Austrian wine continues to intrigue me. We all know about their steely Rieslings, piercing Gruner Veltliners and wonderfully luscious noble sweet wines. Slightly less well known are the reds which have been making steady progress and this collaboration between Dorli Muhr and Dirk van der Niepoort has a South African connection with the winemaker, Craig Hawkins of Lammershoek, coming over to make the wine.
Carnuntum, which stretches from Vienna to the eastern border with the Slovak Republic, is known for Zweigelt but Dorli Muhr has chosen to concentrate instead on Blaufrankisch. With the fierce heat of the Pannonian summer moderated by the Danube and the nearby Neusiedlersee, Blaufrankisch is able to fully ripen but still retain the freshness that is so evident in this wine. There is a premium wine made from a single vineyard, Spitzerberg, which has 60 – 80 year old vines, but the Carnuntum is made from younger vines and is considerably cheaper.
The first thing that strikes you about this wine is it’s wonderful freshness. 2009 was a warm year in Austria and up to 60% whole bunch fermentation with stems ensures a superbly crisp crunch to the precise plum and blackcurrant fruit. There’s such a clear definition to this wine that it’s a delight to continue sipping but I’m determined to save some overnight and see how it develops.
That proved to be an excellent decision – which isn’t always the case! – and I was rewarded with a slightly softer edge to the wine with elegant lines, clear minerality and a rich depth to the fruit and light herbal notes, finishing with a sprinkling of spice and pepper. The more I tasted, the more complex this wine became, liquorice started to emerge as did cherries and thyme, concentration appeared to increase and new depths became evident. There’s plenty of structure in the form of rounded, minerally tannin and lively acidity, suggesting there’s still plenty more to give.
If you’ve tried any of Craig’s Lammershoek wines then you’ll spot some similarities, freshness for one. Craig’s Swartland Syrahs exhibit that same clarity, with ripe fruit around a clean, refreshing core seasoned with herbs. Craig likes to push boundaries with his minimalist style and this wine is no exception. Aged and fermented for the first 7 months without sulphur before a minimal dose during racking. After spending a total of 15 months in 3000L foudres the wine is then bottled, without fining or filtration. It’s risky winemaking, but I’m delighted to see winemakers of Craig’s calibre taking those risks – especially when we’re rewarded with something that excites and intrigues in equal measure.