City Limits – Vienna’s Vineyards
Through the Grapevine: Jun. 2012
Mayer am Pfarrplatz, where Beethoven resided | Photo: Rotes Haus
The Edelmoser Heuriger in the 23rd District | Photo: Raphaela Pröll
The tasting room at Weingut Cobenzl | Photo: Weingut Cobenzl
Boundaries can be a blessing in an all-encompassing wine industry. Knowing that you have a finite set of variables with which to do your best can often lead to creativity, resilience, and a personal connection with your environment.
The 600-plus hectares of vineyard that lie in Vienna’s geographical confines have, since the middle ages, slowly developed from the underground wine tavern industry into an enviable and beautifully balanced offering of quality Heuriger and Weinguter, that have honed their skills into producing world-class, site-specific wines of cult status.
No matter how many voices push and praise the virtues of Austria’s flagship varieties, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and its indigenous reds, the star and indelible performer of Vienna’s vineyards is the ubiquitous Gemischter Satz. This “field blend” is more an epiphany than a product. It defines each producer that makes it, a sort of unofficial brand statement of philosophy, style and quality.
As a response to the vagaries of climate, single vineyards were planted with several, if not more, white grape varieties, which would be grown, cultivated, harvested, and vinified together, so that a wine of consistent expression could be offered each vintage. Today, producers from top to bottom, have perfected this equation, often focusing on a painter’s pallet of main varietals intermixed with more obscure ones in an effort to differentiate and position their Gemischter Satz into stylistic hierarchies.
The sought-after Bisamberg vineyard, north of the Danube, is where Weingut Christ and their 400-year-old family tradition in Jedlersdorf have focused their respect and understanding of an appellation accustomed to a warm, dry exposure and loose sandy soils.
The Christ entry-level 2011 Wiener Gemischter Satz (€7.50) is a ridiculously good value. Refreshing, zippy and mouth-puckeringly fresh, the passion/kiwi fruit-laden wine is one that can be pulled out in any situation and poured with head held high. It is with the 2011 Weisburgunder Der Vollmondwein (€11), however, that we see the philosophy and passion of oenologist Rainer Christ. The full, ripe palate of lively, lifted pears and red apples underlined with a granitic acidity is a wine that you could lose yourself in, but that you can also let loose on a plate of crustaceans with melted citrus butter (www.weingut-christ.at).
Michael Edlmoser and his family’s Heuriger out in the 23rd District, has shaped the expression of wines into an eclectic list. The 2011 Maurerberg Gemischter Satz (€14) is an intense, full-bodied wine of tropical fruits, lime, and a pleasing sherbet-textured palate, leaving wisps of mint and thyme long after the glass is emptied. In contrast, the sublime 2010 Dorflage Gemischter Satz is full of scented spring flowers, honeysuckle, apricots and rose petals, and a developed palate of asparagus and minerals, resultant from the wine spending time on its yeast cells prior to bottling. Of note also is the 2006 St. Laurent Grand Reserve (€28.00), with its elegant, lifted forest floor berries, fine structure, and mouth-filling offering of black cherries, rosemary and violets (www.edlmoser.com).
And finally, to the renowned 19th District. In what seems like a “two-page read of the novel, no need to sit tram trip from downtown”, the growing areas of Grinzing, Sievering, Heiligenstadt, and the famous Nussberg vineyards, are within eye contact of many corporate high-rises. There is something devilishly cheeky about knowing you can forgo the daytime hustle and bustle of a lunchtime crowd, and instead drive 15 minutes to have the sun and vineyards stroking your back, as a cold plate of delicacies is presented with a chilled glass of wine.
Mayer Am Pfarrplatz has been a mirror on the traditional Heuriger scene since 1683, and with Beethoven having lived in the Pfarrplatz house in 1817, one could understand their finely tuned and carefully crafted wines. With an enviable selection of sights within the Nussberg vineyards, the 2011 Rote Haus Gemischter Satz am Nussberg (€9.90) is rounded, full and ripe, with tropical, citrus overtones and an exotic floral scent that intoxicates and lightens the mood. A stone’s throw away comes the 2011 Mayer Riesling Nussberg (€17.90) with its chalky limestone freshness, stone fruits such as nectarine and peach, and a nice mid-palate weight that lends itself to oysters on the bay in summer (www.pfarrplatz.at).
Also in the 19th, but situated high on the hill overlooking all concerned is Weingut Cobenzl. Owned by the City of Vienna, the winery has had a renaissance of sorts under the guidance of Thomas Podsednik and young gun cellar-master Georg Königsbauer, resulting in a selection that is both refined and focused. At a mere €5.20, the 2011 Wiener Gemischter Satz Classic should be a constant stock item within arm’s reach of everyone, as the generous fruit bowl of flavours and fresh, clean acidity makes this a pleasure to drink at any time of the day. The 2011 Weisburgunder Senator (€8.50) is a well-balanced wine with ripe pears, nettle, spring flowers, mid palate presence, all held up by a beautiful mineral acidity. And finally to one of my favorite wine experiences of the tour, the 2007 Pinot Noir Bellevue Reserve (€16). Respected Burgundian producers to the East charging €30 for decent vineyard Pinots should hang their heads low when presented with this wine: Intense dark cherries, anise, hints of earth, spice and game meld seamlessly with the cedary oak. For a 5-year-old wine, it is still a song of youth, but could develop into an Aria over the coming few years (www.weingutcobenzl.at).
The opportunity to experience good wine in view of its source should not be taken for granted. Our moments with physical nature are fewer and fewer in today’s world. The vineyards, Heuriger and Weinguter that protect Vienna’s psyche from urban overload should be celebrated. But above all, they should be visited as a way to balance our own lives, and to find the perfect Gemischter Satz.