2009 – The Great Austrian Red Wine Vintage

June 18-AWMB-redwine-2519.jpgIn the last decade or so Austrian white wines have taken the world by storm. First, with their signature white grape, Gruner Veltliner, famous for its refreshing minerality and peppery notes, beloved of sommeliers at the best restaurants around the world, followed closely by Austrian Riesling. Now we are beginning to hear increasingly about Austrian red wines, writes Reva K. Singh
Pictured: VieVinum 2012: Open tasting of Austria’s top 200 red wines 2009

Sommelier India introduced Indian wine lovers to Blaufränkisch, an iconic Austrian red grape in Issue 2 (April-May) 2012. (We also produced a leaflet on Indian cuisine paired with Austrian wines which is available FREE for anyone interested in discovering which wines go with which Indian dish (Email us at info@sommelierindia.com).
It comes as no surprise that Blaufränkisch along with wine produced from other red grape varietals, is beginning to make waves. Indeed, the improved quality of Austrian reds have made sommeliers and wine critics sit up and take note, as they move away from big, tannic, oaky wines towards a more refined style. Nor have these wines escaped the notice of wine lovers around the world. I would recommend them to Indian wine enthusiasts, too, many of whom have a penchant for reds.
2009 – An Outstanding Year for Red Wine
On June 1, a day before the official start of the VieVinum wine fair in Vienna, the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) organized a tasting of the 2009 vintage of red wines. There were 30 flights with close to 200 wines in all. The tasting was conducted in ideal conditions in one of the halls of the Great Redoutensaal of the Hofburg, Vienna’s imposing imperial palace.
Austria is a tiny country with a rich culture and long history of winemaking. After an unfortunate scandal in the 1980s over wine adulteration, the Austrian wine industry suffered a setback. However, since then, it has more than recovered its lost reputation through hard work, strict regulations and focussed marketing, like “a phoenix from the ashes”, as Willi Klinger, the indefatigable head of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, put it.
Following the success of its whites, red wine producers are now committed to producing superior quality red wines for export markets. A wide variety was presented for tasting across a spectrum of different wine producers and styles from native varietals such as Zweigelt, St Laurent and Blaufränkisch to Pinot Noir and the Cuvées or blended wines.
I had tasted other red wines and vinatges, of course, but never before had I experienced so many examples of a single vintage at a seated tasting such as this. The tasting was conducted without commentary so that members of the international wine press, sommeliers and importers could assess the wines’ quality without distraction.
JUne 18-row of glasses waiting to be filled with redwine-2689.jpgA row of empty wine glasses were ranged before us while Jung Sommeliers (or young sommeliers) moved swiftly and quietly to refill them according to the flight we wished to taste which was indicated by raising a card with the relevant number. Pictured: Empty glasses were quickly refilled during the tasting
The 2009, in the words of Willi Klinger, was “a monumental” vintage. Whatever the vagaries of the weather in the earlier part of the year, the “Indian summer” conditions that came later resulted in a concentration of fruit and colour with excellent extract sweetness, tannins and density. Austria’s “Great Red Wine Vintage” as it has been dubbed reflects the year it was born as much as the producers’ judicious harvesting combined with new developments in winery and cellar.
The 2009 is now in circulation and continues the lucky streak of the “No 9” series whereby all vintages since 1959 have produced good quality wines with structure, character, ripeness and piquancy. Following this extensive sampling, Peter Moser, author of “The Ultimate Austrian Wine Guide”, pronounced 2009 to be “one of the best red wine vintages bottled by Austrian winemakers in a long time”, producing quality that was “continuously and outstandingly high”. The wines are ready to drink so don’t delay in acquiring some as the volumes produced are not “monumental”, even though the quality is.
Increasing Red Wine Production
Over the last two decades, the proportion of red wines in Austria has doubled. Approximately one-third of Austria’s total vineyard area of 46,000 hectares
is planted with red varieties like Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent and Blauer Wildbacher..
Knowledge about viticulture and grape breeding has a long tradition in Austria. Highly regarded, Austria’s red varieties have been documented by the Federal Institute for Viticulture and Pomology at Klosterneuburg – the oldest wine-growing school in the world – and 13 have been classified for the production of quality wine.
With such an outstanding vintage as 2009, the profile of Austria’s elegant reds is bound to climb higher, with no efforts being spared by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Founded in 1986 to “promote the production and sales of quality wines”, the AWMB is a non-bureaucratic umbrella marketing organization that has been extraordinarily successful in promoting Austrian wine.

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