Ruster Ausbruch is a sweet dessert wine. But before we plunge into the whys and hows of the wine, let’s take a look at the name itself: “Ruster”, pronounced “Rooster”, simply means that it comes from the town of Rust (again, pronounced “Roost”) in the Burgenland region of Austria. “Ausbruch,” (pronounced “AHS-brook”) comes from the German word “Ausbrechen” which means to “break out.” In this context it refers to the method for selecting the grapes during harvest. That is, the grapes on the vine that are affected by noble rot, AKA botrytis cinerea, are the only ones picked from the bunch, or “broken out” of the bunch, when harvesting.
The quality of the final product depends upon how meticulously this selection process it is done. The simplest way involves taking two buckets and making one pass at the vines, roughly separating the merely ripe grapes from those affected by noble rot.
The more labor intensive way involves going through the vineyard day after day, up to a half-dozen times, and only picking the most perfectly noble-rotted grapes with each pass and leaving the rest on the vine until they reach perfection. Those affected by the lesser black or green molds are also picked but then discarded. With this method, even the most experienced picker will collect only about enough grapes to produce 20 liters of wine with each pass. In fact, winemaker Michael Wenzel tells us of a year when it took a team of 7 harvesters working full-time for 10 days to pick enough grapes for a mere 300 liters of this precious wine. This is rare stuff indeed!
Production then goes something like this: maceration generally takes between ½ and 2 days, depending upon the quality of the nobly rotted grapes. Then a gentle pressing, and the must is left to ferment until it reaches around 12% alcohol, which takes approximately four months. The wines are then aged in wooden casks or oak barrels, the length of time and type of barrel used depending upon the style of the vintner.
The most traditional blend of grapes used for making Ruster Ausbruch is Furmint and Muskateller, but you’ll find Rusters from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Neuburger, Traminer and Welschriesling as well.
As a bit of a history lesson, the first official record of Ausbruch wines comes from the communal register of the town of Weiden, which is on the opposite side of the Neusiedler Lake from Rust, and is dated 1617.
We are proud to offer six different Ruster Ausbruch wines, produced by two of the premier wineries in Rust, for which we are the sole US importer: Feiler-Artinger and Wenzel. The Feiler-Artinger winery just celebrated its 100-year anniversary, and the Wenzel family has been making wine in Rust since 1647.
Last year, Wine Enthusiast magazine named the 2001 Wenzel SAZ Ruster Ausbruch wine to it’s “Top 100 Wines in the World” list, a wine which vintner Michael Wenzel describes this way: “This is the flagship of our Ruster Ausbruch wines. “Saz” stands for the historically important lage [vineyard area] on our property. The idea was to create a Ruster Ausbruch from grapes that have been the traditional combination used for hundreds of years: 60% Furmint and 40% Muskateller. In the glass it is a beautiful sparkly yellow. The nose is immensely fruity, with notes of apricot and citrus fruits. An explosion of fruits. On the palate you are overwhelmed by the finesse of the acid that carries the wine and builds the backbone for long cellaring potential. The 2001 Saz was aged for 18 months in new wood barrels.”
And just how long is the cellar potential for these wines? Vintner Kurt Feiler describes their passage into maturity this way: “The Ruster Ausbruch has a cellaring potential of up to 50, 60 years. It shows well in the first 2 years, then closes down in year 3 for about a year, and then opens back up with fruit and more complexity on the palate; more rounded and integrated. It will hold at this perfect taste for another 15 years and then slows development as it moves into its ripening period. The sweet impression of the sugar reduces during this final period, developing a more crispy, slightly drier finish. For our Ruster Ausbruch blends every grape is picked single varietal, at different times, and then after fermentation they are blended. This also helps us to control the final feeling.”
One might be tempted to serve such a sweet dessert wine alongside the dessert course, but time and again our vintners recommend something different: pairing these wines with something savory, such as a blue-veined cheese or some prepared foie gras, to create an incredible balance and harmony. If you do elect to serve it as the finishing touch of the meal, we would recommend keeping the dessert simple and not-too-sweet, such as a white cake or ripe fruit dish. Or better yet, serve a glass of Ruster as the entire dessert course! This is one dessert wine which can certainly stand alone, and deserves to do so.
These rare and exquisite wines are a must for the dessert wine connoisseur, and a knock-out for the sweet wine novice.