A month long Heurigen (wine feast) : The Austrian Wine Festival

‘Bottled poetry’ said Robert Louis Stevenson of wine; and in Singapore, an annual event and a month long festival celebrates the sparkling, sweet, red and white poetry of  Austria, introducing new wines from an old world.

Diversity, individuality and character describe the magic and the excitement of wines from Austria, and the Austrian Wine Festival is the chance to discover how perfectly Austria’s ‘liquid gold’ – elegant, aromatic, crisp and versatile – complements food and cuisines from around the world.

Taste, experiment, savour, discover

In the biggest restaurant-affiliated promotion outside Austria, participating restaurants feature an extravagant variety of wine –  reds, whites and dessert wines, stunning in character and of a superb quality – from a number of premium Austrian wineries.

Adventure lies at the heart of this wine-and-food-feast.

Discover why a Gruner Veltliner Dechant Alte Reben Kamptal Res 2008 – for example – is the perfect choice with your steamed cod fish in a Chinese herbal broth. Whatever the cuisine – local, regional, Continental European, Mediterranean, Asian, Ethnic or Fusion – there will be a wine discovery to surprise and delight (some wines making their first appearance in Singapore).

 The DNA of Austria’s ‘Liquid Gold’

Austrian wines – classic dry, fruit driven versions, full-bodied Reserves, sparkling, rosé, off-dry and noble sweet wines – are famed for their variety and individuality mainly because of the small, artisanal nature of the wineries, almost all of which are family businesses. Wine, for Austrian vintners, is a creative enterprise that showcases their personal philosophies. The process therefore is almost art, personalised, detail-oriented, sui generis. Large wine estates (internationally understood as being over 200 hectares) are rare in Austria, and half the operative ones are over 5 hectares in size and highly competitive in the export markets.

In addition to personal philosophy, the wines represent a range of terroirs – climate, soil and topography – from the lush valleys of the Wachau and the Danube to the Arcadian hillsides of Steiermark and the shores of Lake Neusiedl. The wine growing regions (largely in the east and south-east) produce average harvest yields of around 2.5 million hectolitres of wine. There are the indigenous grape varieties – the flagship Grüner Veltliner, the rare Zierfandler and the seductive Zweiglet and the Blaufrankisch (for starters). Currently, over thirty varieties of grape are admissible for production but the wines, like most European wines, are named by appellation (geographical areas) rather than grape varietal.

Austrians consume about three-quarters of the wine they produce; the average person supposedly quaffing off 33 litres a year. Which is why, Austrian wine, outside Austria, is not that freely available and usually not stocked in Singapore’s supermarkets.

The ‘bottled poetry’ of RL Stevenson   

Austria is globally acclaimed for its classic dry whites made from Riesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes. The latter, abundantly grown, yields a distinctive wine with an eloquent bouquet, a unique peppery tang and a ‘mineral finish’; it is easily paired with food and matures with age. Other popular white grape varieties are the Weissburgunder or the Pinot Blanc (gently aromatic, dry) and the Welschriesling (no relation to the Riesling and sold both as a fresh fruity dry white and a sweet white).
Austrian red wines are up there alongside the more famous whites. The indigenous Zwiegelt, Blaufränkisch and Blauer Portugieser are distinctive, full of character and personality, resulting in fashionable, elegant, medium to full-bodied reds that are available in premier restaurants around the world. Austrian sweet wines have been variously described as sensational, luscious, decadent and outstanding. The first sweet wine, the first Trockenbeerenauslese, was produced in 1526. The sweet and dessert wines, cuvées and ice wines benefit from Austria’s special microclimates which favour botrytis or the ‘noble rot’- the fungus which shrinks the grape, and produces concentrated sugar, acidity and extract.

Austrian wines have received international acclaim over the last few years, especially after a number of blind tastings where top sommeliers, international wine journalists and restaurateurs ranked Grüner Veltliners above the favoured French wines (especially white Burgundies). Austrian Pinot Noirs more than hold their own at international blind tastings; in 2010 in Singapore, 12 Austrian Pinot Noirs made it to the top 20 amongst the 34 international wines sampled. Austrian wines feature in the wine lists of prestigious restaurants owned by top chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Charlie Trotter, Alain Ducasse and Wolfgang Puck.

In Singapore, wines, events, pairing 
For oenophiles and aficionados, a selection of house pours and tasting sets, wine dinners and wine fairs fill the month; participating restaurants offering wines by the bottle and by the glass.

Roger Scruton in I Drink, therefore I Am, notes that wine is not just an object of pleasure, but an object of knowledge; and the pleasure depends on the knowledge.

Discover both the knowledge and the pleasure, the high notes and grace notes in this very different Austrian experience – not Mozart, Schubert, Strauss or even Maria von Trapp, not lederhosen or apple strudel – this is the Austria of hot, warm summers, cool, long ripening fall days, aroma and piquancy, sunshine in bottles, Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling.

Photographs from http://www.everydaysingapore.com/austrian-wine-festival-2012/ and Sixth Sense Communications & PR Consultancy.

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