2011 Austrian Vintage Report from our own James Wright
Stephan Schindler and I just visited Prowein, the international wine fair in Düsseldorf, Germany. And for some mysterious reason known best to the people who scheduled it, Prowein was held three weeks earlier than it was last year, and three weeks earlier than it will be held next year. So not only was there a biting wind coming down the Rhine instead of blooming daffodils and crocuses, but also there were far fewer finished wines and many more tank-samples. Of course it’s always a treat to go to the traditional restaurants like Das Ürige and zum Schiffchen and eat large plates of pork-knuckle with sauerkraut and drink the local dark beer, Alt, out of small glasses that are automatically replenished by a energetic squad of waiters. But this time we enjoyed some very good sushi; there’s a large Japanese community in the Rhein-Metropole, whose culinary proclivities are well-served.
And the wines from 2011? Well, certainly we got a good look at the vintage. One very welcome feature of Two-Eleven is that after the small quantities produced in 2009 and 2010, there are not only good wines in 2011, but enough of them to quench even this nation’s mighty thirst.
The year in Austria started off with a rather unkindly winter—we had one too, you may remember, not at all like the winter just concluded. There were localized cases of frost damage here and there, but when springtime arrived, it did so with punctuality and full flower. After a moody second half of June and most of July, everything dried out nicely and followed on to a warm and very sunny August. Good weather held through September until the second week of October, Old Wives’ Summer, by which time the harvest in Burgenland was mostly done.
Grüner Veltliners of the lighter sort profited from the weather in the form of a little extra richness, and though the grander types had to be careful about how they held their liquor, there was adequate acidity to grant balance to even the most opulent of them. Not as fat and voluptuous as the 2006ers, these Smaragd and Reserve wines will likely set a new standard for ageability and development potential.
And the Rieslings? Almost universally brilliant and crystal-clear, with an eloquence of expression that’s unusual for young examples of this greatest white variety.
The very early look at a few 2011 reds indicates that this vintage will show depth of fruit like the 2009s, but with structure comparable to 2006.
Noble sweet wines? The hardy few persisted in letting grapes hang, and were rewarded with 2011 Eisweins that were picked in February of 2012, powerful and concentrated…
To which I’ll add a couple notes specific to the wondrous world of winemongering—
1. the Rieslings from both Stift Goettweig and Malat are truly superb.
2. the Pinot Noir Rosé Messwein from Stift Goettweig is total charm with lovely depth.
3. very fine Veltliners from Ebner-Ebenauer; and not just the Elite Litre this year!
4. Zweigelts both ’10 and ’11 very expressive and forward from Feiler Artinger and Umathum
5. Moric 10 Blauf Mittelburgenland very much like the elegant 07er.
6. Högl entry level Rieslings and GVs all showing a bit extra.
7. Donabaum offered his best collection in a few years.
8. Hannes Schuster just keeps getting better. Look for the extraordinarily delicious Blaufränkisch 09, in addition to their customarily excellent Sankt Laurent.