Don’t Ignore Austria

I wasn’t going to blog about wines to drink over the holiday season this year.  Looking around, I thought that there’s enough advice elsewhere and you’ve probably got your own ideas anyway.  But then I opened a bottle over the weekend that would be just perfect as the accompaniment to a turkey dinner – or many other poultry, white meat or robust fish dishes for that matter – and so, not for the first time, I changed my mind.

Loimer’s Manhart (Majestic, £14.99) is a blend of 3 grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc – that are almost always seen on their own but that, on this evidence, work really well together.  The first sensation on the nose is one of toasty oak confirming that both fermentation and brief ageing was in oak barrels.  But, once you taste, there is no real sensation of oak at all, just a lovely, rich, creamy, almost oily white, full of crisp apple, peach, apricot and tropical fruit flavours with a hint of warm spice (I thought nutmeg, my wife thought cumin) and an exceptionally long, dry tangy finish.  We paired it with some monkfish wrapped in Parma ham and quickly roasted in the oven.  Absolutely delicious and just the kind of full-flavoured dish that is a lovely match for the wine.

It would have been easy to ignore the bottle on Majestic’s shelves – its very plain, sparse label certainly doesn’t shout ‘buy me’ – but, happily, I had enjoyed Loimer’s wines previously (their Riesling and Gruner Veltliner are both worth buying if you can find them) and thought it worth chancing this one from vineyards in the Niederösterreich region of Austria, overlooking a tributary of the River Danube.  I’m very pleased I did.

Austria’s wines experienced some difficult times in the 1980s but, as a result, have been completely transformed and are now on a high.  If you’ve not explored them recently, wines such as this would be a great place to start.

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