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There are many reasons to get seriously involved with Austrian wines: their renewed good reputation, the high quality, the tempting prices. For me, it is not least the fact that my wife loves Blauer Zweigelt, and it is, after all, Austrian. I have made several attempts to get closer, but I have always broken them off, stopped halfway and "know (now) that I know nothing (yet)".

A confession that is admittedly difficult for me, because in the world of wine - according to my experience - one must not "not know" if one does not want to jeopardise one's own wine competence. However, my ignorance is not quite so total. Koal, an Austrian veteran when it comes to wine competence, guided me for a good four hours at ProWein through the wonder world of Austrian wines, stopping only at the best of the best. After a good ten wineries and thirty wines, I was convinced of Austrian wine, but at the same time so tired that the conviction could not take root in me. But since then I have known that the concentrated market presence of the Austrian wine industry is admirable. We Swiss can only dream of that. Not much more than this realisation and a few sounding names have stuck with me (in terms of Austrian wines).

Impressive market presence of the Austrians at ProWein in Düsseldorf (Photo: P. Züllig)

Back in everyday life, I learn almost daily what I have actually known for a long time: Austrian wines are being pushed to the sidelines by the over-present French and Italians - yes, even by the increasingly self-confident Germans. It's true that people have been aware of this for a long time: They make good wines, the Austrians. Wine regions like Burgenland, Lake Neusiedl, Styria are certainly worth a visit. And yet - for me - this has not yet come about. Why not? Actually, I don't know that either: convenience, indifference, laziness, other priorities when it comes to wine? It's true that I recently took part in a tasting: Austrian Veltliners. I went especially, paid for the tasting and was pleased with the good wines, which - in this case - harmonised wonderfully with the asparagus. But what remained? A few photos, a list of the wines tasted, an evaluation by about 15 participants. Not much more. They were all wines from the Kremstal, and the "winners" bore names that even I am not entirely unfamiliar with: Martin Nigl, Alwin Jurtschitsch, Schloss Gobelsburg. But all that I have to take from the sparse records now, that's the only place where the experience is recorded, in my memory, in my sensory memory, it has long since evaporated.

Wine tasting "Grüner Veltliner" at Vinifera-mundi in Zurich (Photo: P. Züliig)

What to do to change the situation? I do what every wine lover does when he wants to get to know a wine region that is still little known to him. Fleeting research on the internet, but then setting out into the real world, a trip to trusted wine merchants, preferably nearby. If a few Austrian wines are not quickly put in the glass, the next (how many?) attempt at rapprochement has already failed again. But even that doesn't go quite so smoothly. Whether in the Coop, in the supermarket, at Aldi, even in good wine shops, the range of Californians, Australians, Italians, Spaniards and of course French is large and impressive. But Austrians? I didn't find a single wine from Austria in our Coop store, and two at Aldi. At my favourite wine shops nearby, one has no Austrian wine at all on the shelves, the second has two, a white and a red, both from Gobelsburg Castle. The third wine shop at least has a small Austrian assortment, wines from Johann Böheim, Paul Kerschbaum, K + K Kirschbauer, Morandus Wieder, Josef Pöckl, Johann Schwarz and Johann and Maria Scheiblhofer. If that's not an offer! How could I have passed by such sounding names for so long? So straightaway I set off, go on to Austria in Switzerland.

Vinothek in Switzerland (Rapperswil) with a selection of Austrian wines (Photo: P. Züllig)

It's Saturday morning, I must be the first to enter the shop. But I am hell-bent on forcing a few Austrian wines into my glass this weekend. I ask for red wines from Austria (because I prefer the reds). The merchant looks at me slightly doubtfully or astonished. Austrian? It seems to me that he hasn't quite understood. Austrian! I already knew (from the internet) that the merchant doesn't have much, but he does have a few prominent names. I want to buy three wines, to try, to taste, to compare. "What do you recommend, from each price range?" Well - the price range is such a thing: most wines cost around 25 Swiss francs, only one wine under 20 and three wines between 50 and 150 francs. But then - for the first time - I was wide-eyed. An Austrian wine that costs 145 francs? At 65 francs, the Cuvée Kerschbaum was the most expensive Austrian wine I had ever drunk (Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon). Of course, I immediately wanted to know what the expensive Cuvée Batonnage was all about: "With an edition of 570 bottles, it is an absolute rarity. Erich Scheiblhofer, Gerhard Kracher, Christian Tschida and two other friends founded the Club Batonnage one night to taste special wines. That night, it was decided to create a wine that had never been seen before. This wine, which was supposed to be provocative, immediately won gold at the International Wine Challenge in London." My first insight: So the Austrians can also create legends.

Architectural business card of the Scheiblhofer winery in Andau% Austria (Photo: Artemide)

But I am not interested in legends. "Origin" is what German winemaker blogger Dirk Würtz calls what I'm looking for, Austrian origin: "Origin is, so to speak, the hereditary disposition, the good gene that a wine comes with. Basically, this good gene is for me the prerequisite of all potential greatness, uniqueness and expression of a wine. All this, of course, only if the person who makes this wine also attaches importance to all things." Well said! It starts with the grape varieties: are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot really Austrian? Aren't they much more at home in Bordeaux, meanwhile also in all wine worlds? It would be a laugh if the Austrians hadn't discovered the Bordeaux blend too!

A little shyly I ask for a Zweigelt. Yes, there is, it has to be taken out of the cellar, because there is hardly any demand for it in the shop and it goes mainly to restaurants. Who would ask for a Zweigelt here? We start talking, the merchant and me. In fact, I am not wrong with my observation: Austrian wines can hardly be marketed here (in Switzerland). It's wine lovers who are looking for something like that, and they have their own source (mostly on the internet), it's restaurants that offer Austrian dishes, it's crazy people (I think he meant me!) who are looking for something new. Yes, I searched (even if only on my doorstep) and found, thus creating an Austrian approach for the first time. And?

Austrian wines on the test table (Photo: P. Züllig)

After five wines (I bought a fifth for 5 francs at Aldi), I draw a first conclusion: it was worth it. Even the 5-franc wine (a Zweigelt) was something independent, easy to drink, I'll dispense with the size in this case. Why not dare something again and again, away from the familiar that you've been drinking for years? Why not open up wine regions for your own consumption that don't always offer similar flavours in countless variations, which you can then judge, compare and evaluate (as a connoisseur, of course) in a mostly Beckmesserian way? New taste experiences, new experiences bring much more enjoyment.

This is perhaps the most important reason why I want to deal with Austrian wines. Always looking for the other. Whether it succeeds? I am no different from most wine lovers. When in doubt, I go for the known. That's why I have my doubts - if only because of my previous experiences. After all, I have always returned - sooner or later - to my wine home, to the place where I was once wine-socialised. And that is - forgive me - with the French.

Yours sincerely

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