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The Bacchus Report: Austria's bet on quality

With the support of state institutions Austrian vintners are asserting themselves in the international field more and more. Consumers in the Czech Republic can now see this for themselves. The attack on the Czech market was being prepared long before the Czech Republic's EU accession.


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For a few years it seemed that Austrians were just wasting their money on exhibitions and targeted presentations in the Czech Republic. After all, Sauvignon, Tramín, Vlašský and Rýnský Rieslings, as well as Veltlínské zelené grapes do well in Moravia, too, and the Austrians essentially don't have any reds that aren't grown here. But at a tasting you can quickly recognize the main difference. It's not in the varietals - the grapes grow under comparable climatic conditions - it's in purity and quality. Additionally, after Czech accession to the EU the customs barriers were removed, and Austrian wines became more affordable.
The Austrians' advantage is that they've been making wine for generations and they've always had access to modern technologies. They also learned from a scandal, when a few irresponsible individuals adding anti-freeze to wines wrought crushing damage to the industry. The carefully cultivated grapes and their subsequent processing result in high quality. The qualitative ranking of Austrian wines is similar to that used in the Czech Republic.
Czech legislators found inspiration in Austria when they were drafting the law on wine. Wine attributes begin with cabinet (Kabinettwein), continue with a later harvest (Spätlese), selection (Auslese), bunch selection (Beerenauslese), and individual grape selection (Trockenbeerenauslese), to ice wine (Eiswein). In the Wachau area they use three additional categories: basic wines designated as Steinfeder, medium-class wines as Federspiel, and the finest and most expensive as Smaragd.
Austrian vineyards are planted in the narrow strip of land bordered by the Czech Republic, along the Hungarian border, to the border with Slovenia. The viniferous land is divided into four regions, the largest of which is Niederösterreich (30,688 hectares of vineyards), abutting Moravia, with the areas of Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal, Traisental, Donauland, Weinvirtel, Carnutum, and Thermenregion. The Burgenland region (16,030 hectares) includes the areas of Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland, and Südburgenland. The Steiermark region (3,668 hectares) includes the areas of Südoststeiermark, Südsteiermark, and Weststeiermark. The capital city of Vienna is a separate wine region (620 hectares). Unlike Moravia, where there are also already marked wine trails, you can actually taste and buy wines from individual cellars on the Austrian trails. Customers are valued there, and compared with the situation in Bohemia and Moravia, official control authorities - from public health to financial - are more accomodating towards their Austrian colleagues.

The author is the deputy editor-in-chief of Esquire magazine.



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WINE GUIDE

Riesling Weelfel 2004
Weingut Wimmer-Czerny, Fels am Wagram,
area Donauland
Characteristics: A nicely matured Riesling with an aroma of peaches and ripe apricots. Elegant, fresh, extractive, persistent flavor.
Importer: vladimir.bandouch@banimpex.cz
Price: 190 Kč (without VAT)

Sauvignon BlAnc Klassik 2004
Weingut Sattlerhof, area Steiermark
Characteristics: Fine, spicy aroma of nettles and elderberry flowers. Pleasantly fresh, mineral, balanced flavor that makes you want more.
Importer: vladimir.bandouch@banimpex.cz
Price: 250 Kč (without VAT)

St. Laurent (Svatovavřinecké) 2004
Tobias Fridrich, Stuhlrichtertal, Weidentsee, area Burgenland
Characteristics: This shows that very high-quality wine can be made from the blue varietal we know in this country. Dark red color, full body with fine tannins, and well-balanced flavor even when young.
Importer: L. C. Nicolas, Žatecká 3, P 1, tel.: 222 323 078
Price: 346 Kč (VAT included)

Tesoro 2003
Schloss Esterházy, Eiswenstadt,
area Neusiedlersee - Hügelland
Characteristics: A fine blend in the French style from the Bordeaux area made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir varietals, aged in new barrique barrels. The well-balanced aroma and flavor feature vanilla tones and sweet tannins.
Importer: ANPRO Bohemia, Štěpánská 9, P 1, tel.: 284 810 749
Price: 290 Kč (without VAT)
© The Prague Tribune, 2005
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