Lately, some of our favourite wines are coming from Austria, specifically Burgenland, which is a strip of land that butts up against Hungarian border. Over millennia, it has been claimed by major powers in just about every era of European history, yet has managed to carve out it own unique wine culture. Burgenland is becoming well known for complex red wines from a country that is most often known for its acid-driven white wines. These wines are often blends of both indigenous varieties that you rarely find elsewhere and international varieties planted during the California-inspired boom of the 1980s. The red wines of Burgenland can be quite bold, however, are balanced by acidity and earthy complexity. Burgenland also makes plenty of wonderfully bright white wines, perhaps more typical to what we might expect of Austria, as well as some seriously unique sparkling wines that are as full of rustic charm as they are class and vivacity. The wines we’re featuring this month are a wonderfully spicy Burgenland red and an ancestral method rosé made from a similar blend, which quickly shows the diversity of the region. Next time you’re in the shop, ask for us for a Burgenland recommendation, because trust us, we have copious delicious options, many of which follow extremely sustainable viticultural practices, coming from this little known region.
Weingut Pittnauer was inherited by current winemaker, Gerhard Pittnauer, from his father at the young age of 18 in the mid-80s when Austria was amidst a giant wine scandal that lost consumer faith in Austrian wine. Gerhard knew immediately that his land was something special and worked to learn the best way to grow grapes that could produce what he calls “living wines.” He and his wife Brigitte now make biodynamic wines and use minimal sulfur, with the intention of allowing the wines to “grow” rather than be made.
Pittnauer Red Pitt 2016 $35 tax included
Composed of Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, bright and spice are two words that first come to mind when tasting this wine. While I would consider it juicy, it has depth and precision that wines we term juicy often do not. This wine is a great example of the juxtaposition I tend to associate with fuller bodied Austrian reds; tart, but round, generous, but structured, this wine is inherently supple, but also has the backbone to stand up to a hearty meal. The grape varietals are vinified separately, then aged in 500-litre barriques for 18-24 months. Cranberry, bramble, peppery spice, and smooth tannins play together to create a wine that is friendly, but also complex. Though international varietals are part of the mix, this is not trying to be anything other than Austrian. Can we also talk about the awesome label? It's almost like Pittnauer made this wine just for Vine Arts!
Pittnauer Pitt Nat 2017 $42.50 tax included
A blend of Blaufrankisch, Merlot, and Syrah, this fizzy Rosé is made in the ever popular Petillant Naturel style. I think Weingut Pittnauer makes a key point in reminding us that many of the best “new” styles coming out of the natural wine world are in fact throwbacks to very traditional styles of production that have either been forgotten or ignored as wine became more and more homogenized post WW2. Slightly less pressurized than traditional method bubbles, this Pet-Nat is pleasantly foamy and a good way to dip your toe in the sparkling wine world if you aren’t already a die hard fan. Bottled at about 25 g/L of sugar, the wine continues ferment in bottle until it is bone dry. Salmon-Copper in colour, this fizz has flavours of bright cranberry, juicy grapefruit, margarita lime zest, and white blossoms. Yum!