December is Austria (Reds, actually)
Austrian wines may have been my gateway wine to being a wanna-be wine dork. Five or six years ago I remember reading an article about Austrian wines and how they were the next up and coming wine region. Austria had been growing grapes since our ancestors were riding dinosaurs but they had a little issue with putting anti-freeze in some wine exports that went to Germany back in the 1980's. Scandals ensued and the export market for Austrian wines collapsed.
So, that was bad for Austria, but in the long term it seems to have been a great event. The story goes that many small producers saw this as a chance to re-create their business. Crappy grapes were pulled and replaced with better quality grapes. Techniques were updated and the government began drafting stricter rules (I believe Austria now has some of the strictest wine production rules).
Oh, right. I was thinking about that today and realized I had forgotten why you would add anti-freeze (or Diethylene Glycol as the kids call it) to wine. I assumed it was done to allow you to use wine in your car (har), but it is a cheap and quick way to add sweetness to a wine and the German market pays a lot for their sweet wines.
Of course this extra sweetness can also kill people. Pros and cons.
But, back to me. Sometime in the early 2000's I had read an article about Austrian wines and found myself at the restaurant Grocery for dinner and saw an Austrian wine on the list and had to order it. I don't recall the producer, but it was Austria's star white grape Gruner Veltliner and I loved it. We had lamb that night. Not a perfect pairing, but was smitten by Gruner Veltliner.
GV pairs well with a lot of food and the the nose on the wine has this great collection of aromas: primarily white pepper and then floral and minerlality.
What we are drinking this month
Austria makes some beautiful Rieslings and Gruner Veltliners, but there are also a number of tasty reds. They make some Pinot Noir there but the most widely grown red grape is Zweigelt which is what I have been drinking a lot of recently. It's fun to say: Zweigelt! Honey, get me the Zweigelt!
I still don't have a nice summary about this wine as the three bottles I have had seem to differ stylistically quite a bit.
What I will say is this: they are easy drinking and very pleasant wines and pair well with food. In my mind they exist halfway between Pinot Noir and Gamay (the grape used in Beaujolais) with a little darkness and spice from Syrah.
That's Austria for now. More to come. If you run across any Austrian wines in your local shoppe, try them out.