The Noble Rot: a botrytis fungus (Botrytis cinerea) that infects various usually overripe wine grapes causing shriveling, which results in increased sugar and flavor content and is responsible for the characteristic flavor of sauternes and related wines. [Merriam-Webster]
Though small, the Wachau region of northern Austria is one of the more important Riesling growers in the Österreich. What’s that? You haven’t gotten yourself into the Austrian wines yet? Big mistake. Austria might not be the powerhouse that her neighbors claim, nor does she have the reach of the German wine industry, but being on the small-ish side of things has had its advantages.
This Federspiel, meaning “falconry,” is from the Wachau region. It falls outside of the Austrian DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) and has a middleweight 11.5 to 12.5% ABV. You’ll see lighter offerings marked “Steinfeder” (stone-feather) and “Smaragd” (emerald lizard) when the ABV flies over the minimum 12%.
Austria is a young producer and, as such, these are some of the newer established notions put in place for classification. This is a wine-producing nation that one can grow with. It is perfectly normal to have an entry attitude shaped by German wines, but the comparison ends there. The Austrian Riesling is superior. Tegernseerhof’s Terrassen Riesling might not be the Rolls Royce of the region but it is an incredibly balanced wine and my first dance with this nation’s vinticulture.
Of course, I cannot take discovery credits without mentioning the gentleman that sold me on this bottle, Christian Depken, the proprietor of Le Chai – galerie du vin in Savannah, GA. Mr. Depke runs a boutique operation on the southern border of Forsyth Park and is also known to curate wine lists around town in some of Savannah’s finest eateries, like The Grey.
With a quick lesson on the virtues of the Austrian grape, its production and the poetic dénouement of someone in a mystic trance, it is a great regret of mine that I did not deplete his entire stock that day. Thankfully, some of the more enlightened restaurateurs here in South Florida are beginning to include Austrian wines in their rosters and even Total Wine has a decent section.
Get in on the ground floor with the Austrian wine machine. You will not regret it.
Tegernseerhof – Terrassen Riesling Federspiel
General Notes: All the sugary crap you’ve grown to hate in German Rieslings and knock-off regions is absent here. This is a balanced wine, dry, and it pleases the palate from lip to throat with a gentle sense of peach. We don’t do half luchador masks here, but this is certainly a 4.5 mask type of wine.
Open: Cool it but don’t over cool it. This is not an ice-cold wine and it opens up a bit after it has warmed to an agreeable low 70s, high 60s room temperature.
Pairing: Poultry, shellfish, fish, mild cheeses and that type of ilk, but it holds remarkably well against gamier offerings and the hearty dishes you’re preconceived to expect from Germanic lands.
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