Nothing sells a wine quite as well as a memorable backstory. In this five-part series, Jacopo Mazzeo explores wine styles with impressive tales to tell
It’s no secret that Austrian wine is capable of delivering great quality, with Grüner a favourite of sommeliers. The country is home to a wine style all its own, and Vienna is the only capital city in the world to have a significant wine industry within its borders.
Since the 18th century, growers have been allowed to sell their produce in small inns called heurigen, notifying potential customers by hanging fir branches outside the entrance as new wine was available. This tradition continues today, though it pays to pick with care, as many heurigen have turned into tourist traps selling cheap, flabby wine.
Some of the best vineyards with heurigen are located on the Kahlenberg hill, which also offers a breathtaking view of the city. As the name suggests – heurigen means ‘this year’s’ – the wine is meant to be fresh and uncomplicated, made for early consumption.
Traditionally, Viennese winemakers worked with field blends, vinifying up to 15 different grape varieties together. This practice was on the verge of extinction, but a number of producers are putting serious energy into reinventing the style, which now has its own DAC (Austrian denomination of origin), Wiener Gemischter Satz. It’s a blend of at least three different grapes that have to be pressed and vinified together. No prominent wood flavours are allowed, as the wine should clearly show its own aromatic identity.
Grapes used range from classics such as Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Weißburgunder and Sylvaner, to lesser-known varities like Neuburger, Zierfandler and Rotgipfler. Producers to look out for are Wieninger, Christ, Cobenzl, Edlmoser, Fuhrgassl-Huber and Mayer am Pfarrplatz.
Light-bodied, crisp versions go well with a classic schnitzel, while fuller-bodied interpretations need a more structured pairing. Viennese tafelspitz, a dish of boiled veal or beef served with apples and horseradish, makes a good match for these bigger wines.
One for your list
Weingut Wieninger, Wiener Gemischter Satz Nussberg 2017
Wieninger is considered the pioneer of the Gemischter Satz revival. His Nussberg is a blend of Weißburgunder, Neuburger, Welschriesling, Grüner Veltliner, Sylvaner, Rotgipfler and Traminer, all vinified together.
It is part-fermented in oak barrels and spends 10 months on fine lees. It has an elegant, herbaceous nose, and its crisp, lemony acidity leads to a lingering nutty finish.
£22.02, Liberty Wines