Passport to the unknown

Reading a recent excellent blog by my colleague Jim Greeley on “The Fringe Lunatic”, I was struck by what he said (and how well he said it) about getting away from our comfort zone wines and trying something new and different. I agree with him completely. We should all make a New Year’s resolution for 2011 to try varietals that are new to us. And not only grape varieties – how about exploring wine from regions of the world most of us tend to overlook?

Austrian vineyards in the Wachau region overlooking the Danube River.

Case in point – how many of you think of Austria when you’re buying wine? I must admit I didn’t until I visited Austria a couple of years ago, and I fell in love with their wines, their culture, and the beauty of their country. And if you’re searching for lesser known grape varietals, you need look no further!

Of course Austria produces a lot of great Riesling, but if you’re looking for a white that’s crisp, delicate, shows nice fruit, and has a pleasant creamy finish try Grüner Veltliner (GREEN-er Felt-LEEN-er). Grüner Veltliner is often considered to be Austria’s national grape variety. It has something of a cult following elsewhere, but definitely deserves to be better known. With delicate aromas of apricots, peaches, and vanilla, it shows some mineral tones and crisp zesty flavors of white pepper and grapefruit. It pairs well with picnic foods, hors d’oeuvres, Wiener schnitzel, fried chicken, and is considered one of the few wines that is a natural with salad.

Looking for a red you haven’t tried before? Try Zweigelt (ZVEYE-gelt), a grape variety created by the eponymous Dr. Zweigelt, who crossed two other Austrian red grapes – Blaufränkisch and Skt.-Laurent. This is a wine that’s a dark ruby red color with tinges of inky purple, and has flavors of cherries, red berries, and spice. If you like Zinfandel or Primitivo, try Zweigelt. It pairs wonderfully well with roast beef, venison, wild boar, lamb, hearts, kidneys, and brains.

You’ll find these, and many other unusual wines, at your local ABC Fine Wine and Spirits. Look for Höpler or Schloss Halbturn Kaiserberg brands for some great Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt. Or just ask your friendly wine consultant.

Winemaker Jost Hopler overlooking his vineyards in Burgenland.

And don’t forget to let us know what unusual regions and grape varieties you’re trying!

Bill Stobbs, ABC Wine Supervisor, Central West Florida

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