Category Archives: Austria

An Eiswein (Ice wine) themed #winechat on Twitter

The three dessert wines participating

The three dessert wines participating

Disclaimer: The wines were provided by the winery or wine association as samples.

Last week, I participated in a #winechat on Twitter. The theme was Eiswein (and dessert wine). The wines were supplied by Knapp Winery and Boundary Breaks Vineyards of the New York Finger Lakes region, and by the Austrian Wine representatives in the US. At 9pm EST on Wednesday, a group of several bloggers who received samples met with the organizers Protocol Wine Studio, the suppliers, winemakers and others interested folks to discuss the wines as well as ice wine in general.

For those unfamiliar with Eiswein (the German word for Ice wine), I wrote a longer piece about it a while back so please feel free to check it out here. To recap: Eiswein is made from grapes that are frozen on the vine (that’s for purists, like me, some regions, like Quebec, allow freezing off the vine). The grapes freeze, so all the water in the grape becomes ice. When you press these grapes, all you get is minuscule quantities of pure concentrated flavors. Sugar and acidity are extremely present in these wines. They make for some of the rarest wines in the world, and age ridiculously well.

Meats from Biercamp in Ann Arbor

Meats from Biercamp in Ann Arbor

We had a few friends over for trying the wines, because of their intensity, I usually only want a small glass of each wine. It is the perfect wine to share. We paired the wines with mostly cured meats from the wonderful Ann Arbor sausage shop Biercamp (duck bacon, Canadian bacon, and a honey/cracked pepper bacon as well as Andouille sausage), cheese (a creamy Delice de Bourgogne, Manchego, goat Parmiggiano, and Roquefort), as well as homemade (by one of our insanely talented baker friends) sweet macarons. I will write a separate post on what to pair with sweet wines, but for now you should know I prefer salty over sweet pairings.

Macaron made by our friend

Macaron made by our friend

But on to the wines. Up first was the 2012 Boundary Break Late Harvest Riesling (not technically an Ice wine). The wine is made by a young winery whose other Rieslings have gathered quite some praise from The New York Times and others. This wine was made with Riesling grapes from one single clone that come from a single vineyard. The vines were planted in 2010, so they were very, very young when the grapes were harvested for this wine. In Germany, winemakers tend to hold off on producing wine from vines that are under 4 years old. The wine had 127 grams of residual sugar per liter, and 14.2% ABV. The first thing we noticed when pouring was how light in color the wine was. The nose offered aromas of ripe cantaloupe, cream, honey, some vanilla, and something the reminded of gummy bears. On the palate, it was very sweet without much acidity, which was what surprised me the most. Its mouthfeel was light, and there were some orange bitter rinds like in English orange jelly. I struggled with this a bit. There was definitely craft in this wine, but I couldn’t help wondering whether the winemakers should have held off on making a small quantity, high level wine from such young vines. It also didn’t feel like a Riesling to most of us. Trying it with the macarons made the wine a bit more acidic, which was welcome. So this could definitely be paired with sweets. Retail price: $30

Boundary Breaks Riesling Late Harvest

Boundary Breaks Riesling Late Harvest

Next up: Knapp Winery’s 2012 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine. Harvested on January 3, 2012 at 11 degrees Fahrenheit (which by my standards makes it a 2011, because the grapes grew in 2011, not 2012), the wine spent almost a year fermenting slowly until it was bottled on December 20, 2012. 24 cases were produced, the wine has 12% ABV and 140 grams of residual sugar per liter. The wine’s color was more saturated than the Boundary Break Vineyard Riesling. The nose was gorgeous, with ripe aromas of spiced orange, some clove, bergamotte. On the palate, this Vidal Blanc showed good acidity, some smoky aromas, with a wonderful viscose mouthfeel to it. I got citrus aromas, mandarin oranges, and raisins mostly. What I was struggling with was the alcohol. It left an almost cognac feel to the wine on the finish, which I was not looking for in an Eiswein. Others on the table had less of an issue with this, so it might just have been me. When I retried this wine 6 days later, the alcohol had stopped bothering me. All in all, a solid wine with good primary Eiswein aromas. However, texturally it reminded me more of an Auslese or Beerenauslese than an Eiswein. I would probably not have identified it as such in a blind tasting. As for pairings: It worked remarkably well with the creamy delice de Bourgogne, taking off the edge of the alcohol. With the goat parmiggiano, more almondy flavors became present, and the bacons worked as well. While I thought it was also good with the macarons, I got shouted down by the table that that was not the case….Retail price: $25

Knapp Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Knapp Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Finally, we tried the Austrian 2009 Höpler Pinot noir Eiswein, an Eiswein made from the red grape Pinot noir. The wine poured in a gorgeous amber color, lush and rich and syrupy in texture. The nose was beautiful, with dried apricots, honey, and rum and raisin aromas. When I tried it, my first note read “ICEWINE”, underlined twice. The richness and flavors worked, the wine felt special, just like an Eiswein should. There was a wonderful smokiness to the wines, with the aromas from the nose persisting. Its finish was great: It became smoky again, with lots of honey, and a wonderful acidity that tickled your throat. The wine was decidedly heavier than the first two, and much more intense in flavors. It also paired the best with salty foods. This was a wonderful expression of how interesting ice wine from a red grape can be. Retail price: $69

Höpler Pinot noir Eiswein

Höpler Pinot noir Eiswein

All in all it was a great experience, and I am grateful for the organizers and hosts for letting me participates. The wines were all interesting and showed the diversity there is. The conversation on Twitter was lively and engaged, and I got into some really interesting side discussions about pairings and occasions to drink these wines.

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Linda Foxworth: Beyond the Sea; Confined by Beauty

Somewhere, beyond the SeaThis is the second installment of my guest blogging series “Somewhere, Beyond the Sea”. Today’s guest blogger is Linda Foxworth, of From Vinho Verde to Barolo with Love. I asked her to join the series because I believe she has a unique voice and approach as a writer. Linda is a weaver of words, using wines she has tasted to venture out further and draw conclusions, raise questions or just give helpful advice for general life. I find that approach particularly compelling. Take for example her beautiful post about how to remember all the different Italian wines, The Three Sisters of Veneto. Thank you, Linda! 


“What’s your favorite wine?”  I don’t know how anyone could ever answer that.  I’m all for a good ‘go-to’ wine, like a lovely Willamette Valley Corvallis Cellars Pinot Noir with its red fruit aromas peppered with nutmeg and orange, all nicely balanced, and when on sale can be had for $12.99.  I’ll stock up on that and tuck it away for those nights when I don’t want to swirl and sniff and write and pair.  You know those nights.  You’ve had them yourself.  You just want to sit down with a glass of wine that you already know will be good and you don’t have to analyze it to figure out why.  But does its ease and accessibility make it my favorite?  Certainly not.

Recently I came across an Austrian red, Blauer Zweigelt from the Niederösterreich region.  It had earthy aromas with some red fruit and a lot of  acidity which is not surprising since cold weather makes acidic grapes.  It wasn’t my favorite wine, but it was certainly worth trying.

Blauer Zweigelt

Last week I tried a still red Portuguese wine, Callabriga from Dao Region.  It’s made with Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (two of the three primary grapes of Port,) and Alfrocheiro Preto.  Dark and deep in color the wine was full of flavors and aromas like violets, cherries, blackberry, plum, rosemary and cinnamon.  It was a strong wine, rich in flavor and heavy in tannins, but my favorite?  As much as I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t go that far.


I love fortified wines and recently tried one from Greece, Hermes Mavrodaphne of Patras.  It had all the flavors you would expect from fortification, raisins, prunes and nuts.  The balance was good, though it wasn’t nearly as rich and delicious as a good Port.  But for an inexpensive, fortified wine, it was worth the price, though, again, not my favorite.


This spring I traveled to a beautiful island in the Pacific.  Everything about it was perfect, the air, the water, the flora, the gentle trade winds.  My husband and I began wondering what it would be like to live there.  We both came to the same conclusion.  As beautiful as it was, we’d feel stuck, because it’s an island the size of a small US state surrounded by water.  We’d never be able to jump into the car and drive away.  Leaving would always involve a trip to the airport.  That felt confining to me.  It seems like a funny conclusion to come to, however, paradise is a lovely place to visit, but I sure wouldn’t want to be stuck there.

As beautiful as any one wine is, I will never claim one as my favorite.  The most beautiful thing about wine is that there are so many of them to try!

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“Radler”: The Solution to my Beer Dilemma

Stiegl Radler Grapefruit

Stiegl Radler Grapefruit

You might have gotten this fact about me if you are a regular reader: I don’t like beer. In a state like Michigan, with its vibrant microbrewing scene, this is almost blasphemy. Throw in that I am German of all nationalities and it is downright crazy, outrageous and reason to hand in my passport. I cannot tell you how often I get these incredulous stares when I tell someone that I don’t like beer…I can’t really tell you why I don’t like beer. I have come to believe it is its bitterness that I don’t find redeeming or pleasant.

Don’t get me wrong. I do drink beer, once in a while, and I also believe in social conventions that dictate “beer and sports”, for example. I have tried drinking wine watching sports, but it is not the same. So, I do believe there is a room for beer, I just make sure it tastes as little as possible like beer. Which is why I drink PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon), the occasional Miller Lite or Miller Highlife. They compare to the German light weight beer “Kölsch”, the beer brewed in the city of Cologne. It drinks like lemonade and comes in small 0.2 liter glasses, so you just keep drinking and drinking and drinking. You can order it by the meter (the glasses are put on a one meter wooden board) and as long as you don’t cover your glass, you will receive new glasses without being asked. What makes this beer great for me is that it hardly tastes like beer.

My go to beer based drink in Germany, however, is something different. It is what in the US is referred to as “shandy”, a mix of beer and lemonade. In German, this type of beer is either called “Alsterwasser” (Water of the Alster, a river in Hamburg, usually in Northern Germany) or “Radler” (Bicycler, usually referred to with this word in Southern Germany). As a rule of thumb, a lot of them are 50% beer and 50% lemon soda, which in Germany is usually referred to as “lemonade”. The ratio can vary in either direction. It is insanely refreshing, does not taste like beer (major plus!) and is widely available.

Anecdotes suggest that the Radler was invented by a desperate Bavarian innkeeper in the 1920s. It was a warm, friendly summer Sunday afternoon and tons of people were out and about, passing his inn. The owner was selling record numbers of beer (it probably didn’t help than Bavarians drink huge amounts of beer from big glasses) and by the afternoon he started running out of beer. So in his desperation, he started mixing in lemon soda and selling it as the perfect drink for people riding their bicycles, hence the name “Radler”. I assume that beer and other stuff has been mixed before, but I do like the anecdote nonetheless. And I like to think that I was saved by this innkeeper when going out to a pub. Because thanks to him, I have something to order. And enjoy!

Nina is completely different: She LOVES strong IPAs, dark wheat beers and everything strong in beers. This often leads to waiters confusing our orders when we are in Germany, because usually guys order these beers, not girls. And girls order Radler, not guys…but hey, I stand by my love for Radler, especially in the summer heat.

German breweries have begun picking up on this trend over the last decade and have been selling premixed Radler, just like breweries have in the US. My favorite premixed Radlers are made by Beck’s and I am still hoping that given Beck’s omnipresence in the US these might eventually find their way here as well. I also really enjoy a mix of Weizenbier (wheat beer) with grapefruit juice sold by the Frankfurt brewery Schöfferhofer. I wish they’d sell that here…

While we were in Chicago last week, I received a text message from my friend John, The Food and Wine Hedonist, asking me whether I could bring him back some Austrian Radler that was available in Chicago. I was naturally intrigued. And after some hunting, I found Stiegl Radler with grapefruit soda at House of Glunz, an old wine store which apparently serves as the main importer of the stuff in Chicago. But it should be available at any decent liquor store in Chicago. Glunz sells it in half liter cans (classy, I know) and I was happy to bring some back for John and myself. Especially because it is really affordable, too: I paid $2.50 for four half liter cans!!!

We opened a couple of cans for a BBQ on Sunday and I quite liked the mix. It is VERY easy to drink, you hardly taste the alcohol at all. It hit a lot of right spots, although it seemed a bit too watery all in all. Given that its flavor was grapefruit, I naturally compared it to the wheat-grapefruit mix I mentioned above, and that is definitely better, has a bit more heft to it. But I’d still encourage you, beer lover (like Nina) or not (like me), to go out and find a Radler instead of a shandy. I don’t know what makes the difference between domestic shandies and European Radler, I just know I taste it…It sure gives me hope that other importers will pick up on this trend.

John has written a great article about discovering Stiegl Radler in his natural enthusiastic terms here.

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