Friday, June 13, 2008

Succulent Simplicity

—at the Gasthof zum Goldenen Anker, in the town of Hainburg an der Donau...

on the Austrian roadmap, the letters adD do not have anything to do with attention deficit, or any other sort of disorderly conduct, but rather constitute an abbreviation for “an der Donau”—‘on the Danube.’

and so is Hainburg in fact on the Danube, and not too far from Bratislava, which the German-speakers call Preßburg. The wine-region is called Carnuntum, and in addition to grapes boasts a lovely collection of old Roman stonework, fallen into disrepair.

main course at dinner was a Gulasch paprikas made from veal, organically sourced from an affiliated farm down in Kärnten—that got washed down with some very yummy Blaufränkisch, a 06er from the local wine estate Riedmüller.

That was nice, but the real highlight was the Spargelsalat which preceded it. This was thinly-lengthwise-sliced white asparagus reinforced with a couple green tips, a bit of Feldsalat, a couple cherry-tomatoes and basil leaves. It was very lightly and conservatively dressed, balsamico with pumpkinseed oil—but underneath the surface lurked a couple morrels—reconstituted or fresh, didn't ask...

this dish was simply heavenly with a piece of good bread and a simple but delicious white wine:
2007 Welschriesling from Weingut A.u H. Edelmann in Göttlesbrunn... crystal clear, pretty and tart, with good body and nice fruit.

nb the one attempt I've made at selling Welschriesling in NYC was a resounding flop, which probably had more to do with the exchange rate and pricing than it did with the quality of the wine. So I guess I just drink it in Austria...

and this is not the first time I’ve enjoyed the combination of asparagus and morrels in Austria; ten years ago such a pairing proved the highlight of an expensive but otherwise disappointing dinner at the 3 Husaren in Vienna...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

well fed, good bottle...

...and had an excellent dinner one night in Vienna, at an old favourite. Ever since I have been regularly visiting this imperial and royal city, I have stayed in the same little fleatrap situated some hundred steps off Lerchenfelder Straße, where the Seventh District meets the Eighth. And over the years I have evolved a set of favourite restaurants, all within a five-minute walk. One of these is called Kristian’s Monastiri, and it’s well worth a look for anybody spending time in Vienna.

I dined that evening on a single bottle of wine, which was a Winzersekt: Gelber Muskateller, from Tschermonegg, in Südsteiermark, and it was a lovely bottle.
pretty deep yellow with emerald overtones, spicy and aromatic... grapefruit and pear, bits of lemonpeel; very pleasantly juicy and bracingly dry, with flattering citrussy finish aromatix—39€
... this wine comes from the village of Glanz, and is it then a coincidence that glänzend is the german word for “brilliant”?
the dinner I chose to go with was 1. Cream of olive soup (beautifully balanced between the sweet and the piquant, with a bit of diced tomato garnish—don't try this at home!) 2. an Asparagus-tip barley risotto 3. Octopus roasted with bits of marinated radish, arucola and a bread/tomato salad. This made three-for-three, and was especially a really good hunk of pulpo.

dessert was a Montecristo #3. quite nice...

Monday, June 9, 2008

learning to love the Wein/4

Wein/4 is the way that the Cleverers in Austrian publshing write “Weinviertel”. Wein is wine, and Viertel is a quarter, so it's only poetic that a quarter of the wine in Austria comes from this neck of the woods. (Slow down, boy, the neck of the woods is actually the Wald/4, which is adjacent to the Wein/4...)

Being on more than one occasion impressed with the Hofer Litre Grüner Veltliner, I asked Mr Theise if in fact he had found all the good GV in the Wein/4 that was waiting there to be found, and Terry replied, of course not...

So after spending a couple half hours on the Wein/4 when I was at Prowein in Düsseldorf back in March, I went to spend a couple half days in the Wein/4 itself when I was in Austria last week. Where I rode the Skoda up to Retz and over past Falkenstein to Poysdorf, and enjoyed lovely scenery all the way ‘round.

Stopped for lunch in Retz, and was fed a truly delicious cream of garlic soup at the Schloss Gasthof, accompanied by a GV that nearly took the tarpaper off the roof of my mouth. It was like one of those GVs that you used to get in the cheap taverns in Grinzing back in the 20th century... It wasn’t until after I returned to the US that I remember what Hofmannsthal had written in his libretto to Richard Strauss’s great opera Der Rosenkavalier: “sharf und herb wie ein Retzer Wein”. This one was most certainly tangy and tart, just like Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau advertises... The very lovely and flavourful Rehbraten which followed along with its attendant Preiselbeeren and Knödel—which reminded me of favourite meals in Bavaria—deserved a really good glass of Zweigelt, which it got.

Spent the night at the Black Horse Hotel in Poysdorf, where I had a lovely walk around the place, and happened around dinnertime into a Heuriger called the Veltlinerhof. And found there really lovely GV, both the WeinviertelDAC version, and an old-vine cuvée with a little more residual sugar. Typical pub-grub in this tavern, but there followed a delicious glass of Blauburger. Which is not Blauburgunder, but yet another of those unique Austrian varieties which Doktor Zweigelt midwifed into the world, just a bare year after he crafted that variety for which we praise his name...

Inhaber/Winzer Wolfgang Rieder turned out to be a truly delightful individual, and spent nearly two hours with me the next morning, showing me around the neighbourhood, all the way up to the Czech border—the way of the vineyards and the lay of the land.

next day in Vienna at the fair, I ran into many American acquaintances, including Erin Grace and Seth Allen... mentioned to S that I had just been to the Wein/4, and he wished to know why I was determined to punish myself... Erin was prodding him to at least taste the wines from this region being shown at the fair, him reluctant. says I: “Well, think of it like Communist China. If Nixon could go to Peking in 1972, you can go to the Wein/4. It’s like RMN acknowledging that a quarter of the people in the world existed. Your visit alone would confirm the reality that a quarter of the vineyard-land in Austria actually produces wine. ” Mr Allen’s studied comment involved a caricature of that embarrassed president, which I shall leave to the reader's imagination.

a quick look at VieVinum

glad to be back in Vienna once more, yet another beautifully run wine-fair, couple things to report:
1. Lower Austria whites quite lovely in 07. Perhaps more manageable for some folks than the previous year...
2. Burgenland reds from 06 could be quite impressive.
3. The people who typically make great wine made great wine. Not everybody.
4. What impressed me most:
a) I’m not always the first to reach for Austrian riesling. I seem to like the grüner veltliner better more consistently. But, there was a collection of three 07er rieslings from Weingut Rainer Wess that was exceptional, the first being Kremstal and the others Wachau:
2007 Rainer Wess Riesling Pfaffenberg
2007 Rainer Wess Riesling Loibenberg
2007 Rainer Wess Riesling Achleiten

This is the fifth vintage from Rainer, and the Achleiten is new for 07—very articulate, and resplendently mineral.
b) 1999 Nußberg Gemischter Satz from Fritz Wieninger.
this from the finest vineyard in Vienna, bottled by the
primus unter pares of Viennese Winzer... FW’s patch of Nußberg is planted to some eight or nine varieties—which are all harvested together. This way the early-ripeners provided the oomph and the latelovelies bring the pizazz. This bottle was bright and vivacious, with just a hint of Firne. I remarked to Fritz that 1999 had in fact been for him a fine vintage. Danube had, in fact, just got done guzzling the last few cases of his ’99er Blauburgunder, apparently not caring that Pierre Rovani had blessed it with some 73 points upon release... Fritz’s 2006 Gemischter Satz Rosengartl was nothing short of spectacular.