Wines from Vienna: The Art of the Unpredictable
With their vineyards overlooking the city and the influence of the Danube River, the Viennese continue with their age-old traditions, fermenting more than one variety at a time to propose a complex and deep blend.
The sensuous lines of painter Gustav Klimt trace the silhouette of an imperial, distinguished city that has remained virtually unaffected by occupations and wars. Vienna is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of its greatest artists with a retrospective at the Belvedere Museum that awakens our senses and portrays the denuded truth of a painter who loved and reinvented female beauty, creating new shapes in a scenario where one can easily be awestruck.
The Austrian capital exudes painting, music and wine.
In a landscape dominated by monumental constructions, cafés and restaurants, museums and art galleries, gardens and parks, tramways that run along a refined urban ring and carriages that take us back to aristocratic times, and where good life was often synonymous with excesses, the Vienna people park their latest German cars, take their well-trained pets for a walk, pedal along the hundreds of kilometers of bikeways and push the strollers of their future citizens.
During the Spring, an inviting season for youths to shed their coats as if they were posing for Klimt himself, the city blooms and toasts to a new beginning. Bar terraces, which sprawl around the imposing gothic cathedral, are filled with customers who haste to drink their Grüner Veltliner. The famous Sacher and Demel cafés, which fiercely compete for the best apple Strudel, receive legions of curious customers armed with forks and cameras. The restaurants of the new Viennese culinary scene like Vestibül located in the foyer of the Burgtheater or people’s theater open the asparagus season, dressing the spears with trendy textures and colors.
The only ones to suffer are ticket sellers who, dressed like Mozart, have to withstand the heat under their wigs.
In Vienna wine occupies the center stage. Wine glasses clearly outnumber beer mugs and pitchers. Winebars have replaced the traditional pubs called heurigers and mushroom everywhere in the city. Among them we can cite Zum Schwarzen Kameel, with its friendly service and wide selection of local wines; the classy Meinl’s Weinbar on Naglergasse; 3-Hacken-Magazine and its glorious selection of hams; the hidden treasure of Vis-à-vis on a narrow central street; the imposing cellar of Palais Coburg and its 60,000 bottles that include very rare European vintages; and the Wein & Co stores that have become hip bistros where wines from all continents can be appreciated.
Even wine-themed hotels have appeared, like the stylish Rathaus Wein&Design, where each room is a tribute to an Austrian winemaker. With the name on the door and a refrigerator with the most recent vintages, guests can taste the wines for free. upon uncorking Tement Pino T, a white blend made in the vineyards,
we enjoyed a sample of the enormous potential of this ancestral wine industry that updates itself in an effort to conquer new markets: vibrant and deep fruit with a marked acidity that goes beyond anything we have ever imagined.
A FRESH PERSONALITY
Vienna is not only the capital of Austria, but also a winegrowing region of over 700 hectares, of which 80% are planted to white varieties like Riesling, Weissburgunder, Grüner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc and Gelber Muskateller. In recent years, climate change and the need to balance the wine portfolio have led to the development of red varieties, particularly in Zweigelt and St. Laurent, which include Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah.
The moderate climate of the Pannonian Basin, which is sensually crossed by the Danube River, enables a cold- climate viticulture that is temperate enough to allow a wider range of varieties and even the implementation of biodynamic practices, a trend that has spread throughout the country, attracting new enthusiasts like the promising Fritz Wieninger, Stefan Hajszan and Jutta Kalchbrenner.
One Viennese tradition that has refused to die despite the furious arrival of monovarietals is the so-called Wiener Gemischter Satz or country blend. From the 19th century onwards, when high yields were the norm to cater to the high local consumption of nearly 100 liters per person per year, varieties like Riesling, Rotgipfler, Weissburgunder and Traminer were harvested and fermented at the same time to obtain a complex and unique blend. Thus, producers ensured a constant quality despite the changing climate conditions. This practice has been updated and perfected to maintain the powerful character of its wines.
in 2006, a number of leading winemakers and wineries came together under the WeinWein label to combine strengths and build an international presence. The group consists of Rainer Christ, Michael Edlmoser, Fritz Wieninger, Weingut Cobenzl and Mayer am Pfarrplattzand, who imposed on themselves a series of standards to preserve the tradition of the Wiener Gemischter Satz blend, which came into force in April 2011: 100% of the wine must come from Viennese vineyards planted to at least three different varieties whose fruit is harvested and processed at the same time, without any variety exceeding 50% or coming below 10% of the final blend.
Proof that Vienna inhabitants like to make their lives complicated.
In the winery of Mayer am Pfarrplattz, where Ludwig van Beethoven himself composed his 9th symphony in 1817, we uncorked some of the best bottles in the house, and paired them with tons of Schitzel and potato salad. “Beethoven was told that the allegedly warm climate of this region would possibly cure his deafness, but he was far from being our best customer,” jokes the winery’s winemaker Gerhard Lobner. The fact is that despite a mesoclimate moderated by the Danube influence and the 1.8 million inhabitants of the city, the wines are the children of cold.
Mayer am Pfarrplattz’s different lines offer a fresh and deep mouthfeel, elegance and firmness, especially those of the Rotes Haus project initiated by Hans Schmid in 2011, which combines the best grapes from a field of just 9 hectares.
An a particularly cold and cloudy day, with the city barely appearing in the horizon like a grayish impressionist painting, Lobner explains that Riesling grows very naturally and reaches great heights in the region. But the problem for the Viennese is, without doubt, Grüner Veltliner: a floral, rustic wine of arrogant acidity.
After a cold 2010, when Riesling ripened with exasperating parsimony, the winemaker witnessed one of the most unusual seasons of the last 15 years: 2011 was extraordinarily warm and atypical. For the first time ever Grüner Veltliner was harvested after Riesling. In some wines like Wiener Gemischter Satz Classic, he had to add some carbon dioxide in order not to betray the sparkling personality of Austrian wines.
“The vintage is always unpredictable,” he explains. “That is why we never go to the casino.”
No wonder why the people of Vienna prefer art.
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