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GrooVe-ing with Roast Pork and Speckkraut

22 September 2010

A selected crowd of wine lovers gathered for a cosy dinner with a distinctly Austrian feel at Riva restaurant at Hanover Quay last Wednesday. We caught up with Irish Times wine writer John Wilson before the dinner and asked him what captured him about wines from Austria.

Having been a big fan of Austrian wines for numerous years now, John was the obvious choice presenter of the sixteen wines featured on the evening. “I was very happy to say yes when Günther [Günther Sucher, the Austrian Trade Commissioner] asked me if I wanted to present the wines at an Austrian dinner”, he says as we settle down at Riva, stunningly set amidst Dublin’s most modern developments against the waters of the Grand Canal Dock, overlooking Daniel Libeskind’s beautiful new theatre. “Austria has a huge amount to offer.” John’s first visit to Austria as a wine journalist left him “absolutely gobsmacked by the quality of the wines”. Some of the greatest dry white wines in the world are from there, he continues, and while the red ones are improving and interestingly different, Austria has some of the greatest sweet wines in the world.

Not surprisingly, Austria’s flagship grape, Grüner Veltliner (or GrooVe, as it is affectionately known in this part of the world and overseas), takes a strong place on the menu of the evening. Grüner Veltliner is a white grape indigenous to the small Alpine nation. There are two types, explains John, the fresh, crisp, dry variety from the cooler areas, pure in taste with melon undertones. The lower terraces yield a richer wine, a mouth filling style with ginger spice notes that is “still unoaked and bone dry”. Which makes them wonderful food wines, as John concurs with other wine experts from around the globe.
The wine menu at the Austrian Wine Tasting at Dublin's Riva restaurant. A = Antipasti, S = Starter, M = Main course, D = Dessert. For contact details see our complete list of Irish stockists of Austrian wine at the end of article.
Domäne Wachau
Region: Wachau
Irish agent: Searsons Wine Merchants

A: Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen 2009
S: Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Terrassen 2009
M: Riesling Smaragd Terrassen 2009
D: Beerenauslese Terrassen 2008  
Weingut Hirsch
Region: Kamptal
Irish agent: Wine Select 
A: Hirsch Riesling Zöbing 2009
S: Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Kammerner Heiligenstein 2009
M: Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Kammerner Lamm 2006
D: Hirsch Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein 2004  
Weingut Sepp Moser
Region: Kremstal, Neusiedlersee
Irish agent: Febvre & Company

A: Grüner Veltliner - Von den Terrassen 2009 – DAC
S: SEPP Grüner Veltliner 2009 –Organic
M: Zweigelt Hedwighof 2008
D: Pinot Blanc Beerenauslese 2009  
Weingut K + K Kirnbauer
Region: Mittelburgenland
Irish agent: Atlas Wine
A: Blaufränkisch Mittelburgenland DAC Classic 2007
S: Zweigelt Girmer 2007
M: Phantom 2007
D: Welschriesling Eiswein 2008

The world’s – and John's - attention has also been caught by Austria’s Rieslings. “The great Rieslings of Austria are as good as or even better than anything else you will find. They are wonderful when they are young, they are fresh, crisp and dry but I have tasted twenty and thirty year old examples and they just got better and better”. John is also convinced that compared to other wines of comparable standing, such as the Sancerres or a Chablis Premier Cru, Austrian whites offer great value for money. “The overall quality and consistency of the white wines is second to none.”

Red wines from Austria are also on the up, although the local varieties Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch take a little bit of getting used to. But John likes them for their lovely freshness and fruitiness. The hint of acidity underlying the otherwise pure damson and red currant fruit flavours make them a perfect accompaniment to a good roast pork or something similar, he says.

It is the sweet dessert wines, though, that the Austrians do better than anybody else. “They are amongst the very greatest wines in the world”, said John before he excused himself to his table as time was ripe for dinner to start.

The sixteen wines served on the night come from four well-known vineyards in Austria. All the wines are already represented by Irish wine agents and available in shops here (see box). Each course was accompanied by one wine of the respective wineries. Most of the Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings presented are produced in John’s favourite wine-growing regions, the Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal, renowned for their white wines, as well as the Burgenland, home ground for most of Austria’s red wines and dessert wines. The food menu, drawn up by Riva’s proprietor, Dieter Bergman and his team was hearty and meat based (although vegetarian and fish choices were available), starting with a selection of antipasti, and not failing to omit the famous Wienerschnitzel and Schweinsbraten (roast pork, locally sourced from an organic butcher in County Wicklow) before finishing off with a choice of Austrian cake or cheeses.

Amongst the guests were Acting Chargé d'Affaires at the Austrian Embassy Karin Fichtinger-Grohe, Newstalk’s George Hooke with his wife Ingrid, Aileen Eglington (Top Flight), as well as wine merchants Monica Murphy (Febvre & Co.), Chris Harrison (Wine Select), Nicolas Hughes (Searsons), Paul Dubsky (Henry J. Archer & Sons) and Jennifer Sanford (Atlas Wines).

Click below for a complete list of Irish stockists of Austrian wine