Imagine you’re visiting Vienna and decide to take a weekend road trip. You drive out of the city and motor towards the southeast. As this is your first out-of-Vienna excursion, you fully expect to encounter a hilly, if not mountainous, landscape. However, to your surprise, the land flattens, and the horizon begins to stretch out towards infinity. Then, inexplicably, it appears as if you’ve arrived upon the shores of a great sea. Welcome to the Neusiedlersee (Lake Neusiedl).
Were this the 5th century, you might be wary of exploring the eastern shore of Neusiedler See. Thunder against a clear sky would mean only one thing - Atilla and his horse-mounted huns are on the prowl. Run for cover! Fortunately, it’s the 21st century and the only danger in strolling around the lake’s right coast is a flying stork with good aim and a vendetta.
To lovers of nobly rotten wine, the Neusiedlersee appellation is nirvana. This shallow steppe lake moderates the otherwise extreme climate, and creates the magical conditions necessary for the benevolent form of botrytis (AKA noble rot). Thus, sweet wine has been the traditional calling card for Neusiedlersee vintners.
More recently, the new generation of wine makers has been going full bore into the production of dry red and white wine. The dominant red grape varietals are Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch, with international travelers Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah finding their way into a number of bottles. For white grapes, Weissburgunder (AKA Pinot Blanc), Muskat Ottonel and Welschriesling are the major players. Of course, Chardonnay is auditioning for in-bottle space here as well.
If you wish to taste wine from Neusiedlersee, you’ll likely be presented with a number of sweet-wine offerings. However, don’t overlook dry wine from this region - it’s worth a little extra searching.
A Neusiedlersee Dégustation
- Velich Muscat Ottonel Beerenauslese 2001 - "sweet, succulent palate matches the nose, with fresh acidity, and a looooong nutty, fruit-filled finish."
- Alois Kracher Chardonnay "Number 3" 2001 - "Intense palate with honeyed pears and peaches"
- Braunstein Oxhoft Chardonnay 2002 - "hints of honey and ripe melony scents, then adds toast and caramel accents"
- Zantho Zweigelt 2003 - "Black cherry, pepper and cinnamon with a silky mouthfeel"
- Gsellmann and Gsellmann Pannobile 2001 - "full-bodied and soft, with flavors of tobacco, earth and spice and a smoky, coffee-like note on the finish"