Like most New Yorkers, I am sick of the snow. I can honestly say that I could live a happy and fulfilled life never seeing another flake of snow. Since that’s not going to happen I try to conjure up thoughts of happy times in the snow, most involving a simpler time when snow wasn’t a barrier to getting stuff done, but an impromptu reprieve from school and an opportunity to frolic. Even then there was that annoying cold and wetness to deal with. As fun as sledding was, it was always uncomfortable – and don’t get me started on skiing!
Anyway, I think my favorite time spent in the snow was as an adult in Vienna during an idyllic three day stay for my birthday, which is right before Christmas. I have to say a snowy Vienna exudes a sort of storybook Christmas charm, and the warmly lit cafe’s and wirsthauses offer such an inviting refuge from the elements.
I was delighted to attend a tasting of Austrian wines yesterday at Blaue Gans (Blue Goose) a little place in Tribeca evocative of the casual eateries I enjoyed so much in Austria. While it was a rare sunny afternoon between two storm systems, I chose to imagine a blizzard brewing outside, while I tasted zierfandlers, rotgipflers and zweigelts to name just a few of Austrias more intriguing native varietals.
At this time of year, I’m always on the lookout for a tafelspitz-worthy red that can go from the dinner table to the fireside (if I had a fireside). I was particularly impressed with a zweigelt by Helmut Gangl. The 10 acres of Gangl vineyards are located in the town of Illmitz, about 75km from Vienna near the Hungarian border. While this area is the heart of sweet wine production in Austria (Gangl produces an array of sweet wines from reisling, gruner vetliner, traminer, bouvier, and zweigelt – all delicious) Gangl’s 2007 dry zweigelt really stood out for me.
While the weather might cause some to shy away from whites, I was taken with the zierfandler/rotgipfler blends of the Spaetrot Gebeshuber wines. The Gebeshuber family uses spaetrot, the traditional regional name for zierfandler, which roughly translates to ‘late red’. This refers to the red color of the zierfandler fruit when fully ripe.
While the Klassik, Reserve and Gr Reserve were all crafted from a 50/50 blend of zierfandler/rotgipfler, The oak influence, or lack thereof is markedly different for each. They also produce single varietal zierfandler and rotgipfler, which allows one to experience the different character of the two grapes side by side. For me zierfandler is brighter and more angular (which by my definition means a little more acid and mineral) while the rotgipfler is a little rounder (a little more body and perhaps a tad more fruit forward/riper).
The next time we’re presented with the threat of oppressive snowfall (probably any day now), I’m going to lay in a few bottles of zweigelt , whip up a batch of tafelspitz and dream of summer.
Spaetrot Gebeshuber Klassic
Producer: Spaetrot Gebeshuber
Varietal: 50% Zierfandler, 50% Rotgipfler
Sugg. Retail: $24
Helmut Gangl Zweigelt
Producer: Helmut & Katharina Gangl
Varietal: 100% Zweigelt
Sugg. Retail: $32