A cut above: Austria’s exciting modern wine scene

<span>‘Austrian wine is finally getting its due attention.’</span><span>Photograph: Getty Images</span>
‘Austrian wine is finally getting its due attention.’Photograph: Getty Images

Funkstille Grüner Veltliner, Niederösterreich, Austria 2023 (from £12.49, Hay Wines) It’s taken a while, but it does seem as if Austrian wine, a long-neglected part of the classical European vinous repertoire, is finally getting something like its due attention in British wine shops and supermarkets. The country’s wines have, in fact, long been sommelier favourites, thanks, I think, to their ability to combine freshness and ripeness. Certainly, when it comes to Austria’s signature white grape variety, grüner veltliner, there’s no lack of aromatic fleshy fruit flavour of the sort that drinkers reared on, say, New Zealand sauvignon blanc, might enjoy. But there’s a natural briskness, too, plus a range of intriguing spicier flavours, notably white pepper and something green and savoury I think of as celery salt. There are some very attractive own-label bottlings at M&S, Waitrose and Morrisons around the £8-9 mark, but if you can it’s worth shelling out a few quid more for the extra level of concentrated ripe pear, peach and pithy, zippy lime and orange in the exuberantly youthful new vintage from Funkstille.

Maria & Sepp Muster Gräfin, Steiermark, Austria 2020 (£41.60, Vinvm) Another outstanding grüner comes from a producer that has winemaking roots going back more than a millennium: the impeccable Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Langenlois, Kamptal 2022 (from £18, Hedonism, The Whisky Exchange) is an irresistibly stylish swish of luscious apricot fruit seasoned with that classic grüner white pepper and salt. Austria’s growers are also justly famous for their rieslings, for which there is a heritage every bit as rich and long as in Germany or Alsace: Domäne Wachau, a contender for the title of the world’s best co-operative producer, makes a number of superb examples, starting with the perfectly weighted mix of fleshy tropical fruit and lime ping and zing of Domäne Wachau Riesling Federspiel Terrassen 2022 (£19.40, Noble Grape). As well as the classics, Austria also has one of the world’s most vibrant and adventurous natural wine scenes, which is responsible for some truly extraordinary orange wines, such as Maria and Sepp Muster’s Gräfin, a soft, gently grippy but exceedingly complex wine with flavours that range from strawberry and Campari to ripe apple.

Lentsch Zweigelt, Burgenland, Austria 2021 (£9.99, Waitrose) Gräfin is made from two varieties that might be thought of as French or ‘international’: it’s a blend of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay (known in Austria as morillon). Both have proved to be perfectly adept in a range of different Austrian sites, making distinctive wines, as indeed has a super-aromatic grape variety known in France and other parts of the world as muscat à petits grains and in Austria as Gelber Muskateller. The Musters make the best Austrian example I’ve tasted (try the exotically expressive, fluent 2020 Muster Gelber Muskateller; £32.75, Sip Wines) and Waitrose has recently introduced a charming off-dry version (Waitrose Loved & Found Gelber Muskateller, Niederösterreich 2023; £8.99), ideal for drinking with mild chilli spice, which comes over like a particularly aromatic, slightly sweet sauvignon blanc. In fact, Waitrose seems to be having a bit of an Austrian moment, with another new addition to the retailer’s range being Markus Lentsch’s summery, good-value example of the crunchy-sappy cherry-berry-scented and Austrian red variety, zweigelt.

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