Many of us think New Zealand when we think about Sauvignon Blanc, but believe it or not, Sauv Blanc is done well in other places. South Africa is now one of those places. This wine is pleasant, and quite a nice value. This wine is a product of the Western Cape area of South Africa, and offers up some pleasant aromas, like lemongrass, citrus (lemon and bitter orange predominate), the tiniest bit of floral and melon. This wine treads a little lightly, perhaps a little too lightly, on some of the traditional Sauv Blanc characteristics, like that herby grassiness that is often prevalent in a Marlborough Sauv Blanc. Flavors are softly citrus with just a little spiciness, and the finish is short but clean. This wine was a nice accompaniment to fresh crab steamed in Old Bay.
I was in a great little wine shop in Annapolis, Maryland (Mills Fine Wine & Spirits), and met Patrick Darr, a wine consultant at Mills with an amazing palate and knowledge of wine. Pat pulled this one out and handed it to me, and I think I jumped back two steps in surprise. A wine with a soda cap?! What?! Are you kidding?! After I stopped laughing, Pat assured me that this one was truly worth trying. So with bottle in hand, in a brown paper bag, I marched out of the store, feeling as though I just committed a crime of the highest order against all things wine.
When I got home I put the bottle, still in the bag, on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and hoped that anyone who might open the door would never inquire about it. Every day I’d open the door and see that bag, wondering if I’d ever actually try it. If I did open it, I’d have to try it alone, of course. After all, what would my friends say?
Fast forward to today.
After a long week that felt more like an aeon, I came home to realize that I only had one sparkling wine chilling. After the horror movie music stopped playing in my head, I grabbed the bottle, stared at the label for a moment and ran to get the bottle opener. No fanfare of popping a cork. Just a the light sound of a little carbonation escaping. I poured a glass and took a sniff. It was light and familiar. Nice.
The aromas of this wine are quintessential Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit with maybe a little meyer lemon, and definitely a little tropical with pineapple and passion fruit. The herbs were there, too. A little grassy, and eucalyptus. Really nice. Then the taste. Very nice! Modestly carbonated, and full of flavor. The flavor perfectly matched the aromas. The acidity was really nice and lasted throughout the long, mineral finish.
It went really well with a round of pot stickers, and even better with lime cilantro shrimp. Unexpectedly fabulous!
I learned my lesson on this one. Don’t judge a wine by its cork, or lack thereof. It’s a great buy at under $20 (US), and I’m already looking forward to my next bottle!
What could be better than a wine dinner? Just thinking about it makes me smile. So when one of my favorite restaurants announced that they were planning a wine dinner, my fingers couldn’t dial the number fast enough to make that reservation.
The restaurant? The Bavarian Inn, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. A beautiful inn with an exceptional menu and wine cellar (one of the best in the region), that overlooks the Potomac River. Their formal dining room is perfect for a romantic dinner, and the Rathskeller offers a more casual environment for friends to gather. The service at the Bavarian Inn is exceptional, and I can honestly say every visit has been absolutely enjoyable.
The wines? All things Austrian.
Oh, yes. And if you haven’t had the chance to experience Austrian wines, you may just want to head to your local wine shop and explore their selection.
Our tour guide for the event? Klaus Wittauer. Klaus is a native Austrian who truly loves sharing his wine journey. Klaus developed his knowledge of wine throughout his years working with some of the world’s top restaurants. He also spent many years traveling throughout Europe’s finest wine regions, learning all he could in each. You can learn more about Klaus at www.kwselection.com .
This wine dinner began with a variety of hors d’oeuvres, paired with 2011 Leo Hillinger First Hill White. This crisp, dry wine is 70% Sauvignon Blanc, with 20% Welschriesling and 10% Gruner Veltliner. The notes of passion fruit and pear on the nose were prominent, and the fruit melded with a slight spiciness on the tongue. Nicely leesy with persistent acidity, it paired wonderfully with the selection of earthy bites, including mushroom strudel, vegetable crostini, scallops on endive, and duck confit with chestnut puree.
Next up, 2012 Tegernseerhof T 26 Gruner Veltliner Federspiel. Think kabinett when you think about this wine. The aromas of passion fruit and guava were stunning, and set off with just a hint of stone fruit. The acidity was really nice, and set off by a slight pepperiness. The finish was lovely, with a hint of minerality. The pairing selection was fish duo that included West Virginia trout mousse on a rosti potato blini with horseradish cream. Perfection.
Our next wine was a 2011 Tegernseerhof Gruner Veltliner Bergdistel Smaradg. The lovely aroma of stone fruit and elegant florals was matched by flavors of pineapple and apricot swirled with spice. The rich, clean finish offered a nice balance. This wine paired so very well with grilled lobster atop lobster wild rice risotto with tropical fruit chutney.
And now, the reds. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and admittedly, was just a little skeptical about the potential of Austrian reds. But I happily pressed on.
The first red was a 2010 Leo Hillinger Pinot Noir Eveline. The aroma was very jammy – mostly raspberry – with a slight smokiness. A hint of herb lingered on the nose. Not bad at all. This medium to light bodied wine had dark berry flavors and was notably herby. Juicy and peppery, I enjoyed this wine with a petite wienerschnitzel a la Holstein. I would hold this wine for just a while longer to let the tannins soften, but all in all, very enjoyable.
The next red was a 2011 Leo Hillinger HILLSide Syrah blend. This is a wine from Austria’s Burgenland, and is 60% Syrah, 30% Merlot, and 10% Zweigelt. I found the aromas here to be just beautiful. The plum and berry was a lovely backdrop to the tobacco and vanilla aromas that enveloped my senses. The long finish was smooth and velvety. This paired well with a braised short rib in a a syrah reduction.
The last wine on the menu was Leo Hillinger Secco Sparkling Pinot Noir. Fun and enjoyable, this sparkling rose offered bright berries on the nose, including strawberry. The flavors were delicate and balanced, with a crisp, dry finish. It was the perfect accompaniment to a dessert of Austrian fruit tart with raspberry flan.
The evening would have been a total success if it ended there. Six lovely wines, six delicious courses. Who could have asked for more? But my evening was about to have an unexpected surprise. Klaus came over to my table and we struck up a little lively wine conversation. The next thing I knew I was being treated to yet one more wine.
This was a 2010 Hillinger Blaufrankisch Leithaberg. One good whiff and I was pulled in. The intense dark fruit aroma was heavenly. The flavors of dark berries and black cherry were topped off with a light spiciness that hit my palate just right. The finish was long and smooth, and just beautiful.
What a perfect end to a fabulous evening.
What would a hot, steamy summer day be without a cold, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc? Aaahhh….I can almost taste it as I write….
A friend just introduced me to this fabulous wine – and my friend knows wine. She also knows that I really have grown to enjoy a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and thought I’d find this one to be really interesting and really enjoyable. Needless to say, it delivered on all counts.
The aromas on this wine started with some of the expected citrus notes – lemon and grapefruit were the first to waft up. But then my nose was tantalized by a really lovely green aroma – sort of pine, sort of boxwood, and other green herb. It was magical and delicious that demanded a taste. The flavors were bright and exciting. The acidity was so nicely balanced with the citrus and herb flavors, and hints of passionfruit and other tropicals did not go unnoticed. I am very sure I found a new summer favorite with this wine. It paired so well with summer crudites of fresh vegetables, hummus, and kale salad. This wine is also something I would consider a best buy – a very reasonably priced wine that tastes like a splurge. Enjoy!
Pale and refreshing, this wine gives up aromas of light gooseberry and pineapple, overlaying a citrus background. The flavors are crisp and bright, with citrus predominating. The acidity is fairly pronounced, and even though the alcohol is very modest at 13%, there was just a hint of heat on the tongue. Be sure not to over chill so that the flavors and aromas can fully develop. This wine has a nice finish, and pairs very nicely with a crisp summer salad of greens and fruit, with grilled chicken.
On a hot, humid summer evening, what sounds more pleasant than a cold, crisp, easy-drinking white wine? I opened this wine to discover a wave of refreshing citrus aroma. Grapefruit was very predominant, with a hint of gooseberry. I think I fell in love with this wine before I even took a sip. My first sip was, in short, delightful. The balance was magnificent, with acids in check, but still very bright. The medium body of this wine gives a nice mouth-feel as well. I enjoyed this wine with some garlic hummus, grilled vegetables and grilled shrimp with a Mediterranean aioli.