A wonderful diverse world of wines
The opportunity to taste wines form different parts of the world of wine is too much to resist for any Oenophile, especially in India where the choices available are normally very limited even in the best of gourmet restaurants and wine bars. Justifying the day-light-robbery which was my exorbitant last minute ticket deal more as an investment in keeping my palate finely tuned, I promptly booked my ticket for Mumbai.
Visitors to Taste 2010 – held in Mumbai were able to sample and visit representations from around the wine world. The opportunity of coming face-to-face with the wines of Austria is a novelty in most parts of the world, but to have the delectable providence of being able to encounter them here in India was unique. The Indian imported wine segment is dominated by the French, Italian and New world wines which are aggressively promoted, becoming synonymous with geographies that Indian consumers consider wine countries. But so many more gems exist, waiting to be rediscovered – such as Austria! The vibrancy of the Austrian wine industry is in no doubt – as it is wonderfully reflected in its wines.
For the Austrian wine industry, 1985 was a big year when a minor scandal involving a few unscrupulous growers and distributors broke out. These rather dodgy fellows were caught illegally adding diethylene glycol to their wines, allegedly to improve the palate weight. The international public focus on its wine industry inspired the Government and industry to alter attitudes in the country, forcing an upgrade of industry standards. The change was dramatic and the Austrian wine industry is now known for its impeccable standards and for its spirit of openness to stylistic experimentation not dissimilar to that of the new world vignerons.
Wine growing in Austria is mainly concentrated around the beautiful city of Vienna and Wachau valley in the East, with plantings in the South known as the Greater Steiermark and Burgenland regions. In Mumbai, I had the pleasure of tasting wines from the Traisental, Kamptal and Steiermark regions.
The Gruner Veltliner (pronounced as Grewn-air Felt-lean-air) Austria’s dominant white grape variety was showcased in styles ranging from fresh, fruity, floral, easy drinking to the more complex ones displaying layered aromatics with elegant structures and textured palates. The wines tasted were excellent expressions of differences in soils, winemaking practices and above all a willingness to experiment with styles.
The Rieslings were engaging and showed good minerality, structure, balancing a fuller palate without being sweet.
With the Sauvignon Blanc, a willingness to experiment comes through but those who are expecting the aromatics to pop out of their glass like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; this region’s Savvy Blancs are definitively not going to provide that.
The other highlight of tasting for me was the Zweigelt, a relatively new kid on the block, which is a cross between the grape varieties of Blaufrankisch and St. Laurent, which was effected by Dr Zweigelt in 1922. This variety holds a position of prominence in Austria’s red wine portfolio. The wines typically are soft with a sweet cherry profile. The wines tasted reflected its reputation for easy approachability and clean appealing palates.
The Blaufrankisch, also known as the Lemberger in other parts of the world, in my tasting showed intense berry nose, a rich palate and soft tannins. These are indeed approachable and enjoyable wines. I have been told, however – that this grape can also produce some delicate and nuanced wines. Now, I have another wine to look forward to seek out in the future.
At the end of my few hours of tasting I walked away feeling sufficiently optimistic about the diversity of my wine world in India, as these wines do have a representation here. This write up is certainly not a plug for Austrian wines rather it is an attempt to exhort you to go out and experiment with your wine choices. For there is a marvellous diversity in the world of wines. You may quite rightfully ask how will you get this diversity in to your cellar or glass? Well, ask your local wine shop or supplier for it by name and chances are they may well oblige you. After all, this is the 21st century!!