Viticulture in Austria can be traced back to the first century when Romans occupied the Celtic village of Vindobona on the shore of the Danube, in what is now Vienna. They found established vineyards, and were instrumental in furthering viticulture in the region by introducing their cultivated vines and knowledge. Indeed, archeology findings confirm vineyards in Vienna dating back to 750 BC.
Austrian wines have grown in popularity over the years as people discover their outstanding quality and diversity. But Austria has an even rarer distinction. Vienna is the only capital in the world that produces a substantial amount of wine within the city boundaries. As Austrian wines rapidly gained worldwide recognition after 1985, the wines of Vienna were known mainly through the “Heuriger” or wine tavern that served local wine and traditional food.
Enter the group WienWein (Vienna Wine) in 2006. A group of five highly respected winemakers devoted to raising the bar for Vienna’s wine, and spreading the word. The group consists of wine estates Edlmoser, Christ, Cobenzl, Wieninger and Mayer am Pfarrplatz.
Within Vienna’s 1,700 acres of vineyards are several distinct regions where most grapes are grown; the Nussberg, Kahlenberg, Bisamberg, and Maurerberg. The Danube provides a distinct micro-climate, and the variations in soil within this small area give winemakers an opportunity to produce a variety of wines from Gruner Veltliner to Pinot Noir. Outstanding wines come from Vienna’s wine growing region, but the darling is the Wiener Gemischter Satz (Viennese Mixed Planting). Known as a “field blend” it dates back centuries when a variety of grapes were planted together, thus ensuring that in unpredictable weather at least one variety may have a chance of survival. The most preferred white wine grapes are Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Traminer and Muller Thurgau; but Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are used as well. The grapes are harvested and fermented together to create a unique wine with a taste profile that is multifaceted, fresh, vibrant, showing mineral character and terroir.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Fritz Wieninger of Wieninger, and Gerhard Lobner of Mayer am Pfarrplatz at the renowned Nussberg vineyard overlooking Vienna, with the storied Rotes Haus (Red House) lawn and canopy providing respite from an unusually hot day. Tough gig.
It was a wine lover’s dream to sit next to these winemakers and soak up their conversation, hoping to catch a gem of knowledge not heard before. Now if only I can remember…..but that’s what notes are for. My notes at this tasting were a scribbled mess as I tried to write down everything possible. At some point, you just give up and enjoy the moment. We were able to do tastings on all but Edlmoser, but we’ll catch his wine soon.
All were of high quality, with an amazing representation of what Vienna can produce. I don’t review wine, and it pains me to single out any of the fabulous ones tasted….but there may be one bottle of Gemischter Satz that is almost empty, a Riesling that is pure heaven, and a Pinot Noir that says “yes” I can be great here.
Many thanks to the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Their dedication and professionalism helped immensely on this trip. Katharina Papst, as usual you went above and beyond to provide information, logistics and answer my most trivial questions. Also, a big thanks to Fritz Wieninger and Gerhard Lobner for taking time out of their busy day to meet yet another wine writer. True gentlemen.
Now…….will that get me the keys to the Rotes Haus?