Scandalous Austrians and Riesling riots

It must be the beginning of the year because I’m writing about Riesling again… I started 2014 with a Summer and Winter of Riesling but it’s Summer Riesling all the way in 2015 and 12 months on I’ve still got plenty to say. I can only hope you like reading about Riesling as much as I like writing about it, but can we agree that we all love to drink it? I am so excited about Riesling and I mean literally; I was tasting a Riesling the other day and I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! Let me transcribe for you here some of my recent Riesling tasting notes: lovely minerality, delicate, pure, bright, crunchy, exhilarating, magnificent… TRANSCENDENT!!!! It’s pretty clear I’ll be in heaven when I attend the Riesling Down Under event in Melbourne (Feb 8-10th). This showcase of Australian, New Zealand, German, Austrian, French and American Riesling is a worthy celebration of this noble grape variety and attracts international and local Masters of Wine, as well as the wine trade and general public. Having attended the event three years ago, then known as Frankland Estate International Riesling Tasting, I know I have a lot to look forward to. Over two solid days of classes, tastings and events, I will experience a breadth and depth of Rieslings that is truly phenomenal. I especially like the sound of this year’s opening event – The Riesling Riot…

One of the countries known for their Rieslings (though not for rioting) is Austria. However, I was recently shocked to discover that Austria was also known for a particular wine scandal. Austria has long been renowned for its sweet white wines but in the 80s it was discovered that some producers were adding antifreeze (yes, like for your radiator!) to their wines because it could make them seem sweeter and more full-bodied. After these revelations the Austrian wine industry experienced an understandable downturn. Twenty years later the taint of scandal has finally left Austrian wines and they’re back on the menu – and I, for one, am very pleased. There’s a lot to like about Austrian wines, especially but not only my precious Rieslings, so let’s learn a bit more about them.

Austrian wines are experiencing a notable resurgence since late last year. Earlier in the year Greek wine also gained a momentum that hasn’t yet slowed. I have heard tell of increased investment in the EU wine industry, which might help explain why European wines are reaching Australia in greater numbers. Consumers are also increasingly demanding international variety in their wine selection, especially with the rise of food culture. After being exposed to Austrian wine, Australian wine drinkers, retailers and sommeliers have enthusiastically embraced it, allowing a formerly niche market to grow. Why are so many people getting excited about Austrian wine? I believe it’s because these wines offer that perfect blend of the familiar with something different; Austrian wines are similar enough to well known and loved wines but also bring an ‘undiscovered’ quality that sparks the taste-buds. They are also very approachable, very likeable wines that are soft on the palate.

The key grape varieties of Austria


  • Gruner Veltliner – This variety is similar to a Riesling or a Pinot Gris. It is floral and herbaceous with a noticeable acidity.
  • Riesling – Austrian Rieslings are chalky and pure with a racy acidity. Ever tasted an unripe white grape?



  • Zweigelt – Light in body, this variety is quite soft on the palate. It’s a cherry fruit bomb of flavour, an explosion of berries!
  • Blaufrankisch – The ‘hero’ variety of Austria, like Shiraz is to Australia, I would liken it to the Nebbiolo variety. Blaufrankisch possess a vein of acidity that runs right down the middle of your palate – amazing! This wine is straight up and down – powerful, robustly structured and thus worthy of aging.
  • St Laurent – This variety is quite rare. A medium bodied wine similair to Pinot Noir, St Laurent is made for early drinking.


The key growing regions to remember are Burgenland, Wachau Kamptal and Kremstal.

As public opinion has shown, once you have the opportunity to taste Austrian wines you will be beguiled. We are offering a wonderful opportunity to drop in for a free tasting at La Vigna on the 20th of February, from 4 to 5.15pm with an Austrian Master of Wines (one of only three Austrian MWs). We invite you to join us as  Mr Andrea Wickhoff MW pours the wines of Austrian producer Heinrich for tasting. In the meantime, please excuse me, I have a riot to attend.

February Blog Offer – Please note this offer is now closed – see this month’s blog post for the latest offer.

Mystery Riesling 6 pack, $140.00 (includes delivery)

This offer includes 2 bottles of 3 different Rieslings: 1 from Western Australia, 1 from South Australia and 1 from Chile. I recently tasted this Chilean Riesling and what a surprise…an absolutely delicious drink. I hope you enjoy drinking it as much as I did.

You can order more than one 6 pack, but the selection of wines is fixed as listed above. Order by opening the Wine order form below and once you have submitted your request, I’ll be in touch to arrange payment and delivery. 

Please note this offer is now closed – see this month’s blog post for the latest offer.

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