From Historic Field Blends to Porch Pounders, a Review of Austrian Wines with Importer Carlo Huber

Posted July 29, 2016

Stacy Brody


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Carlo arrived just in time for our recent session of Wine Talk Wednesday. He sat in two hours of traffic at the Holland Tunnel - you tri-staters know what that's like - and, even after that mess, was able to jump right into his talk on Austrian wines.


It’s that type of passion that drives Carlo to find the top producers in Austria and bring them into a market dominated by California Cabernet and Chardonnay. Carlo started importing Austrian wines over 7 years ago. He grew up in Vienna with a father who was, admittedly, more of a wine lover than a wine geek. He grew up visiting the vineyards of Austria. Though he has lived in the United States for 25 years, he continues to visit Austrian estates and truly gets to know each producer in his portfolio.


We started off this installment of Wine Talk Wednesday with a bit of bubbly. Tinhof Sparkling Rose, a methode champenoise 100% Blaufrankisch from Burgenland. Blaufrankisch is a native Austrian red, the "blue grape of the Franks," if you break the long and somewhat intimidating name apart. Blaufrankisch thrives in Burgenland, a wine region east of Vienna, towards the Hungarian plains. Burgenland is a relatively warm region with an overall continental climate and a slight moderating influence from the nearby lake Neusiedlersee. In plain terms, Burgenland has warm enough summers to ripen red grapes, so it’s a great spot for Blaufrankisch.


The Tinhof Sparkling Rose is a gorgeous wine crafted by an 11th generation winemaker using grapes from the 2013 vintage. Two thousand thirteen was a great year - the experts are debating which is the better vintage 2015 or 2013.


With our palates warmed up, we went totally old school with a Gemischter Satz. Don’t let the string of consonants intimidate you! Gemischter Satz, literally a “mixed set,” is a traditional white field blend made within the city limits of Vienna. This wine is a longstanding tradition for Vienna and has been recognized by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, which describes Gemischter Satz in their Presidia Handbook,

The Vienna Gemischter Satz Wines Presidium preserves an ancient technique that involves growing up to 20 different vines in the same vineyard, all white grapes. The individual vines are not at risk of extinction, but the technique, which involves cultivating them in the same vineyard and processing them together, is.


Many historic Viennese vineyards were planted when polyculture was common. Growers interplanted multiple varieties to hedge their bets. It’s that whole idea of not putting all your eggs in one basket. In traditional Viennese vineyards, you find Riesling next to Gruner Veltliner next to Pinot Blanc next to something else and so on and so on. According to current regulations, which were put in place to preserve tradition, Gemischter Satz must be made from grapes cultivated within city limits - Vienna is the only western city to have its own appellation - and from more than three different varieties. The grapes must all be harvested on the same day.


Which leads to an interesting discussion about harvest decisions. The winemaker must choose the best day for harvest. Some grapes will be underripe, others overripe and some "just right" ripe. The blend comes together in such a way to make a wine that is intriguing and constantly evolving.


We sampled the 2015 Weingut Christ Gemischter Satz. Gorgesouly aromatic, from the Riesling in the blend, then dry and tangy on the palate like the Gruner. And with each smell and each sip, it changed! This is a true wine geek’s wine, no two ways around that. It is one worth meditating over...or pairing with sushi, spicy Thai and, of course, Austrian fare.


Now time for the porch pounders. We know it’s hot out, so you have to have a few bottles of these wines - a bright Gruner Veltliner and a refreshing Zweigelt rose - in the fridge at all times. These come in 1-L bottles (so you get 33% more than a standard 750mL bottle) and are crowned with beer caps. The beer cap is a throwback to the post war period, during which there was no cork to be gotten but plenty of beer caps to be had. You used what was available. Besides you’d be serving the wine in short time to the guests at your wine tavern.


You’ll be downing these wines on your porch in no time flat. Carlo recommended mixing ⅔ Gruner with ⅓ soda water. Pour it over an ice cube and serve with a lemon slice. Super easy summer refreshment.


Even more than porch pounders, these wines will, in short time, become your house wines, just as they have long been the house wines for a little tavern in the Grinzig district of Vienna. As Carlo says, wine is all about stories.


Item: 95955


Retail: $15.99

$11.99 per btl

Item: 95956


Retail: $15.99

$11.99 per btl

Item: 96233

750 mL

Retail: $25.99

$19.98 per btl

Product Label.

Weingut Christ Gemischter Satz

91 Wine Enthusiast

Item: 96248

750 mL

Retail: $29.99

$22.98 per btl