Serious Grape: Austrian White Wines for Fall

On Fridays, Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by with Serious Grape.


[Photograph: Deb Harkness]

As temperatures dip, leaves turn, and the nights grow longer, many of us are turning to robust red wines. But if you're a white wine fan—and love seasonal offerings like turkey, squash, apples, and pumpkin—then you might want to look to Austria this autumn. Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and delicious white blends made with several grape varieties are all good options.

Austrian white wines deliver elegance, earthiness, and versatile, food-friendly flavors. Plus, they're affordable. Whether you're looking for a special bottle to put aside for Thanksgiving or one to enjoy with your mid-week pot of pumpkin and leek soup, there's a bottle just right for your budget. My recommendations, after the jump.

2007 Weingut Hajszan Gemischter Satz ($18; find this wine). Gemischter Satz is the Austrian term for a blend of grapes grown together in the field (this one includes Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Weissburgunder, Gelber Traminer, Gewürztraminer, Neuburger, Fruhroter Veltliner, Zweigelt, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Muller Thurgau!) and then pressed and fermented together. A stunning wine for the price, this biodynamic beauty from Wien has unmistakable aromas of fresh cracked black pepper and flowers, melony flavors, and a dry, lively aftertaste. This is a wine to spend the evening with, and each sip will have you reaching for more.

2008 Weingut Christ Gelber Muskateller ($16 to $22; find this wine). This fascinating wine has soft grapey and exotic floral aromas. Peach and Meyer lemon flavors give way to tropical notes of starfruit, and there is nice acidity at the core. Very food friendly—like a dry muscat. Try this with your next plate of sushi or a crisp Waldorf salad.

2007 Domäne Wachau Riesling Federspiel Terrassen ($15 to $21; find this wine). This terrific Riesling hails from Wachau, and has floral and nectarine aromas. The flavors were open and lacy, with elements of mineral, peach, and pear and a lemon curd aftertaste.

2008 Stift Göttweig Grüner Veltliner Messwein ($18; find this wine) I loved this wine's lightness and the slight spritz on the palate. There were corn, grass, and grapefruit aromas, and the grapefruit flavors were at once both creamy and vibrantly acidic.

2008 Kalmuck Grüner Veltliner ($20; find this wine). This distinctive wine from Wachau had lentil, grass, and lemon aromas followed by lemony flavors touched with beeswax.

2008 Ludwig Neumayer Grüner Veltliner Zwirch ($36.75; find this wine). This splurge-worthy wine from Austria's Traisental region is the best Grüner Veltliner I've ever tasted, and it exemplifies the elegance that this grape can achieve. The wine was intense, bright, and refreshing with aromas and flavors of lentil, lemon curd, and leafy herbal notes, with dust and white pepper underneath.

Full Disclosure: I received all the wines reviewed as samples.