If you have not been to Austria, put it on your bucket list. It is a magical place with awe-inspiring mountains, fairytale villages, and some of the most charming Christmas markets of anywhere I've ever visited. Of course, it's also the setting of my favourite film, The Sound of Music, which I try to include in as many of these wine musings as possible (much to the roll of Vanessa's eyes). Austria may also be one of the best-kept secrets in the wine world, with it's large number of artisanal, family-run wineries that really focus on quality while also being very fairly priced for what you get.
Hannes Schuster and his mother Rosi on their vineyard in Burgenland, Austria. (Courtesy Wine Monger).
In the town of Sankt Margarethen in Burgenland, near the Hungarian border, Hannes Schuster farms his family's 14 hectares of organic vineyards. Since taking the reins from his mother Rosi in 2007, Hannes has been working hard to redefine Burgenland's wine, championing a return to a more traditional, low-tech way of doing things in the vineyard and cellar, and paying homage to local grape varietals, like Blaufrankisch, Gruner Veltliner, Sankt Laurent, Rotburger, and Furmint.
You might have tried one of our Wine Friends favorites, the Jagini, a brilliant Blaufrankisch and the result of the Schusters' joint venture with Roland Velich of Moric fame, which truly showcases the world-class potential of Austrian red wine. We have also featured their elegant Sankt Margarethen Blaufränkisch - another one for a special occasion.
Today we tasted two of their everyday wines and were bowled over by how much they deliver for their price point.
From a patchwork of vineyards dispersed around the tiny villages near their winery, the name of this wine translates as "From the Villages". This is 90% Gruner Veltliner with the remaining 10% made from Gemischter Satz, basically a field blend of grapes. The vines grow on a melange of geology made up of gneiss, schist, limestone, and sand, which gives it is linear structure but polished tension. It is wonderfully complex and unveils layer upon layer of lemon zest, pear, green apple, and bags of minerals with a sexy creamy edge. After taking a sip, Dylan, our new team member who is from Germany, said he had to go home and cook up a good schnitzel immediately. It would be great with everything from German charcuterie, like speck, to a mixed seafood pasta.
This red is made from Rotburger, which is a cross of St Laurent and Blaufrankisch, also called Zweigelt (and not to be confused with another grape called Rotberger, which according to Dylan is pronounced completely differently). Rotburger is a high-maintenance vine that requires exceptional levels of work in the vineyard to manage. I tend to find that it takes small producers like the Schusters to give it the required attention to create something of great quality. This is a fresh, peppery, spicy, flinty red that has got some real character. We had laid out a cheese plate with a rather ripe and lovely brie on it. I knew this wine would love being paired with some rich fatty flavors, but golly gosh, it was an epiphany when we started eating the brie. We all dove in and polished off half the cheese, amazed at how it brought out the delicate fruit notes of currents and fresh black cherries.
When you first open them, they will have a whiff of Sulphur or gunflint on the nose. IT IS NOT BAD. The wine is made in a reductive style to keep its freshness. If you give it about 15 minutes of air in your glass, or in a decanter, what is revealed is amazing. Look at it like getting to know someone who at first gives you the cold shoulder, but then completely softens with a tender smile.