Winewyse Press Articles

Top Quality Modern Wines Now Coming from Austria

Richard Esling - Monday, April 29, 2019
Top Quality Modern Wines Now Coming from Austria

Often forgotten amongst the wide range of wines from around the globe, which are available to us in the UK, the wines of Austria are now highly acclaimed both by wine experts and wine lovers all around the world. Crafted by new generation winemakers, using a combination of traditional artisan techniques and modern technology, the wines consistently demonstrate their quality and future potential in international blind tastings.

Gone are the days of low quality, bulk wines made with quantity in mind rather than quality. Long gone also is the scandal of the anti-freeze, which devastated the Austrian Wine industry and took over twenty years to recover. Modern Austrian wines have character and individuality and are building an international reputation for particularly good value.

The exceptional quality of its wines is due in no small part to the special geographical setting and the influence of climate. Situated on the same latitude as Burgundy, the vineyard area of Austria is much more centrally located in Europe, thus experiencing greater fluctuations of temperature. Warm sunny summer and autumn days are tempered by cool nights, effecting long, slow ripening of the grapes, perfect for high quality, aromatic wines, with great concentration of flavour.

The picturesque wine growing regions are mainly in the east of the country and are divided into several sub-regions. Wachau, Steiermark and Burgenland produce some of the top wines and many vineyards surround the capital, Vienna, itself. 36 different grape varieties are authorised for quality winemaking, including many international varieties such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. However, for me, the greatest interest is with the indigenous grape varieties. The white Grüner Veltliner is pre-eminent amongst these and has now established itself as one of the great white wines of the world.

Some interesting wines are also made from the native red varieties- Blaufrankisch, Sankt Laurent and particularly Zweigelt. Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt do particularly well in the ‘warm but cool’ climate of Austria, with is hills, mountains and varied soils. Taking a cue from this, these two varieties are being increasingly planted in New Zealand, where certain microclimates bear a striking resemblance to some in Austria.

Most supermarkets and virtually all wine specialists now stock at least one Grüner Veltliner and some the Zweigelt. Well worth tracking down as they are great food wines. Try to find a pure Zweigelt, since many on the market are blends with other varieties and consequently lose the concentrated cherry fruit of the pure varietal. Also worth looking out for, is the word ‘Ried’ on the label, which denotes a single vineyard wine as opposed to a blend, thus having far greater character, depth of flavour and individuality. 

The Benchmark for Bordeaux Wines

Richard Esling - Monday, April 22, 2019
The Benchmark for Bordeaux Wines

“Since 1840, we have developed a distinctive culture that can be defined as a special bond with the soil, team spirit, a love for the finer things and a quest for perfection”. Such are the words of Patrick Jestin, President of wine company Dourthe, which express the philosophy of one of the greatest Bordeaux wine companies in my view.

I have been travelling to the Bordeaux wine region for over 40 years, visiting the vineyards, tasting the wines and chatting to the producers. In the past few years, I have become a great fan of the wines produced by Dourthe, which sets the benchmark for the wines of Bordeaux, due to their passion for innovation and dedication to quality.

Number One Wine company in Bordeaux since 1987, it now owns no less than 9 chateaux, including Chateau Belgrave, a Grand Cru Classé from the Medoc and markets some first-class blends, both red and white, under the Dourthe No. 1 label, established some 30 years ago. The company has come a long way in the last nearly 180 years, since the hotelier Pierre Dourthe opened his wine merchant business in the city of Bordeaux. It now has a worldwide reputation for its prestigious range of exclusive wines, with thriving export markets in many countries around the globe, including the UK.

Indisputably a leader rather than a follower, the company decided to relocate from the city wine merchant area, to the heart of the Bordeaux vineyards in 1950, pioneering new techniques and vineyard strategies as part of the absolute quest for perfection. Precise Vineyard mapping ensures that strategic decisions regarding rootstocks, grape varieties, clones and viticultural practices are tailored specifically to each parcel of vines. Even the way in which the soil retains or evacuates water is precisely recorded in order to adapt the vineyard management accordingly.

Dourthe has developed close relationships with a number of vine growers throughout the region, selected for their particular terroirs. With rigorous monitoring of the finest blocks of vines, combined with meticulous attention to winemaking and maturation, Dourthe has developed a true mastery in producing and ageing fine wines. Different collections of wines have been developed in order to make authentic, high quality Bordeaux wines available to a wider consumer audience, giving typicity of region and sub-region and affordable prices. Such are the No. 1 wines, the Grande Cuvée and Terroirs d’exception ranges.

But being vine growers first and foremost, Dourthe manages more than 500 hectares of vines. Chateau Pey La Tour is a 176-hectare estate planted mainly with merlot grapes in the Bordeaux/Superieur appellation. This is a very affordable claret, rich, smooth and concentrated, with a quality level and reputation far beyond its appellation. £10.69 for the 2016 vintage from Waitrose.

La Terrasse de La Garde, is the second wine of Chateau La Garde from the gravelly Pessac-Leognan region. A delicate and elegant wine, with surprising depth of flavour and finesse and again great value at only £15 for the 2014 vintage at Sainsbury’s. One of the Dourthe flagships is a chateau with one of the longest names - Chateau Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac - a succulent and refined Grand Cru Saint Emilion. Made from 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc, it is a jewel in their crown, deep, concentrated, with fine tannins, balanced fruit and a long finish with a touch of spice. £23 from Sainsbury’s for the very good 2012 vintage.