Monday, April 6, 2009

Lip-Smaragd-ing Good!

The April gathering of the Wine Media Guild was built around a tasting of Austrian Rieslings—a favorite category around this blog. There were to be 21 interpretations of the wine type, mostly from the Wachau region, but four of five went astray. Furthermore, the distributors seemed to have been a bit niggardly with the donations. Whereas as most tastings there are two bottles of each type of wine, here there was sometimes only one. I imagine this has something to do with the average price of Austrian Riesling, which is on the high side for a white. The average prices is around $30 a bottle, and there was one selection that went for $110.

That $110 bottle was a Hirtzberg Smaragd Singerriedel 2007, which I liked, though it wasn't among my three faves. Those were the Rudi Pichler Smaragd Kirchweg 2006; the Prager Smaragd Wachstum Boderstein 2007 (the category "Smaragd" roughly corresponds to Spatlese in Germany); and the Neumeyer Riesling Rothenbart 2005. Pichler, Prager, Neumeyer—hard to go wrong with those names.

Peter Hellman alerted me to the curious stuff that was going on with the palate of the Pichler. A fruity start yielded to a veritable field of herbs. Most beguiling. The Prager—the grapes for which were grown at 1,500 feet—was full, broad, and textured, with passion fruit, grapefruit and gooseberry on the tongue. The rich Neumeyer, meanwhile, had a great diesel nose, and apricot, peach, asparagus and artichoke on the palate. Just great. One of the dishes we ate for lunch was an asparagus quinoa, and my neighbor commented, "Here's the answer to what wine goes with asparagus."

Jodi Stern of Austrian wine importer Vin Divino, and Aldo Sohm, the Austian-born sommelier at Le Bernadin, were on hand to speak. I learned the rather shocking fact that, for all its press and high profile, Riesling accounts for only 3-5% of the wine production in Austria. Gruner Veltliner is tops, of course, but there are a lot of grapes behind that before you get to Riesling.

Oh, guess what! I was enjoying the wines so much I forgot to take pictures. Enjoy the white space!

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