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Making Austrian wine cool again – without the use of engine coolant!

It seems that everyone has quickly forgotten about the horse meat lasagne scandal of recent times, yet the Austrian anti-freeze antics of 1985 have tainted the reputation of Austrian wine to this day. Whilst no reported incidents came from these wines, it caused a near collapse of the Austrian wine market, as sales plummeted as far as 90%. Over 30 years later and people still bring it up as they browse the Gruner Veltliners, despite stringent additive rules being brought in across Europe.

Fortunately, Austrian wine has massively upped its game, and you'll now find world-class Rieslings, peppery Gruners and a range of excellent reds at a pretty accessible price! Think about it, it’s no accident that the capital of Austria is Wien in German, which is an anagram of Wein….meaning wine! Clever stuff. Even though potentially deadly chemicals have (thankfully) been banned from appearing in wine, we at Buon Vino know that there are still plenty of undesirable compounds that are still allowed to go into the bottle. Luckily for us, there is a band of Austrian winemakers, who in the face of scandal, have eschewed additives entirely!

Martin & Anna Arndorfer, Kamptal

Martin and Anna have a fantastic estate in the Kamptal region, northern Austria. They believe that the key to success is to bring ‘life and balance’ to the vineyard, and so promote a healthy ecosystem in the vineyard. This means they can avoid the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer which would affect this delicate balance. Many of their wines are unfiltered and made without sulphur. Their handcrafted Gruner Veltliner is delicious – floral and spicy with hints of white pepper. Simply great with sushi! They also have a separate joint venture solely devoted to the very fashionable Pet Nat, also made without intervention (bottled under the name Fuchs Une Hase). These single fermentation sparkling wines are delicious. Light, aromatic and subtly herbaceous.

Judith Beck, Burgenland

Judith talks us through one of her wines at our shop here in Settle

We’ve featured Judith Beck quite heavily recently, because she’s great. She has a range of lively reds, bursting with cherries and supple fruits, and her delicate, off-dry Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) is one of our absolute favourite wines in the price bracket. We particularly love her St Laurent, which is unsulphured and a bit wild, but shows lovely raspberry characteristics, warm spice and supple tannins. Think of it as the wild cousin of Pinot Noir – where Pinot Noir is enjoying afternoon tea, St Laurent is at a festival, but they always know what to get each other for Christmas! Judith’s Biodynamic estate is located in the East of Austria, by the shores of Lake Neusiedl.

Gut Oggau, Burgenland

Gut Oggau is also in the Burgenland, and produces truly characterful wines. So much so that an artist has created a family tree to represent their range of wines. The younger generations offer fresh and lively wines, whilst the parents and grandparents offer something more serious and complex. It’s a novel but effective way to present their range, especially when grapes such as Roesler and Blaufrankisch don’t often mean much to a foreign buyer, though take it from us, these wines are absolutely world class, and I would reach for them over an Gut Oggau is a fascinating and sought after Biodynamic estate whose wines are found in Michelin restaurants all over the world.

So if you are yet to sample some recent Austrian wine delights, we hope that this has piqued your interest enough to give them a go. You won’t be disappointed