Monday, September 28, 2009

Jury Duty ~ Hang ‘em High~!

so all flurry and fluster, getting back in the salad—I mean the saddle—

just returned from a week in Austria, where Helmut Knall of the Viennese publication Wine Times and Walter Tucek from the Österreichische Gastronomie Zeitung had invited me to sit on the jury blind-tasting the current release of red wines—

apart from too little time in Vienna (the tasting took place down on the Neusidlersee, at a resort hotel in Weiden am See)
this was very instructive and otherwise useful. Our jury was nine members from seven countries—in addition to three Austrians and me from the USA, we had an MW from England, an oenologue from Bordeaux, a journalist from Brussels, a Bavarian sommelier, and the buyer for the Swedish state monopoly. Good group, worked well together.

tasted nearly 300 wines in 4 days, all red mostly 07. The Zweigelts were mostly delicious and easy, the Blaufs took a bit of work, but showed great potential. St Laurent suffered from oak more often than not, as did the very modern Pinot Noirs. Cuvées were very successful, and there were a couple good cab/merlot concoctions. Out of 10 Syrahs, 10 were awful. Go fig.

scoring fairly severe all the way 'round. 20 points system, all blind. One (very expensive) wine that I sell barely got away with 16.5 from me, as I found out. That was funny. I gave out one 18 in four days, and plenty of 17 and 17.5—although I am not a scorer at heart. At least it was a departure from the foolish american 100 point system.

and how do you get through seventy heavy red wines in a day? well, a long lunch-break helps, and beer is very important as a restorative to the palate.

overall impression, they have made extraordinary progress there in the last seven years.

dined very well a couple times—I went out to Krems my first day for lunch with Fritz Miesbauer, and a long ramble through the vineyards at Stift Goettweig.
very good dinner with the Neumayer brothers at Restaurant Vincent in Vienna—the bigger 08s from this Trainsental estate have settled very nicely, their Weißburgunder vom Stein suffered horrible quantity losses from hail, but is clean as a whistle—a magnificent wine.

one problem Austria seems to be solving very well in the kitchen—unlike Germany who has not—is how do you allow your cuisine to develop with fashion, yet remain true to its origins.
and the local cuisine bourgeoise is something that I love very much. Lunch with Mister Miesbauer at Gasthaus Schickh in the town of Klein Wien included venison lungs with chanterelles and fresh greens—and a luncheon at Vargas in Gols provided me with my first taste of eel-liver (lots of garlic, smeared on bread)

great dinner with Roland Velich, his wife Dagmar, and Hannes Schuster at Gut Purbach on the west side of the lake. Here the cuisine was every bit as modern as one might wish, while in no way as international as one has come to fear.

although Austrian beer is almost invariably disappointing, my second-favourite fleatrap in Vienna is right down the street from the Siebenstern Brauerei, a brew-pub proving a welcome exception to this tiresome rule.

It was Kurbissaison, so pumpkin soup was everywhere and mostly delicious—especially at Gasthaus zur Witwe Bolte in the VIIth District in Vienna.

In Burgenland they'd already begun the harvest—I xchanged textmessages with Kracher but he was kneedeep in Zweigelt and couldn't tear away for an evening—and the jury paid a couple unnanounced calls on growers that were—in my opinion—better left alone. Gernot Heinrich gave us 45 minutes, which I thought was extraordinarily generous, Claus Preisinger showed us around for a quarter of an hour, and John Nittnaus told us not to bother to get out of the car... (Good for him~!)

nothing much doing in Vienna for music—Guys and Dolls at the Volksoper, but not on the right night. good Croatian restaurant, Konoba in the Lerchenfelderstraße, drinking Grasevina and Plavac my last evening...

other than a little anxiety over a tight connection at Heathrow (very careful about the connex that Expedia sells you in Europe—Heathrow and DeGaulle can prove quite miresome and tiresome) it was an easy trip and a pack of good lessons.

can rarely get enough of Vienna and environs these days...

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