When it comes to the wines of Germany and Austria, Rieslings (and other white-wine cohorts) have long reigned supreme. But the red wines of the region are on the rise, thanks to some serious championing by a growing number of vintners, importers, somms and enthusiasts. From food-friendly versatility to easy-drinking deliciousness to wallet-friendly prices, there are more reasons that ever to drink in the red wines of the region—here’s why we’re popping the corks. And for more on the region’s reds, check out our September/October 2014 issue.
1. They’re Easy-Drinking and Approachable.
Whether you’re a seasoned oenophile or a newbie to swirling and sipping, the red wines of Germany and Austria are crowd-pleasers through and through. “They’re delicious first of all,” says wine importer extraordinaire, Terry Theise, “and they have amazing fruit.” Plus, “they’re rarely over-oaked and they seldom exceed 13.5% alcohol, so they don’t seek to dominate your food,” continues Theise, “but they have substance and weight and depth and length.” Though he does warn: “The bottle’s empty before you know it.”
2. They’re Ideal Season-Shifters.
“In the cooler months, I thoroughly enjoy the Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt of Austria because they’re rich enough to offer a nice taste but aren’t too heavy or opulent like other grape varieties including Cabernet, Shiraz or Merlot,” says Leo Schneemann, wine director at Austrian-focused Wallse in New York. Theise adds that while he drinks these reds year-round, in summer he reaches for “the ‘modest’ ones (i.e. the basic, not reserve cuvées) because they have tons of fruit, good acidity, and they take to a slight chilling (say about 62 degrees F., or so),” which he says makes them “great for wild salmon, tomato dishes and almost anything on the grill.” Come fall, Theise moves up “to the higher cuvées, especially with red meat,” he notes, “Blaufränkisch rules with lamb.”
3. They’re Made for all Tastes and Budgets.
From light and bright to dark and dense, the red wines of the region are as versatile as they come. “The range from German Trollinger to Austrian Blaufränkisch is wide in both terms of style and their specific merit (the former is delicious, the latter can be serious and age-worthy),” says Joe Salmone, wine director at Crush Wine & Spirits in New York, “from low to high end, there’s plenty that I want to drink.”
4. They’re Evolving for the Better.
“The current generation of young Austrian winemakers is using techniques to make these wines rather straightforward and with more acidity so they’re fresher on your palate and easier to drink,” says Schneemann, “between their acidity levels, distinct taste and freshness, these wines are the perfect fall combination.” Salmone agrees, “You have a group of winemakers who are working very hard and refining the style of their wines with amazingly good results. It’s been really exciting to watch the reds of Germany and Austria evolve over the past decade. My favorites run the range going from Blaufränkisch from people like Moric and Spåtburgunder from people like Enderle & Moll (the wines of both of them can be mind-blowingly good), to things like Andi Knauss’ Trollingers, which are straight-up delicious and great to have around for everyday drinking.”
5. The Pinots are on Point.
“As a sommelier, I’m always looking for a wine that will pair with the different dishes everyone has ordered,” says sommelier at the Charlottesville, Virginia, restaurants Petit Pois and Fleurie. “Such a wine is often a light- to medium-bodied red wine with high acid, great balance and a complex, herbaceous aroma.” Her answer? “Most Pinot Noirs of Germany and Austria are go-to wines for me.” she says. “They are versatile with many different flavors, and their price point is often under most Burgundies.”