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DWWA 2014: Austria insights

Hear from our Austria Regional Chair Andreas Larsson on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

Austria continues to impress with its high-quality wines in all styles. The best wines are distinctly Austrian – a virtue in today’s increasingly homogenous wine world. Even international varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir deliver a unique fresh bite or spicy note that most wine lovers associate with Austria. Our one Trophy from the 2013 vintage and six Golds from 2012 all went to dry whites as these vintages were ideal in giving purity of flavour and combining ripeness with freshness.

What should we buy from here?

Grüner Veltliner is certainly what Austria does best. A wonderful style of wine, ranging from light, fresh and peppery to lush, bold and powerful, always marked by vibrant fruit and a distinct spiciness. It is lovely to enjoy in its youth, even if the best examples have very good cellar potential. It’s also hard to resist the brilliantly mineral Rieslings from Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal, whose mouthwatering freshness and luscious stone fruit characters truly differ from their German or Alsatian counterparts. The red blends from Burgenland performed on a consistent level and all won Silver or Bronze medals.

What should we leave on the shelf?

Varietal reds were a disappointment. Pinot Noir is a fickle variety and even if we saw a few good ones, there was a preponderance of wines with over-ripeness and heavy-handed oak. Cabernet Sauvignon does well in blends, but on its own it’s far from exciting. Even Blaufränkisch, which can perform well as a varietal wine, did much better in the blends this year. Finally, considering the prices that many Styrian Sauvignon Blancs fetch, they should have offered a bit more substance.

What should we keep an eye on?

The best performing varietal red was Sankt Laurent, seducing us with its elegant fruit, gentle spiciness and supple structure. It is still fairly unknown to most consumers but a great alternative to Pinot Noir. Another less known but highly promising variety is the floral, grapey Roter Veltliner that won a Trophy; Zierfandler and Rotgipfler are two other exciting varieties that give quite bold, perfumed wines. Finally, one of the most promising and unique wine styles is the Wiener Gemischter Satz – uniquely Austrian and continuing a remarkable quality resurgence.

Written by Decanter

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