Thursday, 16 October 2014

Austria’s Winning Ways – A Tasting with Loimer and Heinrich

Among the winners at this year’s Business Times Wine Challenge was a wine that stood out in terms of obscurity not just in grape variety but also in country of origin. The Loimer Grüner Veltliner Kamptal DAC 2012 hails from Austria, a country so often confused with Australia that at a previous seminar on cool climate wines the speaker took pains to highlight the differences (no kangaroos in Austria for one). The wines were chosen by a panel of Singapore CEOs and yielded an insight into the palate of top decision makers. Boon Heng, owner of Wein & Vin which distributes wines from Loimer, commented that “This tells people that though they think Austrian wines and Grüner Veltliner are both non-mainstream, yet the CEOs picked it as one of the two dry whites in the top 10.”

Earlier in October Wein & Vin held a lunch featuring new vintages from Loimer and Heinrich at Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill & Sky Bar at ION Orchard. The wines were split into two flights with the whites from Loimer served in the first flight followed by the reds from Heinrich. Adding a slight twist to the usual format of these tastings, all wines were served blind and it was up to the guests to determine which wine was in which glass. It wasn’t too difficult to pick out the two Rieslings from the first flight, as the grape has such a strong personality and flavour profile, but the reds were far more challenging. If Grüner Veltliner is considered obscure, then tasting wines made from black grapes such as Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch is akin to spotting a unicorn trotting down Orchard Road.

Unicorn sightings may become less rare as Austria sticks to its strategy of focusing on exports and pursuing quality over yield. Export revenues for 2013 were at an all-time high of 139 million euros despite a smaller harvest, according to the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Loimer has made a name as a high quality, if somewhat irreverent producer. Look closely at the logo (based on a fertility symbol) and you will notice a third leg on the dancing man. Winemaker Fred Loimer and his team espouse the principles of a healthy, biodiverse environment and are members of Respekt, an association of wineries that aims to align biodynamics with contemporary developments. The winery is located in the Kamptal region and the majority of its production is based on Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, the leading varieties of that region.

Weingut Gernot and Heike Heinrich, based in Neusiedlersee, is also a member of the Respekt association, but here the warmer climate lends itself more to the production of bright, fruity red wines. Guest speaker and owner of Taberna Wine Academy Tan Ying Hsien likened Blaufränkisch to Gamay, saying that it displays redcurrant aromas with a lifted note similar to crushed ants. St. Laurent, like Blaufränkisch, is an old Austrian grape variety that resembles Pinot Noir with its red fruit and cherry flavours and fairly soft tannins, although Ying opined that it never hits the heights of Pinot Noir in terms of intensity and texture. Zweigelt, a cross between Blaufränkisch and St-Laurent, is Austria’s most planted red grape variety and is often given some oak treatment. It tends to have soft tannins and notes of morello cherry.

The wines were paired with signature dishes from Salt Grill including the sashimi of kingfish, ginger, eschallot & goats’ feta and NSW Rangers Valley 300 days grain-fed beef with Moroccan spice. These went sublimely with the wines, revealing another facet of Austrian wines – that they are very food friendly.

Tasting notes:

Loimer Spiegel Grüner Veltliner DAC Reserve 2012
– A wine showing great depth of flavour with notes of guava, ripe honeydew and accents of green salad. Medium alcohol and body with a persistent length. Finishes quite dry. Best served chilled as it loses its edge at room temperature.

Loimer Riesling Kamptal DAC 2012 – Very pale lemon appearance. Fine boned structure with sharp definition and rapier acidity. Classic Riesling with limey notes.

Loimer Grüner Veltliner Kamptal DAC 2012 - Herbal and just-mown lawn on the nose with hints of pear. Very delicate, almost amorphous, with citrussy fruit and bright acids on the palate. Long finish.

Loimer Lois Grüner Veltliner 2013 – Floral, honeyed aromas with hints of chrysanthemum petals. Lemon and citrus on the palate expanding to honeydew and papaya on the finish. Medium bodied but with lots of fruit concentration and minerality, complexity and tension. Medium length. A well-made and very good value wine.

Loimer Lenz Riesling 2013 – Sharp, tangy acidity with notes of Chinese pear finishing with lemon sherbet. Long and focused with a feather-light body. Refreshing.

Loimer Terrassen Grüner Veltliner Kamptal DAC Reserve 2012 – Pleasantly round body with a fat texture and notes of melon. Approachable, easy drinking.

Heinrich Blaufränkisch Leithaberg 2011 – Deep inky purple. Dense and meaty with juicy blackberry and dark cherry notes. Savoury and long.

Heinrich Gabarinza 2011
– A blend of Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and Merlot, aged in 500 litre oak vats for 20 months before release. Deep ruby colour, with flavours of blackcurrant gummies and black tea. Mid-weight, fresh and fruity. Hint of milk chocolate on the finish, which is a tad short. Broadly appealing.

Heinrich Pannobile 2011 – Heinrich is part of the Pannobile association, each member of which produces a single red and white wine from indigenous grapes annually. This wine is a blend of 70% Zweigelt and 30% Blaufränkisch. Gentle and light with barely perceptible tannins, soft redcurrant fruit and a silky texture.

Heinrich Blaufränkisch 2012 – Mid ruby appearance, a little stemmy on the palate with stalky notes.

Heinrich Zweigelt 2011 – A convincing testament to the popularity of Zweigelt. Fine and balanced with a soft and supple texture. Palate shows red fruits with a hint of oak and clay earth. Very accessible.

Heinrich St. Laurent 2011 – Marred by brett, which contributed a barnyard aroma. Unfortunate, as the wine showed potential with earthy black fruit and soft tannins.

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