LETTING THE GUARDS DOWN
Austria has been one of the world’s countries of the greatest triumph in modern decades. A guarded country in terms of quality and quantity measures, along with recovering its reputation from a scandalous event (more on that later). Today it has succeeded to take back its prominence and become a major player on the international market. It is most recognized for outstanding white wines made notably from Gruner Veltliner, given the nickname “Gru-Ve” ( we impatient Americans like to make acronyms out of anything). Also, it holds court for creating one of the most successful hybrid red grapes, Zweigelt, that has been widely praised for quality wine production. Remarkably, ⅓ of its output is made with indigenous red grapes such as Blaufränkisch and this wine from Zweigelt.
DRAFTING THE RED
Zweigelt is a deliberate Austrian hybrid, created in 1922 by Friedrich Zweigelt. The shameless name given by the professor is crossed between dear old Dad Blaufrankisch for his spirited acid and Mama St. Laurent, for her voluptuous fruit. It was so successful and highly regarded, it surpassed Blaufrankisch as the most widely planted red grape in Austria. The worldwide attention has matched Zweigelt into the big leagues of wines, such a rich Morgon Cru Beaujolais, a zesty Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir, and even a dusty Old Vine Zinfandel from California. Yet with success, even with this grape, comes its drawbacks.
FREEZING THE SCANDAL FROM SCORN
In 1985, Austria became a global crucified country. At the time Germany was it’s the largest importer producing more wine than for the country than it could imagine. That is until they were justifiably snitched on. Austrian exporters were diluting the wines destined for export with diethylene glycol, an agent used for antifreeze to give the wine sweetness. Damn, did anyone on the homefront thought of just adding sugar like most cold climate countries? This is a lawfully widely accepted practice for countries such as Austria, that can struggle with ripened grapes. It’s formally known as Chaptalization children, but I digress.
RISING FROM TYRANNY
There are 16 wine-producing regions in Austria. When wines are made according to “Wine Law” with approved grapes and production methods of the region, bottles can be labeled as a DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus. This means it assures the consumer the wine is made to strict specifications of the region. Where this wine is from, only Gruner Veltliner and Riesling are permitted for the DAC title. Red varieties are given the left cheek. Yet let’s be clear, there are producers that choose to buck the system and make wines however they choose. Bottles can only be labeled as “Table Wine”, and that’s ok with me because of this labeled “Table Wine” wine rocks!
Like Germany, it’s friendly (or not so trusting) neighbor to the northwest, Austrian nomenclature on wine bottles can leave consumers scratching their heads, like trying to find directions without a GPS. What I admired about this bottle, by looking at it, was that I was dealing with a producer who understands the wine market; KEEP IT SIMPLE, and just makes good juice.
Weingut Berger is in the northeastern part of the Kremstal district, in the township of enchanting Gedersdorf, in Niederösterreich, or Lower Austria. It is the country’s largest wine region bordering Slovakia and the Czech Republic, both geographically and in terms of production. The red wines are grown on the Gerersdorf plateau with gasping views of Grafenegg Castle (SIGH). The soils are rich and this gives the wines length, body, spice, and plump Luscious fruit.
Established in 1897, Berger Winery was not shaken by the drama of Austria’s past. Over generations, it is today survived by owner and winemakers Erich Berger and TV producer Eva Maria Berger. When life gives you grapes, then make great wine. In 2003 this trailblazing female winemaker, Eva, let her ancestors RIP (rest in peace). She transformed the organic/biodynamic family-owned estate winery, to produce one of the most sought after world-class wines in Austria.
BERGER 2015 ZWEIGELT
I’ll just get straight to the point with my review.
Deep ruby, with a fading color to the rim, slightly fuchsia and short on legs.
Intense with plump red berries, raspberries, sour cherries, sweet spices of cinnamon, red liquorice, perfumed with fresh violets lifted with a savory spicy kick and earthy dusty tones.
Dry, pronounce lively acid, ripe tannins, medium alcohol, medium body, zesty texture, medium flavors with fresh red fruit bruised red plum followed by sour red cherries, rhubarb compote, complemented by potpourri and sweet baking spices cocoa nibs, cinnamon bark, anis, crack peppercorns, with a crushed rock long juicy finish.
IIf I can say minimal descriptors for Berger Zweigelt 2015, is High Acid, Full Body, Packed With Flavor. Although it appears reductive, it isn’t. I opened the bottle, and after three days, it was still fresh and flirting on my palate. Who wouldn’t want to be flirted with?
JUST A SIDE NOTE
If you observe, the bottle is labeled ”Terry Theise Selection” with a registered trademark. Next time you are looking for this producer, the search may come up as Skurnik Wines. Skurnik Wines is a distinguished wine and spirits importer and distributor in the United States based in New York City. They represent over 500 brands focusing on the ONLY estate made selections. Maybe not so successful was the partnership that was formed in the ‘80s between Terry Theise and Micheal Skurnik founded the company. Apparently Terry Theise was the scout exclusively for wines in the countries of Champagne, Germany, and our featured bottle, Austria, and Skurnik Wines was the business side. As with any couple, no one really knows what goes behind closed doors, and relations have since been dissolved. Going forward, to clear any confusion, if you see Skurnik Wines on wine bottles, they are the licensed importers from these countries. A scandalous affair or not, I don’t care and neither does Berger Winery. What I am for certain, is Austrian wines have proven to achieve the admiration of wine lovers everywhere, including mine. Thank you Skurnik Wines for being a catalyst for imports like Berger Winery.
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