Society Magazine – That’s the Spirit, Austria – By Nikhil Agarwal

Society Magazine  –  That’s the Spirit, Austria  – By Nikhil Agarwal

Vienna is the only capital city in Europe to have vineyards. This means it is incredibly easy to get a serious dose of Austrian wine culture and not have to travel far to get it.  I’ve been to Austria specifically twice and driven through it to go from Germany to Italy and back a number of times making brief stops in Innsbruck and the Alps. The first time I went as a back packer, I  ate chips for breakfast lunch and dinner and drank copius amounts of Guinness in the evenings. I stayed in a hostel, walked around the capital city and even managed to get the cheapest ticket to a show at the stunning Vienna Opera House where Shri Pandit Ravi Shankar played with his daughter Anushka.

Almost 18 years later I was invited by the good people at Vinexpo and the Austrian Wine Marketing Board for a quick 3 day introduction to 90 wine producers and their wines for a newly program launched program called Vinexpo Traveler.  While i have been familiar with Austrian wine for sometime, well atleast I thought, this trip opened my eyes to the depth of the quality and range that they produce, the regions and their diversity. As part of the activities, a grand blind tasting pegging Austrian wines against some pretty serious wines from across the globe was an enlightening experience and enough to convince you that Austrian wine is truly world class.

Unfortunately India doesn’t see too much Austrian wine besides a few random Gruner Veltliners and a Pinot Noir or two but I’m confident that as we go along more Indian consumer’s will develop a thirst for them. In India, wines from Schloss Gobelsburg, Heinrich and Jurtschitsch are making in roads. It is a pleasure to see people like Michael Moorsbrugger of Schloss Gobelsburg investing time and energy on creating demand for Austrian wine in India where the quanitities being imported cannot be exciting. Also Willi Klinger, CEO of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and his fantastic team for bringing the world to experience Austrian wine.

Griuner Veltliner is indigineuos to Austria and is responsible for putting them on the global wine map. Other local grape varieites include  Zwiegelt and Braufrankisch which produce red wines. The wines however are not limited to these local grapes. Austria produces world class Riesling and also  international grape varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and more. They offer it all – whites, reds, sparkling and dessert wines. If you have not tried Austrian wine till now, it would be wise to give it a shot. This is by no means a new phenomenon, they have been producing quality wines for a long time, it’s just that we haven’t noticed.

Since Austrian wine can be diverse, to pair their wines from cuisines from any part of the world is easy.  Gruner Veltliner with its  acidity is perfect to start off your evening with as an aperitif or can go just as fine with food. I thinks it’s a great match for Chinese stir fried dishes, sushi, or even something as simple as a daal fry and roomali roti. Zwiegelt has gentle tannins and does well with roast chicken for example. Blaufrankisch is more full bodied with stronger tannins giving the requirement of something more substantial to go along with it, Indian kebabs come to mind.

Climatically the eastern part of Austria is best suited to making wine and it is here that you will find some of the more famous wine regions.  The area known as Niederrosterreich includes top sites such as Kremstal, Kamptal, Wachau, and Wagram to name a few. The other regions namely Burgenland, they do great reds here, Steiermark, Vienna all cntribute to Austria’s wine production but are not alone, wine is produced in other parts of Austria too. The Austrians do like their wine and a signfificant part of the wines made in Austria is consumed locally and the balance exported to all corners of the world in increasing numbers.

My first impression of Vienna when I got there years ago the first time still stands today. Vienna is uber grand and clearly very rich with per capita incomes being some of the highest in the world.  They do love their coffee, I would recommend going to a  coffee house and sipping on a hot cup of coffee and eating their delicous Apple Strudel.  This pairing is typically Austrian and is fantastic. I also think that Austria does otstanding desserts and if you have a sweet tooth, you cannot go wrong here.

Cullinary wise the most famous local speciality would have to be Schnitzel, veal/chicken/pork covered in bread crukbs and fried served with cabbage salad.  Meat that’s fried, how perfect. I was surpirsed to see how much I liked cabbage salad. Of course no trip to Austria would be complete without a sip of schnapps, their national spirit which is brandy made from fruit.

In Vienna a couple of must visit places include the Schonbrunn Palace, a lovely place to sit and drink coffee and watch the grandness of this palace. Also the Hofburg in the centre of Vienna & Belvedere Palace is a must see. If you can, do take in a show at the Royal Opera House, it will astonish you. If you’re into architecture, walking around the first dristrict and ringstrasse will keep you in wonder.

Wine tourism in Austria is picking up and the vineyards in the city make it super easy. Or you  could rent a car and drive around to visit some of the winerie. From my last visit a few wineries really got my interest and if you get a chance it be good to give them a visit. Domane Wachau, Topf Johann, Sepp Moser, Nigl, Lenz Moser,  are some of the producers that come to my mind in terms of quality but there are many more including the wines I mentioned earlier.

To finish, there is enough beauty, wine and food to keep you well engaged if you decide to go there purely for a wine and food experience. If Austria isnt on your list of must go places then like their wines I urge you to give it a try.

Society Magazine - Austria - Authored Article - April issue 2018Society Magazine - Austria - Authored Article - April issue 2018. - 02Society Magazine - Austria - Authored Article - April issue 2018. - 03

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