit?