Earlier this year, I happened to get invited to the 2019 Austrian Wine Summit because, well, I’m just that kind of lucky fellow these days. Since one should almost always begin with bubbles, it seems apt that my first foray into an Austrian wine feature would be about the official changes to their sparkling wine quality pyramid, and also end up being the kick-off piece for my new gig contributing to the Napa Valley Wine Academy’s online content stream.
You can head over to the NVWA website to get the skinny on the new Austrian Sekt designations, its history, and what it all potentially means for the fine wine sparkling import markets. You’ll want to hit that article first so that you get the context of the new Sekt pyramid levels, and because you’re just that kind of informed person who digs learning and not just drinking, right?
As for what the latest developments in Austria’s Österreichischer Sekt mit geschützter Ursprungsbezeichnung (g.U.) means for your mouth, I did have my boots on the ground, tasting through several examples in every level of the Sekt g.U. pyramid. In a Sekt vineyard. In the Weinweg Langenlois, which sports a panoramic vineyard viewing platform, riddling rack, charming little tasting huts, and a couple of hammocks. Go ahead and hate me, I even hated myself for a few minutes after experiencing that embarrassment of riches (if it’s any consolation, it did rain on us, cutting short the tasting by about five minutes… ok, forget it…).
Anyway, here are the highlights…
At the base of the pyramid, this lovely Grüner Veltliner bubbly stood out, and it does right by the “classic” moniker in its balanced texture, ample freshness, and juxtaposition of crisp apple-like goodness and spicy, bread-like aromas. It’s sometimes tough to find this kind of interplay between fun and seriousness in entry-level-ish bubbles, but this one delivers handily (and you get a vintage wine, to boot).
This 60% Weißburguner / 40% Welschriesling blend saw 18 months of lees aging, but the base wine must have started with raging acidity because there’s a lovely transparency and vibrancy throughout despite all of that yeast contact. Apples, citrus, and an easy-to-love palate finish things off right.
NV Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Blanc de Blancs Sekt Extra Brut Reserve
I don’t an exact USD price on this, but it ain’t cheap; it’s status as Reserve rather than Grosse Reserve is more a function of timing and legal requirements – it has GR written all over it. Four years on the lees give this sparkler baked apples and brioche galore, but the core of the palate is bracing, mineral, lemony, focused, and fresh. It’s a stellar achievement and a gauntlet-throw challenge to Franciacorta and even Champagne.
Pinot Noir and Zweigelt combine here to deliver red berries, earthiness, citrus peel, and overall enticement. Yes, it has some age on it now, but that doesn’t at all derail the full-on mouth party of red fruits that make up its mouthfeel. This one could convert many a Sekt skeptic (Sektic?).
Loimer is not stranger to the Sekt game, which is probably not an insubstantial contributing factor as to why this Brut Nature Chardonnay take on the tippy-top of the new g.U. pyramid is so ridiculously good. Perky, lively, peachy, and floral to start, then moving into baked apples, baked bread, and just a ton of smile-inducing coherence.
While there’s no shortage of bold, autolytic yeasty-ness on this all-Chardonnay stunner, but the big takeaway is its ver, very fine mousse. Above everything else that it has going on, this BdB is pretty, and just oozes elegance in every aspect of its presentation.
There are the telltale aspects of excellent Pinot Noir bubbles on Leth’s GR – freshness, floral notes, hints of citrus peel and red fruits… BUT… there are surprises, too, like touches of lime pith, green apples, and wet stones. Importantly, this is über-focused and lazer-like in the mouth, without being forceful or sacrificing its prettiness or loveliness.