Ahh, Budapaest. This beautiful city along the Danube has so much to offer in the way of historical and cultural sights. Whether it’s cruising down the Danube, exploring the historic charm of Buda, recalling the somber remembrances of yesteryear such as the Bronze Shoes on the Danube Memorial or the House of Terror, or taking to the thermal baths, there is much to see and do.
But y’all already know that. I’m here to talk about where to wine and where to dine. In a city as varied as Budapest, there really is no such thing as a “best of” because who really can visit every place? But I can share some of my favorite Budapest wine and food experiences from my time there. And you know I won’t steer you wrong.
To Discover Hungarian Wine
Umm, yeah, this starts with wine. Were you expecting something different? To get exposure to, and literally get a taste of Hungarian wine, head on over to Tasting Table Budapest. This local outpost of Taste Hungary, is a wine shop, tasting room, event space, education center, and online shop all rolled into one. Set in a cozy vaulted cellar of a 19th-century palace, it is THE place to try a variety of Hungarian wines and get your Budapest wine experience started.
Tasting Table Budapest
Their ‘Essentials of Hungarian Wine’ tasting is a great dive into the wines of Hungary.
Taste Hungary’s ‘Essentials of Hungarian Wine’ Tasting
I enjoyed a fabulous evening featuring a sommelier-led tasting of eight fine wines (typically 1 sparkling, 3 white, 3 red, & 1 dessert) each paired with meats, cheeses, and other nibbles.
White Wine LineupRed Wine Lineup
In addition to tasting the delicious wines, you learn the stories behind the wines, about the various Hungarian wine regions, and about Hungarian food and wine culture. And when you’re done, you are free to purchase any of the wines you tasted as well as some of the foods. I bought as many oils and food products as I did wine! And don’t worry if you can’t make it in for one of their scheduled tastings1 as you can pop in any time for a glass or a flight of wines along with cheese and charcuterie boards.
Taste Hungary is the leading culinary tour company in all of Hungary. They offer daily food walks, coffeehouse walks, ruin bar walks, craft beer walks, Jewish cuisine walks, wine tastings, wine tours, and private and custom tours for groups throughout Hungary. You name it and they do it – and do it well. It seems there is nothing Hungarian food and wine that they don’t do. I even hired them to drive me to Eger for a day of wine tasting.
For Authentic Hungarian Food
To get a taste of authentic, traditional2 Hungarian food, look no further than Hungarikum Bisztro. But know that it is small, in demand, and fills up quickly so be sure to make a reservation. Dining at this quaint, charming restaurant (complete with piano player) is like eating with family.
Interior of Hungarikum Bisztro
From the amuse, which consists of onion and bacon stuffed bread topped with sour cream and garlic sauce, I knew I was in for a treat.
And the staff is some of the friendliest you’ll meet even helping me practice my Hungarian phrases. Köszönöm – that’s “Thank You” to you.
Of course, you must have the goulash soup. Other items of note that will make you lick your plate clean are the pork loin with paprika sauce and bacon-sour cabbage dumplings, and the crispy duck leg with onion potatoes and braised cabbage.
Pork loin with paprika sauce and bacon-sour cabbage dumplingsCrispy duck leg with onion potatoes and braised cabbage
Mr. Corkscrew, pork lover that he is, was literally in hog heaven. No meal is complete, at least for yours truly, without sampling the local wine. The 2017 Vylyan Kakas Rosé from the Hungarian region of Villány was the wine to fit the bill and nice accompaniment to the meal.
2017 Vylyan Kakas Rosé, Villány
And don’t be afraid of that shot of Pálinka, the local flavored fruit brandy, that they give you at the end of your meal. It’s strong, but it’ll get ya right!
For Fine Dining & People Watching
It can be a challenge to find quality restaurants in tourist-centered parts of the city, but it can be done. Cyrano Étteremsits right off busy, touristy Vaci Utca and is a prime example of fine dining right off the main tourist drag. Even better that it offers al fresco fine dining and is a prime spot for people watching.
Alfresco Dining at Cyrano
Featuring both local and international cuisine, the menu has a balanced selection of fish, chicken, beef, and (gasp!) vegetarian dishes. And after all the meat-heavy dishes3 I’d had, I was thrilled to find to seafood and vegetable dishes.
Tiger shrimp w/garlic and crepes filled with sweet and sour Hungarian quarSeriously one of the freshest, sweetest, juiciest tomatoes salads ever!
Cyrano Entrees – Lake Balaton Bass Filet in a Dill-Paprika Sauce (top) & Lemongrass-Crusted Lamb Chops (bottom)
After tasty cocktails and beer, it was time to choose a wine. I had my eye on another wine when I saw a group of travelers on their third bottle of a particular wine. So of course, I had to find out what was so great about it. When I inquired, I was pointed to the 2011 Bock Villány Cuvée. Another point in the Villány column!4
2011 Bock Villány Cuvée
Lush black fruit and smooth tannins made this easy to drink and quite enjoyable. Completely understandable why my dinner neighbors were on their third bottle!
For Great Café Culture / Breakfast
Like Vienna (where I started my travels before coming here) Budapest has a great café culture. And yes, Café Gerbeaud, Gerlóczy Café, and New York Café are beautiful, ornate cafes and good bets as well, but I really enjoyed Café Central.
Coffee at Café Central
One of the oldest Vienna-style cafés in the city, open since 1887, it is a great place for coffee, light meals, and pastries of course. It also made a great spot for breakfast. The ham and cheese eggy bread with seasoned sour cream was quite tasty. Also memorable was the French toast – eggy brioche with coconut, almond, and fresh fruit served with an assortment of homemade jams, honey, and butter.
Cafe Central Ham and Cheese (top) & French Toast (bottom)
For Total Immersion
If anything shows you the heart and soul of Budapest, the Great Market Hall is arguably a contender. First opened in 1897 and a daily destination for locals, it is truly an experience for all the senses.
Yes we love our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but there IS another wine grape grown in Burgundy. And it needs love too. In a region where Chardonnay reigns supreme, it takes a great deal of dedication and passion to make Aligoté today.
Having been around since the 17th century, Aligoté was once considered the premier wine of Burgundy. And though it is related to Chardonnay, it now plays second fiddle to the its more famous relative.1 While generally associated with Burgundy, Aligoté is produced in other countries around the world. In 1937, it was granted its own AOC – Bourgogne Aligoté.
Aligoté wines are fresh, expressive, green (fruit and herbs) and mineral driven, with citrus and floral characteristics. Made to be drunk young, with a few being able to go 3-5 years, these wines come at fantastic price points as many can be had at less than $20. Talk about a great option for white Burgundy! Known as a traditional ingredient for the Kir cocktail which is a Burgundy specialty of white wine mixed with creme de cassis, Aligoté also deserves to stand alone. It is great as an aperitif and also plays well with Asian and Indian cuisine. It’s lighter profile means it can also partner with salads and steamed vegetables as well as with oysters and simply grilled fish. I mean really, what is there not to love?!
And people are beginning to take notice. In the last six months or so when I’ve been sitting at a bar waxing poetic (OK, shootin’ the shit) with a somm, and ask them for a white wine they’re excited about, several have poured me a glass of Aligoté. Ahh yes, we’re on to something.
These days, people don’t generally think of terroir when Aligoté comes to mind, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. These wines can be elegant, aromatic, and terroir driven2 just as they were before the phylloxera epidemic. For about fifty years or so plantings of the grape decreased but the last ten years or so have seen an uptick in plantings. Of course, it will never overtake Chardonnay as THE white wine of the region, and it’s not meant to.
Aligoté gets the most love in Bouzeron. Bouzeron is the only appellation Village in the Côte Chalonnaise to be made exclusively from the Aligoté Grape. Here, Aligoté gets the prime spots on the slope while Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at relegated to the “lesser” positions. With varied limestone soils, altitude, and hillside aspect, there is great diversity of expression in the wines of the region.
Vineyards in Bouzeron, Courtesy of Bourgogne-Wines.com
I recently had the opportunity to try a few Aligoté wines and was amazed at the variability in the wines. I could seriously envision myself rocking on the front porch (#DontHate! – I’m embracing the ‘mature’ Corkscrew Concierge) or a floatie in the pool with some of these. Others, a light summer meal.
Aligoté Tasting Lineup
2017 Domaine Catherine et Claude MARECHAL Bourgogne Aligoté
Crafted form 40-year old vines in clay and gravel soils, this is a classic Aligoté that is clean and crisp with lemon, apple, peach, and a touch of almond. This said ‘aperitif’ all day.
2016 Caves BAILLY-LAPIERRE Bourgogne Aligoté
This one comes from a cooperative of 400 members and hails from a cooler region than the first wine. Marl soils lead to a wine with a more reserved nose that exhibited more almond and a nice mineral finish.
2016 Domaine Manuel OLIVER Bourgogne Aligoté
Manuel Oliver is a newer estate created in 1990 with vines planted in white marl soils. With intense minerality, the wine had a fuller body than the previous wines and had a richness and ripeness that just drew you in.
2015 Domaine Pierre-Louis et Jean-Francois BERSAN Bourgogne Aligoté
Domaine Pierre-Louis is a family estate that first planted vines in 1453. With soils of Kimmeridgian clay3 and limestone combined with sustainable farming, this one hailed from the warm, but excellent 2015 vintage. Of all the wines, this one had the least crispness and was a softer, lower acid wine that was characterized by ripe peach and apricot.
2015 Maison Louis JADOT Bouzeron
The first of the two Bouzeron wines, this was instantly different from the first four wines. Though aging was in used oak, you knew it had seen some oak as as the wine was round and soft. Well-balanced and elegant, it exhibited a purity of flavor. Of all the wines, this may have been the most ‘Chardonnay like’ and yeah, it was my fave of the bunch.
2016 Domaine Les Champs de Thémis Les Corcelles Bouzeron
The second Bouzeron and last wine of the bunch, this one also saw some oak. Very rich and the most full-bodied of all the wines, it was well-structured with a long finish. The oak lent more complexity to the wine and this was an example of an Aligoté that could be cellared for a few years.
So given what we know Burgundian Chardonnay to be, not to mention the prices it can fetch, why do winemakers stick with Aligoté? Simple. Because it’s a Burgundian tradition and part of their heritage. And from a wine lover’s perspective, it’s versatility and affordability certainly make it worth exploring. In a nutshell, I found an easy-going, laid-back white wine that my wallet loves.
After seriously getting into wine, I found I began collecting wines. I dabbled in some futures and bought some new releases to lay down in my cellar. I have a handful of St. Émilion Premier Grand Cru1 wines that I’ve dubbed my retirement wines2 as well as a few 1st and 2nd growth wines that I bought with some age on them.
I started buying more Bordeaux wines with age on them as it dawned on me that I’m not getting any younger and that I may not be around when some of the newer wines hit their prime drinking windows. I’ve imagined Thing 1 & Thing 2 doing everything from just handing out bottles to random people to making “punch” out of my precious classified wines. That, added to the fact that aged wines can hurt your wallet, I’ve somewhat shifted my buying strategy. I still occasionally buy wines with some age on them, but it’s more and more rare that I buy wines that need to lay down for 15+ years. These days, when I buy wine, it’s more of with an eye to drinking in the next five years or so – certainly less than a decade. I need to drink them now!
I’m also aware that most people that enjoy wine are not collectors. They just want to buy a bottle of wine and enjoy it with the night’s dinner. And this consumer should be able to drink and appreciate Bordeaux as well. But finding affordable, approachable Bordeaux wines that can be drunk young can be a challenge. They are out there, but you have to know where to look.
Enter Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). Of course, it is known for its elegant, world-renowned first growth Pauillac wine Château Lafite. And despite its elegance, these wines take decades to mature. Yes, decade with an “s.” It’s also expensive AF.3 But if you’re so inclined, I do accept gifts.
Seeing the issues of both expense and approachability, Domaines Barons de Rothschild introduced its Légende Collection of wines almost two decades ago. Only recently have the wines from the Légende Collection been available in the USA. These wines were created as accessible wines for everyday drinking. It’s interesting that an estate that dates back centuries4 and owns other distinguished châteaux such as Duhart-Milon, Rieussec, and L’Évangile still sees the importance of embracing current trends when people want to drink their wines like now – or maybe even yesterday! And that’s what these wines represent – “classic Bordeaux wines with immediate charm.” Well charmed I am.
The Légende Collection consists of wines from five major Bordeaux appellations – Bordeaux, Bordeaux Blanc, Médoc, Saint- Émilion, and Pauillac – and range in price from $18-50. I was fortunate to recently try two of the wines from the Légende collection.5
The fruit from the Bordeaux Rouge (as well as the Bordeaux Blanc6) wine is sourced from the Entre-Deux-Mers region. Remember when I told ya’ll that tasty, affordable Bordeaux can be found in this region?! Crafted of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, this one got better after it got some air – it still is Bordeaux after all. After being in the decanter for an hour, the red fruits really began to emerge. By the second day, the tannins were smooth as silk which made for an easy-going, pleasurable sip.
2016 Légende Médoc ($25) Légende Médoc
The Médoc (as well as the Pauillac) wine is produced from DBR’s own vineyards and from neighboring vineyards. Crafted of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, the Légende Médoc benefits from the same care and attention to detail as the Grand Vins. More structured and full-bodied than the Rouge, the wine offers rich and complex aromas and flavors. It was also a bit more elegant with spice and deeper fruit expression than the Rouge. After taking a glass out with my Coravin, it took some time to open up and while it eventually came around, it could benefit from another year or two in the bottle. Still, it’s much sooner than the decade(s) needed for other wines from the region. The odds are certainly in my favor with this one!
Cheers to the Légende Collection’s approachable, affordable Bordeaux!
That’s right, 100% Texas wines. Cabernet Grill is one of only seven Texas restaurants to make the prestigious list which recognizes establishments that represent the most dynamic experiences in wine-focused dining across the country. The restaurant boasts the nation’s largest selection of Texas wines with over 115 selections and more than 1,200 bottles in inventory. Wine Director Elizabeth Rodriguez says from the very beginning they’ve been focused on partnering with the fast-growing Texas wine industry. Even better, the wines are fairly (friendly) priced which invites customers to explore the selections at will. Many selections are available by the glass as well as featured wine flights.
I was invited1 to dine at the restaurant to try out some of the delicious Texas wines – not to mention the excellent food menu prepared by Chef Ross Burtwell. Chef partners not only with local vintners, but also grape growers, farmers and craft beer and spirits entrepreneurs to showcase the best food and wine that Texas has to offer. With seasonal and locally sourced cuisine expertly paired Texas with wines, diners get the ultimate Texas Hill Country dining experience.
Whether you sit out on the expansive patio complete with soothing waterfalls or sit inside the quaint dining room near the cozy fireplace, there’s not a bad seat to be had.
Cabernet Grill Dining RoomCabernet Grill Patio
Here are a few highlights from my dining experience. Warning, you will drool…
My dining experience started with a Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with maple cayenne cream and crispy pepitas. I loved the combo of sweet and spicy along with the crunch of the pepitas.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
The first course featured a Pecan Crusted Crab Cake with Mango, Mayo, and Sriracha paired with a 2015 Hilmy Viognier. The creaminess (but restrained oak) and acid was a natural for the crab cake.2
Pecan Crusted Crab Cake
And so full of succulent lump crab!
The second course featured Sagebiel Pecan Smoked Trout Rillettes with pumpernickel crostini and gin pickles paired with the 2014 Wedding Oak Terre Blanc.
Smoked Trout Rillettes Paired w/ Wedding Oak Terre Blanc
Keeping it real y’all, but when I tasted the trout rillettes, I instantly just wanted two pieces of bread to make a big sandwich with a bag of chips. Of course this was way more refined. I really need to up my tuna salad game! And totally loved this with the wine. With quite an aromatic nose, the Wedding Oak Terre Blanc is crafted of 53% Marsanne, 23% Viognier, 16% Roussanne, and 8% Trebbiano. I was happy to finally try some Wedding Oak wine as I’d been hearing more and more about them.
Third & Fourth Courses
The third and fourth courses were paired with the 2017 C.L. Butaud Rosé.
C.L. Butaud Rosé
I’ve been curious about this wine for a while so was happy to finally have the opportunity to try it. Comprised of Grenache Noir, Piquepoul Blanc, and Rolle with eight months lees contact, this pale salmon pink wine with a strawberry cream nose had a bit more weight than many Rosés.
The first pairing with the Rosé was the Texas Twinkie. And y’all, I can’t do this any justice with a photo, but it was my favorite bite of the night.
Cabernet Grill’s Texas Twinkie
The Texas Twinkie is a bacon-wrapped jalapeño with house-made beer sausage, redneck cheddar, and jezebel dip (their version had some orange marmalade in it). OMG! It’s one of the restaurant’s signature appetizers and just a party in my mouth. Love, love, loved it with the Rosé.
The second pairing with the Rosé was a Wild Organic Arugula Salad with locally sourced CKC goat cheese, pickled beets, San Saba pecans, Beladi Tree EVOO, and 25-year balsamic. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Wild Organic Arugula Salad
I always love a fresh crisp salad with Rosé. And I don’t even like beets but these pickled ones were delish!
The fifth course was Chicken Fried Quail w/ Chipotle Sweet Potato Mash & Green Chile Gravy paired with a 2016 Grape Creek Cabernet Trois. The Cab Trois is a combo of three different Cabernets – Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet, and Cabernet Franc.
Chicken Fried Quail w/ Grape Creek Cabernet Trois
I’m not a big gravy fan3 but this was off the chain! I would never have paired this together but the soft tannins in the wine allowed it to work really well. And this is why they do what they do!
The sixth course (see how hard I work?!) featured a 72 hour Niman Ranch Short Rib w/ Paprika Aioli, Braised Jus, and Three Cheese Grits paired with a 2017 Baron’s Creek Vineyards Merlot.
Short Rib Paired with Baron’s Creek Vineyards Merlot
So apparently Chef played around with the whole sous vide process for the short rib and finally determined that seventy-two hours was the sweet spot. Indeed it was. I loved the whole combo with the roasted vegetables, cheese grits, and onion strings, but it was the paprika aioli that drove it home. It was just such a nice touch. So, so good.
Short Rib w/ Paprika Aioli, Braised Jus, and Three Cheese Grits
And I’ve never been to Baron’s Creek but based on the Merlot, I need to get over there soon. The Merlot was such a nice balance of fruit and tannins.
Last, but certainly not least was the fabulous dessert course. German Chocolate Bread Pudding w/ Salted Caramel paired with the Val Verde Winery ‘Don Luis’ Tawny Port.
German Chocolate Bread Pudding w/ Salted Caramel Paired with Tawny Port
This was so decadent and tasty as hell! All that luscious chocolate made be swoon. And the win, with its nutty caramel flavor and hints of chocolate, just melded seamlessly. A perfect ending for sure.
Well done Ross and Elizabeth!
The Cotton Gin Village B&B
And after an indulgent dinner, isn’t it convenient that the the restaurant also has an on-site B&B – the absolutely charming Cotton Gin Village? Consisting of seven, 19th century log cabins, this elegantly rustic B&B is the perfect option to waddle walk back to your room and put up your feet. Featuring antiques, wood-burning fireplaces, and log-framed beds, it exudes the rustic charm for which the Texas Hill Country is known.
Beautiful Log Framed Bed in the Cabin’s BedroomLiving Area & Wood Burning Fireplace
The quaint porches and courtyards just beckon you to have a glass of two while soaking in the ambience that includes soothing rock waterfalls, meandering pathways, and historic touches like an antique cotton gin.
So when deciding to visit Austria, the decision wasn’t WHETHER to visit a wine region, it was WHICH region to visit.1 Yes, many are more familiar with Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) particularly Wachau, but as a red wine lover first, I wanted to check out the red wines that had been becoming more and more prominent in the world.
Despite its reputation as a place for cold weather, Austria is not too cold to make red wines. Even with its mostly cool continental climate, the southern part of the country enjoys warm, dry conditions where red grapes can thrive and takes on a warm continental climate. So while the famed Wachau isn’t known for red wines (bring on the Grüner Veltliner!) an hour trip southeast of Vienna will land you right in the middle of the red wine region Burgenland. The region, which sits within the Pannonian climate zone and receives more sun hours than anywhere else in Austria, is the holy grail for red wine production in Austria.
Part of Hungary until 1921 when it was annexed as Austria’s 9th state, Burgenland has been engaged in wine growing for over two thousand years. The larger Burgenland region is comprised of four smaller, wine-growing regions – Neusiedlersee DAC, Leithaberg DAC, Mittelburgenland DAC, and Eisenberg DAC.
The northern Neusiedlersee and Leithaberg sub-regions surround Lake Neusiedl and produce quality red wines. The further south you go down both sides of the lake brings you into sweet wine country where world class wines are crafted from Botrytized (noble rot) grapes.2 The central Mittelburgenland sub-region and the southernmost Eisenberg round out the region.
While there are upwards of 6,000 total vintners in the region, only about 600 actually bottle wine. Today, red wine accounts for approximately 70% of production in the region. This shift in focus from white to red occurred in the 1980s.
Burgenland Grape Varieties
The primary red grapes of the region consist of indigenous varieties with Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, and St. Laurent leading the way. Small amounts of Pinot Noir crop up as well. White varieties of the region include Welschriesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Chardonnay as well as smaller amounts of Neuberger and Grüner Veltliner. Harvest typically occurs in late August/early September. And I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong about Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch. I’d had a few non-Austrian versions in the past that I wasn’t a fan of which caused me to just avoid them altogether. Well I’ve now come to my senses!
Grapes Growing in Jois
To be sure, Blaufränkisch is the star of Burgenland as it is grown in all the sub-regions and enjoys DAC status in all but the Neusiedlersee DAC, where Zweigelt reigns supreme.3It has been described as having the elegance of Burgundy Pinot Noir, the pepperiness of Northern Rhône Syrah, and the structure of Nebbiolo from Piedmont. It is also a vehicle for terroir as much as say, Chardonnay as it tastes like the place it grows. Blaufränkisch is characterized by its dense structure, bold tannins, and dark fruit and has good ageing potential.
Zweigelt, which is the most widely planted red grape in all of Austria, is primarily limited to Neusiedlersee in Burgenland where it enjoys DAC status. This cross of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent covers the wine spectrum from fruity, easy-drinking, non-wood versions to bold, structured wines that see some oak. It is known as a crowd pleaser that both white and red wine drinkers alike can enjoy. In Neusiedlersee, the wines are rich and opulent with juicy cherry fruit.
St. Laurent (or Sankt Laurent) as it is known in Austria, comes from Pinot Noir and another unknown variety which explains why it’s often compared to Pinot Noir.4 But Pinot it is not. While it may bear some resemblance to Pinot, it often shows more structure and tannin. Small amounts are grown in the region and can be found as stand-alone varietals or as part of blends.
A visit to the northern part of the region can be done as a day trip from Vienna via a one-hour train ride. If the wineries in and around Gols and further south on the eastern edge of Lake Neusiedl are your focus, take the train to Neusiedl am See. If venturing west of the lake, which includes some of the famed sweet wines near picturesque Rust, then take the train to Eisenstadt. Either way, you’re in for a treat. I took the train to Neusiedl am See and started my day in Gols, working my way west and finishing up in the town of Jois.
For a deep dive of the area over the course of several days, Eisenstadt (for west of the lake) and Neusiedl (for east of the lake) would make a great base. With increasing tourism in the region numerous restaurants, hotels, not to mention lake activities have cropped up.
Wineries to Visit
If I had one word to sum up my visit with all the winemakers I met with, it would have to be ‘Family’. Every winemaker I met with had some story, some special connection between their wine and their family. From the quality of the Pannobile wine growers, to the beauty of Pinot Noir and St. Laurent, to the draw-dropping prowess of Leithaberg, I had a hard time finding a winemaker that I wasn’t thrilled to meet and whose wines didn’t exemplify the distinct terroir(s) of Burgenland.
To make the most of my day trip, I focused on the areas east and north of Lake Neusiedl. After a quick train ride from Vienna, I started the day in the village of Gols tasting with three winemakers that are part of the Pannobile Wine Group. The Pannobile Wine Group is a nine-member growers’ association5 located in the village of Gols which is on the eastern (and warmest) side of Lake Neusiedl. The group came together to establish a platform where they could collaborate and cooperate, all while representing the region’s excellence. In addition to their own individual winery efforts, each member of the group selects a wine from their portfolio each year as a candidate to be considered as a Pannobile Wine. A wine labeled ‘Pannobile’ may be either red or white and must be made from local, indigenous varieties6 for red Pannobile wines and from Pinot varieties or Neuberger for whites.
The Parndorfer Platte is the source of the Pannobile wines. The south-facing slope is located near the village of Gols and features complex soils, which together with the slope’s southerly aspect produce wines that are profound, complex, and that offer longevity. The production from the Pannobile plain benefits from close proximity to Lake Neusiedl. An uncharacteristically shallow lake7 its surface functions as a reservoir that stores warmth from the day and releases it at night to ripen the fruit on the surrounding hillside vineyards.
Weingut Judith Beck
The first Pannobile winemaker I met with was Judith Beck who was on her way to a holiday with her kids before coming back for an uncharacteristically early harvest. I’m completely grateful that she was able to squeeze me in! Guided by biodynamic principles since 2007, the production is comprised of about 90% red varieties (Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, and Pinot Noir) with a small portion dedicated to white wine production including the very interesting Neuberger.
Judith Beck Wines
Whether red or white, the focus is squarely on creating wines with minimal intervention. While they don’t use the term “natural wine” this is pretty much what they produce. No commercial yeasts are used, and the wines exhibit a natural purity. Prior to taking over from her parents in 2004, Judith worked at wineries in Bordeaux, Piedmont, and Chile. She made her first vintage in 2001 before assuming full control of the winery three years later. Click here for a more in depth look at my visit with Judith Beck.
Weingut Paul Achs
Paul Achs was the second Pannobile winemaker I met with and the tasting was quite a treat! Heck, I still have dreams of his Altenberg Blaufränkisch.
2015 Paul Achs Blaufränkisch, Altenberg
Considered one of the premier winemakers in Austria8 and a master of Blaufränkisch, Paul Achs cut his teeth in California, as well as a few other places, before joining the family winery in Gols as winemaker in 1991. Using biodynamic viticultural practices, his wines showcase the elegance and beauty of the reds from the region. In addition to the predominant 90% red wine production, which includes indigenous as well as international varieties, Paul produces a small amount of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The highlight of my tasting with Paul? Having my wines poured by his 8-year old son! And he was such a natural! Click here for a more in depth look at my visit with Paul Achs.
With a cool factor to which I’ve always aspired, Gerhard Pittnauer was an absolute joy to taste with. Everything about him says cool from the extensive collection of vinyl records that he keeps at the winery, stories of his musical prowess, and a laid-back air that suggests that he’s on top of his game. He and his wife Brigitte manage the winery together and are affectionately known as the “Pittis.” Geared toward minimalist winemaking and embracing the principles of biodynamics, Gerhard refers to the wines as “living wines.” Sitting in the sleek and beautiful winery amongst the vines, it was hard not to admire the dedication the Pittis have to their craft.
Tasting Room at Weingut Pittnauer
From delicious sparkling wines to elegant St. Laurent and beyond, the terroir speaks loud and clear. Gerhard is a bit of a foodie and had absolutely the best nibbles to go with the wine. Click here for a more in depth look at my visit with Gerhard Pittnauer.
After visiting with the three Pannobile winemakers, it was time to shift gears a bit. Not far from Pittnauer and still in the village of Gols is Weingut Juris. Here, Pinot Noir is the star of the show.
Pinot Noir at Weingut Juris
While I’m always interested in local, indigenous varieties, I was not going to leave without tasting some of the famed Austrian Pinot Noir. And there is no better authority on Austrian Pinot Noir than Axel Stiegelmar, owner and winemaker at Juris. In fact, he’s a walking encyclopedia on all things Austrian wine. After spending a bit of time at Robert Mondavi in the 90s, Axel took the helm of the winery that has been in his family for over 100 years. Beautiful grounds and a quaint tasting room seriously beckon. The Juris portfolio also includes elegant St. Laurent and beautiful expressions of Blaufränkisch – one of which was a appassimento style that blew me away! For more on my visit at Weingut Juris, click here.
Weingut Markus Altenburger
Tracking back west through Neusiedl am See to the town of Jois, I completed my day at Weingut Altenburger. And boy what an ending it was! If you want to truly understand the spectacular terroir of Leithaberg with its slate and limestone soils, complete with exhibits, look no further than Markus Altenburger. He was so witty and such fun to taste with but also really had a pulse on the industry’s larger developments including ongoing efforts related to vineyard classifications and designations. As a love of Blaufränkisch is the reason he became a winemaker, there is no doubt that Markus crafts top notch versions of the wine. But what really caught my attention, and unexpectedly so, were the practically ethereal Chardonnay that he crafts.
Wine & Soil Samples at Weingut Markus Altenburger
For a more in depth look at my visit with Markus Altenburger, click here.
So if you’re out and about doing some winetasting, ya gotta eat, right? Why not enjoy the beauty of Lake Neusiedl at Das Fritz? The restaurant, which sits directly on the lake, is located in Weiden am See and is on the way to Jois from Gols. The views are spectacular, the food is tasty, and it’s a great place to relax.
Leithaberg exemplified certainly describes a visit at Weingut Markus Altenburger. And Markus Altenburger is the perfect person to tell you all about it. The Leithaberg DAC1 is a subregion of Burgenland and one of the oldest winegrowing zones in the world.
The region’s wines are influenced by the very shallow, warm Lake Neusiedl which aids in ripening, the slopes of the Leitha Mountains that provide a cooling effect for great diurnal range, and the holy grail of soils dominated by slate2 also called “Leithakalk” and limestone.3 This results in wines that are vibrant and concentrated with pronounced mineral characteristics. The soils in the region vary every 100m or so which results in a great deal of variation and many single vineyard wines.
Vineyards in Jois
Leithaberg DAC whites are made from Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Chardonnay, Neuburger, Grüner Veltliner or a blend of these varieties. DAC reds are made from Blaufränkisch. Both reds and whites are considered “reserve” wines. White wines enter the marketplace no sooner than a year after harvest while the red Blaufränkisch enters after at least two years.
Weingut Altenburger is located in the village of Jois, northwest of Lake Neusiedl. After spending several years at another winery, Markus returned to his family winery and revamped the entire farming process. He switched to organic farming many years ago and was certified organic in 2017. He eliminated commercial yeasts and now uses only natural yeasts as well as reduced yields to produce more concentrated wines. Aging is done in neutral 500 liter barrels or concrete eggs and very little sulfur is used and only when bottling. These are the ultimate low intervention wines.
So after learning all about the remarkable terroir from Markus, it was time to taste the wines. And I must say that he was such great fun to taste with. His wit and humor combined with his knowledge and dedication, made for a great tasting experience.
And I have to say that I loved the whites as much as the reds. I also loved hearing about his (then) one year old.
2017 Chardonnay vom Kalk, Burgenland
2017 Chardonnay vom Kalk, Burgenland
Comprised of fruit sourced from parcels around the city of Jois, this is Markus’ entry level Chardonnay. My first thought was wow, if this was entry level then I was in for quite a treat. Great salinity and tingling acidity from the limestone soils and I was in!
The next wine was a Chardonnay from 25 year old Jungenberg vines, which is one of the oldest single vineyard sites in Burgenland. With soil comprised of ⅔ slate and ⅓ limestone, the was such a beautiful elegant wine. One of my tasting notes: “This is the shizz.” #DontJudgeMe – sometimes it’s just that good and that’s all you need. This was a great example of how the soils transferred the minerality and the structure of the stone. Brought one home and seriously may drink this when Mr. Corkscrew is not around.
2016 Grüner Veltliner, Ladisberg
2015 was the first vintage of the Ladisberg vineyard and it’s not known how old the vines are. Salinity and elegance were the name of the game here. Gotta love that limestone. Bright acid with tangy citrus fruit and a trip home with me.
2017 Blaufränkisch vom Kalk, Burgenland
2017 Blaufränkisch vom Kalk, Burgenland
This was the first of four Blaufränkisch I tried. Markus says Blaufränkisch was the reason he became a winemaker and his specialty is single vineyard Blaufränkisch. Back in 2006, he first only planted Blau – no St. Laurent, no Zweigelt, nothing else. Most of the Blau is planted in limestone soil and the minerality is so evident in the wines. This is Markus’ everyday Blau and even despite that, it was certainly elegant with mineral characteristics.
I tasted these two 2013s side by side to compare/contrast what Blau can do when it’s planted in slate vs limestone. The Jungenberg vineyard is predominantly slate while the Gritschenberg vineyard is mostly limestone. The slate heavy Jungenberg was fresh and more fruit driven while the limestone dominant Gritschenberg showed great length and great structure along with herbaceousness, salinity, and more restrained fruit. Overall 2013 was an underestimated vintage given how cool it was, but these two demonstrate how a focus on crafting complex wines can overcome any shortcomings of the weather.
So when Markus learned he was my last stop of the day, we decided to make it a wine party and he broke out all sorts of wines to try.
Markus is not afraid of a little skin contact which was apparent given the deeper hue of this Neuberger. This one was ⅓ fermented on the skins. Like the Neuberger I tasted with Judith Beck, I found this to be quite cerebral and it just kept evolving in the glass.
This Gewurztraminer saw 2 ½ days of skin contact and was 100% concrete aged. Markus doesn’t do much of this but thinks he will keep it in his lineup. Fresh, beautiful fruit flavors with a tinge of residual sugar.
2012 Jerry & Berry Rosé and En Garde Rosé
2012 Jerry & Berry Rosé and En Garde Rosé
So as the story goes, several years ago Markus was talking to his girlfriend and trying to determine if there were any good Rosés out there when he decided to make his own. And I have to say that these were some of the most unique, mineral driven Rosés I can recall having. The Jerry & Berry was more of a basic Rosé crafted of 80% Zweigelt and 20% Blaufränkisch. The En Garde was a bit more complex, structured, and more of a food wine and was crafted of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Blaufränkisch. This was one of those trips where the limitations of how much wine you could carry home really began to get annoying. But I digress…
2015 Markus Altenburger Red
2015 Markus Altenburger Red
We finished up with a 2015 Blaufränkisch. This particular one was not a single vineyard wine and was made from various younger vineyards – some slate, some limestone. Whole bunch fermentation with weeks of skin contact, it was made in a reductive style4 and offered up fresh red fruit flavors. There’s nothing he can’t do with Blaufränkisch!
And so ended our fabulous winetasting. It was quite a privilege to taste and learn with Markus. Weingut Altenburger can be visited by appointment. And be sure to check out my other tastings in Burgenland at Juris, Pittnauer, Paul Achs, and Judith Beck.
Weingut Juris was one of my fabulous tasting destinations during my Burgenland wine adventure.1
While I’m always interested in local, indigenous varieties, I was not going to leave Burgenland without tasting some of the famed Austrian Pinot Noir. As the grape that got me into wine, I love tasting expressions of Pinot from around the world. In fact, when I told people that I was going to Austria, the first thing many asked was whether I would get a chance to try some of the delicious Pinot there. Umm, heck yeah! Enter Weingut Juris.
And enter Axel Stiegelmar who is a wealth of information not only about Pinot Noir, but about wine history in Austria.
I mean he seriously was like a walking encyclopedia and it was great to learn so much about the region and Austrian winemaking in general.
Weingut Juris has been in Axel’s family for over 100 years and was started by his grandfather Juris, after whom the winery was named. Before taking the helm at Juris, he had experiences elsewhere including a stint at Robert Mondavi in the 1990s. With a beautiful winery in the heart of Gols with lots of green space and a quaint tasting room, this was the perfect way to get in deep with some Pinot, not to mention the other fantastic wines that Juris produces.
Grounds of Weingut JurisGrounds of Weingut Juris
Like so many others that I visited in Burgenland, the entire operation is all about family. I was able to meet Axel’s son Gregor who had just made his very first wine which happened to be an orange wine from the the family’s vineyard in Balaton, Hungary and was bottling while I was there. We may have hung out and snapped a few pics as well.
Hanging Out With the Juris Crew
After an extensive tour of the winery including the underground cellars and bottling room, it was time to taste the wines. Juris only produces wines from estate grown fruit and crafts terroir driven wines that are quite elegant.
2015 Juris Rosé Brut Sekt
We started our tasting with a Sekt2 that was crafted of 100% St. Laurent. As a lover of bubbly, I was all over this. You can read more about this one in my article on delicious non-champagne sparkling wine.
The White Wines
After the Rosé, it was time to taste the whites, of which we tasted three
Muskat & Gewurztraminer
Muskat Ottonel & Gewurztraminer
First up was the 2017 Golser Muskat Ottonel followed by the 2016 Gewurztraminer. Generally regarded as an aperitif, the Muskat is a wine that Juris produces every year. This quite aromatic wine literally smelled like summer in a bottle. The 2016 Gewurztraminer was similarly aromatic to the Muskat Ottonel with great acidity. Gewurz is one of my go-to wines for crawfish. #DontJudgeMe. Either of these would be fantastic to sip on a hot Texas day.
2017 Altenberg Chardonnay
The final white wine was the 2017 Altenberg Chardonnay.
2017 Altenberg Chardonnay
The Altenberg Vineyard, which is considered one of the premier sites in the region, is a south-facing slope located near the village of Gols and features complex soils that results in wines that are profound, complex, and that offer longevity. Juris grows three varieties in the Altenberg vineyard with Chardonnay at the bottom of the slope, Blaufränkisch in the middle, and St. Laurent on the top. This particular Chard was was grown in a mix of sandy loam and limestone and saw no artificial yeasts and no MLF. Aged in large oak barrels, the wine spends about 5-6 months on the lees. This lean, yet round version is my kind of Chard.
Then it was time for the red wines. Weingut Juris is renowned for its Pinot Noir and St. Laurent. Both of these varieties are well known for being difficult to grow and it takes someone with patience and talent to do them well. That he’s so dedicated to these varieties says a lot about Axel.
We tasted through the Pinot Noir first. Juris utilizes Pinot Noir clones from Italy, France, Switzerland, and Germany and produces six different Pinots. This is quite a feat as Pinot is certainly not the most widely produced variety in Austria.3 While there are several producers of Pinot, most generally do not produce it at the same levels of Juris.
I tasted five Pinots with Axel. And what a great lineup it was.
2015 Pinot Noir
2015 Pinot Noir
The first Pinot was crafted with fruit from various vineyards in the village of Gols. It’s made from younger vineyards that aren’t as deeply rooted which results in wines that show more primary fruit. Fermented at very low temperatures to preserve freshness and fruit flavors (the goal is not extraction here), the wine is very light-bodied with fresh strawberry flavors and crisp acidity. This is one of the Pinots that Juris exports to many countries, including Taiwan.
2015 Pinot Noir Reserve
2015 Pinot Noir Reserve
The next Pinot was the Reserve which comes from forty year old vines planted by Axel’s father. This was almost Burgundian in style with its delicate structure along with earthy flavors and nuanced fruit. Love! And brought some home to boot!
2015 Pinot Noir, Setzluss
2015 Pinot Noir, Setzluss
Next up the Setzluss Pinot, one of the single vineyard offerings from Juris. Crafted from small, tight clustered berries on top of a cool plateau, this was a stellar Pinot. Aged in 500 liter oak barrels, Axel says this approach allows him to “keep the human ego out of the wine” and let the wines speak for themselves. Agreed.
2005 & 2012 Haide Pinot Noir
2005 & 2012 Haide Pinot Noir
The last two Pinots were from the Haide vineyard which was planted by Axel’s father. This vineyard has a higher chalk content and produces extraordinary wines with finesse and elegance. There was such a purity to these wines which made sense given Axel’s passion for terroir and letting the wines speak for themselves. Comparing them side by side, the 2005 was more full-bodied while the 2012 was more elegant.
The St. Laurent & Blaufränkisch
And then it was time for the St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch. St. Laurent (or Sankt Laurent as its known in Austria) made its way to the country from Alsace. Juris has been producing it for over 60 years so they’ve become masters of handling the sometimes finicky grape and are widely regarded as setting the high standard for classic St. Laurent. Axel refers to St. Laurent as a “hippie grape” as we know one of its parents (Pinot Noir) but not the other.4 St. Laurent is also the parent of indigenous varieties Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch.
Juris St. Laurent & Blaufränkisch
2015 St. Laurent
The 2015 St. Laurent was fresh and fruity with the telling acidity of the variety. This is a variety that always shows good structure and acidity and rarely loses it even when temperatures rise.
2015 St. Laurent, Goldberg
The second St. Laurent comes from the gravel and sandy soils of the Goldberg vineyard, which interestingly enough is on a north-facing slope. Obviously they do north facing slopes south of the equator but this was new for me in the northern hemisphere. But there’s method to the madness. The grapes are planted as such to allow them to stay on the vines for an extended time, but a significant amount of canopy management is still needed to achieve this. The result is small berries with intense flavors.
2015 Blaufränkisch, Ungerberg
And last but not least, we finished up with some tasty Blaufränkisch. Blau is dark, thick-skinned, and tannic and is suitable for aging. This one was refined and elegant with juicy blue and black fruits and fine grained tannins
My tasting with Axel finished up the Tricata. I was so intrigued by this quite enticing wine. This was a Blaufränkisch made with dried grapes appassimento style. The grapes were dried on racks until they lost about a third of their weight. Rich, intense flavors coupled with solid structure and I was in!
All in all a fantastic tasting that showcased the excellence of the region. Tastings are available at Weingut Juris by appointment.
Weingut Pittnauer is a must do when visiting Burgenland. With a cool factor to which I’ve always aspired, Gerhard Pittnauer was an absolute joy to taste with.1
Everything about him says cool from the extensive collection of vinyl records that he keeps at the winery, stories of his musical prowess, and a laid back air that suggests that he’s on top of his game. Even his wine labels are laid back!2
Taking over the reins at age 18, he’s had years to perfect his craft. He and his wife Brigitte manage the winery together and are affectionately known as the “Pittis.” As a great winemaker that respects the exceptionality of his land, Gerhard is all about “growing” the wine rather than “making” it. Geared toward minimalist winemaking and embracing the principles of biodynamics, the wines are what he refers to as “living wines.” With everything done by hand from composting to pruning to harvesting, the goal is to allow the terroir to speak loud and clear. Many of the wines are crafted without any of the extras – additives, preservatives, cultured yeasts, or filtration. And that excellence certainly has not gone unnoticed. Gerhard was previously named “Winemaker of the Year” by Falstaff magazine in 2014.
In 2001, the Pittis moved into their sleek and beautiful winery amidst the vineyards that just invites you to while the hours away.
Weingut Pittnauer Tasting Room
As with some of the other winemakers I met with, Weingut Pittnauer is a member of the Pannobile Wine Group, a prominent growers’ association in the village of Gols. The purpose of the group is to ensure high-quality wine production that exemplify the best of the region.
I tasted seven wines with Gerhard.
First up was a Petillant Naturel (“Pet-Nat”) wine comprised of six different grapes – Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Muller Thurgau, Welschriesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Gris.3 Whole-bunch pressing with no additional sulfur led to a fresh, crisp easy-drinking wine with bursts of citrus and honeydew that is perfect for my Texas heat. I’ve been in love with Pet-Nat wines of late and this one certainly delivered.
2017 Dogma Rosé
2017 Dogma Rosé
The Dogma line is used for wines without added sulfur as well as no filtration or fining to produce a wine with as little influence as possible. Crafted of 100% spontaneously fermented Blaufränkisch the wine was surprisingly complex and mineral driven with strawberry, citrus, herbs, and great acid. Light-bodied and would pair with a number of dishes. This is made for more than just quaffing.
2017 Pinot Noir, Burgenland
2017 Pinot Noir, Burgenland
This entry-level Pinot from Pittnauer exhibited mushroom and earthy characteristics along with dark cherry and wild blackberry. There was a rusticity about the wine that lovers of an earthier style of Pinot will love. Medium plus acid along with mild tannins, this seemed almost Burgundian to me.
2016 St. Laurent, Dorflagen
St. Laurent, like Pinot Noir to which it’s often compared, can be tricky to grow given its sensitivity to the elements. And like Pinot, it is a high acid wine that doesn’t lose its acid even in warmer temps, which is part of the reason it thrives in the warm Burgenland climate without being flabby and unstructured. This one had a herbaceous and earthy, savory quality accompanied by subtle cherry and spice in the background. Fresh fruit accompanied by lively acidity, it was smooth and silky with great depth that lingers.
2015 Pannobile, Burgenland
2015 Pannobile, Burgenland
As I did with Judith Beck and Paul Achs,4 tasted the Pittnauer Pannobile wine. The Pittnauer Pannobile wine was a blend of Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt, with no St. Laurent this time around. Even without the addition of the St. Laurent, this one showed a nice level of refreshing acidity along with fleshy red berry fruit, earthiness, vanilla, and smooth tannins. As Gerhard emphasized, the idea of the Pannobile wine is to use the best fruit from the best sites and this was indeed a fine sip.
2010 Blaufränkisch Ungerberg
2010 Blaufränkisch Ungerberg
The Ungerberg Vineyard, which is part of the Parndorfer Platte,5 is regarded as one of the premier sites in the area. With a little bottle age, this one had settled in and was a joy to drink. I don’t know what it was like in its youth, but it seemed to have found its prime with a few years in the bottle. Gerhard shared that this was wife, Brigette’s, all time favorite and I can certainly see why. The fruit for this one is sourced from the single vineyard Ungerberg. This vineyard, with its higher clay content provided a wine that exhibited great structure with cinnamon spice, cherry, and plum. A nice balance between the juicy fruit and the fine tannins and still present acidity.
2008 Altenberg Reserve
To keep me on my toes, Gerhard whipped out this beauty to cap off our tasting. Like the Blaufränkisch, this one comes from one of the prime vineyards on the Parndorfer Platte. Crafted of an unexpected 100% Merlot from the famed Altenberg vineyard, and from what he says was a terrible vintage, a great deal of work went into picking out the best individual grapes and still crafting a delicious wine. This was an excellent example of how a prime vineyard can produce quality fruit even in a down year.
The Tasty Bites
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tasty bites prepared by Gerhard. Talk about a jack of all trades! So Gerhard is a bit of a foodie and had absolutely the best nibbles with the wine. This smoked eel was the business!
He also prepared some tasty traditional Verhackert which is a spread of minced pork and other seasonings. The ingredients are pressed together into a spread and served served cold with bread. Tasty!
Traditional Austrian Verhackert
Pittnauer exports about 40% of its wines with a significant amount going to Australia as well as the USA. Tastings are available by appointment.
After visiting and tasting with Judith Beck, next up was a tasting with Paul Achs. Man oh man, I’m so happy I included Weingut Paul Achs in my Burgenland winetasting lineup! Tasting with Paul was quite a treat! 1
Considered one of the premier winemakers in Austria and a master of Blaufränkisch, Paul Achs cut his teeth in California, as well as a few other places, before joining the family winery in Gols as winemaker in 1991. He transformed the winery from primarily white wine to red wine production in the 1990s and has been instrumental in forming a number of grower associations to raise the profile of the region’s wines. Paul was previously named “Vintner of the Year” by Falstaff2 Using biodynamic viticultural practices, his wines showcase the elegance and beauty of the reds from the region. In addition to the predominant 90% red wine production, Paul produces a small amount of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. He is without a doubt a master of his winemaking craft, but lets nature and the vineyard take the lead and sees himself more as lending expression to what he is given.
Vineyards on the Parndorfer Platte Near Lake Neusiedlersee, Courtesy of Weingut Paul Achs
And while the wines were fabulous (it’s coming) I LOVED that fact that my wines were poured by Paul’s 8-yr old son. This was reminiscent of the family theme that really highlighted my Burgenland visit. This is seriously why I love wine (other than the obvious). My Thing 2 (love him!) would have had all of the bottles on the floor! But Paul’s son (of course) was a natural.
I was privileged to taste five wines with Paul.
2017 Chardonnay, Burgenland
2017 Paul Achs Chardonnay
We began our tasting with a Chardonnay. Chardonnay has been grown in Burgenland for over 600 years having been brought to the region by monks (similar to Burgundy). Paul’s Chardonnay is grown in gravelly soils mixed with limestone. Fermentation is in stainless steel with aging in large wooden casks. As 2017 was a warm year, the fruit was harvested early to maintain acidity as well as keep alcohol levels low. The result was a medium to full bodied wine full of minerality, zesty citrus, and bright acidity. A beautiful balance of roundness and acidity.
2017 Blaufränkisch, Heideboden, Burgenland
2017 Paul Achs Blaufränkisch, Heideboden
Next up was a Blaufränkisch. Hailing from Heideboden, this is considered to be Paul’s entry level Blaufränkisch. The Heideboden vineyard is located in a flat, gravelly area and produces wines that are fresh and full of ripe red fruits. These wines are approachable early on and are easy drinking. Fermented in stainless steel and spending 6 months aging in wood, this one is a beautiful representation of fruit and elegance touched by a bit of spice. I imagine it would be a natural with Asian cuisine.
2016 Pinot Noir, Burgenland
Then in was time for a Pinot. Yah, I don’t know what I did with my Pinot photo! Made in a cooler, wetter vintage, this 2016 was full of mouth-watering acid. This wine definitely has some aging potential but drinking it that day, it was beautiful and sexy as hell.3 While many of Paul’s vineyards enjoy a coveted southern exposure, the vineyards for the Pinot Noir are planted on north and west facing slopes to maintain the elegance of the wines in the very warm Burgenland climate. And elegant it was with a depth of flavor and finesse that made you go back for more. Concentrated cherry and earthiness with a lengthy finish.
2015 Pannobile, Burgenland
2015 Paul Achs Pannobile
Paul Achs is a member of the Pannobile Wine Group,4 and this was his Pannobile wine for 2015. Each member of the Group selects a wine, which must be comprised solely of indigenous varieties, from their portfolio each year as a candidate to be considered as a Pannobile Wine.5 Crafted of 60% Blaufränkisch, 30% Zweigelt, and 10% St. Laurent this one showed structure from the Blau but also some softness from the Zweigelt. Aged in old barrels, the fruit was pronounced with some underlying spice and floral characteristics. I loved that each variety expressed itself in the wine.
2015 Blaufränkisch, Altenberg, Burgenland
The Altenberg Vineyard, which is part of the Parndorfer Platte,6 is regarded as one of the premier sites in the area. The Altenberg Blaufränkisch is only made in top vintages and I can attest to the greatness of this wine. Crafted from 25 year old vines in a combination of gravel and Muschelkalk limestone soil, the wine is fermented in stainless steel and spends about 18 months in a combination of new and used barriques. Lovely elegance along with great structure and complexity. It seriously made me swoon! Ripe fruit on the nose followed by spice, mineral, dark fruit and rich, integrated tannins. Wow! This one stayed with me and made my Most Memorable Wines of 2018 list.
Many of Paul’s wines are exported throughout Europe, parts of Asia, as well as the USA. Tastings are available at Weingut Paul Achs by appointment.
When in Austria, a trip to taste the juice of Burgenland is a must. I was going to try to compile all of the wineries I visited into one post but that just wouldn’t do it any justice. So I’ve decided to write about all of the wonderful winemakers I was privileged to visit and taste with.
The first winemaker1 I met with on my trip to Burgenland was Judith Beck who was actually on her way to holiday with her kids before coming back for an uncharacteristically early harvest.
Judith reminded me a bit of myself with her work life and kid life intertwined, but definitely rocking it all, kicking ass, and taking names. A member of the Pannobile Wine Group, Weingut Beck was established in 1976 and since 2007 has been run in accordance with biodynamic principles.2 The Pannobile Wine Group is a nine-member growers’ association located in Burgenland in the village of Gols whose purpose is to collaboratively set standards of excellence for the region. Even before converting to biodynamic farming, Judith’s parents practiced sustainable viticulture from the very beginning. Prior to taking over from her parents in 2004, Judith worked at wineries in Bordeaux, Piedmont, and Chile. She made her first vintage in 2001 before assuming full control of the winery three years later.
All of the action takes places in a modern winery complete with aging cellar in the town of Gols.
Weingut Judith Beck Courtesy of www.burgenland.info
With 18 hectares, the production is comprised of about 90% red varieties (Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, and Pinot Noir) with a small portion dedicated to white wine production. Whether red or white, the focus is squarely on creating wines with minimal intervention. While they don’t use the term “natural wine” this is pretty much what they produce. No commercial yeasts are used and the wines exhibit a natural purity.
Fermentation starts spontaneously in stainless steel tanks or in open wooden casks. Red varieties Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch are matured in large wooden barrels (1000 – 2000 liters) to emphasize the fruit characteristics of the grapes. St. Laurent, Pinot Noir, Blaufränkisch from Altenberg, and the Pannobile and Judith Cuvées are matured for 15-24 months in classic barriques and 500-liter-barrels as these tend to be more powerful, structured wines that benefit from small oak barrels.
I tasted four wines with Judith.
2016 Bambule Neuberger
2016 Bambule Neuberger
First up was a (new to me) wine called Neuberger. Neuberger, which is a cross between Sylvaner and Roter Veltliner, used to be quite an important grape for the region. It all but disappeared but has been making a resurgence of recent. This wine saw 10 days skin contact and was made with no additional sulfur. It spent 12 months on the lees in old barriques and was bottled unfiltered. Tart and soft all at once with a bit of stone fruit and funk, this is one of those wines I could dissect for hours. Aromatic, with a rich full body, this is quite a versatile wine that could pair with a number of dishes.
Produced with fruit grown on the plain, this was a fun, fresh and fruit driven wine. Fermented in stainless steel and spending about 8-10 months in barriques, this one showed great acid and a lower level of tannins along with fresh dark cherry and blackberries. A classic summer red that could be served slightly chilled due to its lower level of tannins.
2016 Blaufränkisch Bambule
2016 Blaufränkisch Bambule
A bit more tannic than its predecessor, this one underwent gentle whole berry fermentation similar to carbonic fermentation. With three weeks of maceration (no punch downs) this was quite the eloquent wine capped by seamless tannins. Blaufränkisch is one of those grapes that is quite dependent on its terroir3 so winemakers must be quite precise when picking. Spice, wild berries, and fine-grained tannins with a nice long finish made this one a joy to drink.
2015 Pannobile Wine Blend
2015 Pannobile Wine Blend
In addition to their own individual winery efforts, each member of the Pannobile Wine Group selects a wine from their portfolio each year as a candidate to be considered as a Pannobile Wine. A wine labeled ‘Pannobile’ may be either red or white and must be made from local, indigenous varieties4 for red Pannobile wines and from Pinot varieties or Neuberger for whites. Judith’s Pannobile wine is a blend of all three local red grape varieties coming in at 60% Blaufränkisch, 30% Zweigelt, and 10% St. Laurent. I love that you can taste the influence of all three varieties which provide power, fruit, and finesse. Produced in a good vintage year, the wine was sleek and powerful all at once with great structure, juicy fruit, and a lingering finish.
Tastings at Weingut Judith Beck are available by appointment.