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When Austrian Wine Creates Connections At United We Taste

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Connecting with people and creating relationships is really one of the amazing things of the wine world, also in a period full of uncertainties due to the Coronavirus as during the last two years. Back in the early Covid days in 2020, I was approached by Filipe Carvalho on LinkedIn and asked if I wanted to be a guest on Cha McCoy’s and his virtual tasting show United We Taste about Austrian wines. Of course, I said yes to that. (This is another article that I am republishing after the old website was hacked some year ago. It was first published in 2020.)

As the episode was to be about Austrian wine, I was a bit worried as my niche is not really Austria but rather I am an expert on Italian wines. However, it was all fine and I sat down to read up on the wines of Austria before the show. Actually, it was the perfect opportunity to learn more.

Cha McCoy is a sommelier in the US who has been highlighted as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers in the US in 2019 by Wine Enthusiast. She now has her own company and works as a consultant in the hospitality field among others.

She actually also did her MBA in Italy, so you see by being a guest at her United We Taste there is a connection to Italian wine also.

Watch the Austrian wine episode below

United we taste in the era of Coronavirus 

When the period of shelter-in-place due to the Covid-19 became a reality all over the world, Cha McCoy started the weekly virtual tasting show United We Taste together with Filipe Carvalho, a wine lover, and wine collector, and blogger from Portugal.

The idea was to bring people together and “inspire connection” globally and “promote peer wine education and provide hope to the wine community near and far” as Cha McCoy says in the article Can Virtual Wine Tastings Ever Really Substitute for Real-Life Interaction in the Wine Enthusiast.

The United We Taste wine tasting show aired live on YouTube every week.

As a passionate live streamer myself, with the WinesOfItaly LiveStream that I have had since 2015, I totally agree with the fact that live video brings people together in a unique way.

I think virtual tastings and live streams have been a fantastic way for people to stay connected and help each other to beat the Covid-19 blues during a difficult period.

Thanks to being a guest at the United We Taste episode about Austrian wine, I also got to virtually meet and get to know two other fun wine experts and professionals.

• Kara Joseph, a sommelier who runs her own wine education and events business – Wine Inspired – in Jacksonville.

• Sergio Nodone, who is a lecturer at Krems University in Vienna and a co-owner of the wine import company Lou Vin.

Let’s now continue by looking closer at the Austrian wine….

A Unique Austrian Ice Wine at United We Taste

When I said yes to being a guest at United We Taste, I was a bit worried I would not find an Austrian wine in time for the virtual event day on 30 May. However, I was lucky, at a wine shop in town where they had some Austrian wines.

Now, you might think a general Grüner Veltliner would be the most obvious wine they would have in the shop, right?

So, imagine my surprise when they only had a selection of three ice wines to choose from. However, this was perfect as I was quite sure none of the others would choose such a wine. Of course, I went with the most obscure they had, namely an ice wine made with the red grape Blaufränkisch.

The wine I chose was

Eis Wein Blaunfränkisch, 2012 from Rosenhof Winery in Austria

Rosenhof winery is located in Illmitz in the Seewinkel area (in Burgenland) in Austria. The Haider family has been the owner of this small winery since 1947. Today, they are not only winemakers but they also have a restaurant and hotel in connection to the winery. The estate comprises 16 hectares of vineyard plots where they grow mainly Welschriesling, Muskat, Chardonnay, Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, and St. Laurent.

Ice wine basically is a sweet wine made with grapes that are picked frozen on the vines. The grapes need to be picked when it is at least – 7°C (20 ºF) outdoors. The story has it that ice wine as a more modern concept was born in 1794 when winemakers in Franken in Germany had to harvest their grapes during a particularly harsh winter season. The resulting wines turned out to have good acidity (as the grapes should not be overripe at the time of harvest), amazing flavors, and very high sugar content. Thus, this became a recognized method for making sweet wine in Germany.

Harvest of Grüner Veltliner grapes for ice wine at Rosenhof, Austria
Photo: courtesy of Rosenhof winery

Returning to the ice wine from Rosenhof, I wrote to the winery asking them if they could tell me a bit more about the ice wine they make with Blaufränkisch grapes in Austria. They told me that it is indeed important to harvest at temperatures below – 7°C (20 ºF). Therefore, they are very attentive to following the weather forecasts in November and December each year to make sure the grapes are completely frozen.

They emphasize that they look for those rare nights with a really clear sky, as that is generally when you reach temperatures of below – 7°C. On such a clear and cold night, they start the harvest at 4 am in the night to pick the grapes at the ‘coldest hour’. When the grapes have been picked they bring them to the cellar where they then press them straight away. It is a process where they have to be very careful with the grapes as it is not the same as pressing regularly harvested grapes that are softer.

The frozen grapes contain very little water so they get a very concentrated and tasty juice of high quality. The “ice wine juice is very clear, bright, and looks almost oily”, they said.

The juice then undergoes alcoholic fermentation that is very slow and sometimes lasts as long as the month of March before it is done.

Furthermore, they told me that they generally make ice wine with Welschriesling or Grüner Veltliner grapes, but that they also like to make it with the Blaufränkisch grapes. This is because it gives very elegant and complex ice wines.

Photo: Courtesy of Rosenhof Winery

The 2012 Blaufränkisch ice wine from Rosenhof winery still has lovely acidity and deep notes of red fruit, candied fruit such as apricots, and passion fruit. Also floral touch, perhaps rose petals. The sweetness is in no way overbearing. There is an amazing complexity to this ice wine.

Thank you, Cha and Filipe for inviting me to be a part of your virtual tasting event about the wines of Austria.

Katarina Andersson

Seen often at wine events streaming live, Katarina is a wine writer, wine educator, social media strategist, and translator. She is the founder of WinesOfItaly LiveStream. She has been a guest at The Cellar, hosted by Richard Glover, at Wine Two Five, a podcast hosted by Stephanie Davis and Valerie Caruso, and at the Twitter chat #WiningHourChat founded by Li Valentine.

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