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Austrian and Spanish Wines on the Fino patio

Fino Restaurant, Austin, Texas

Tasted November 14, 2010 by austinwinesalon with 857 views


There could not have been a more appropriate setting for the salon's first foray into Austrian and Spanish wines than the fine patio of Fino, Austin's premiere Mediterranean restaurant. Almost forty people participated in nine tasting groups, for nine flights of wine. Every wine was reviewed and ranked by at least ten tasters in three different groups. As usual, we had quite appropriate and excellent vittles to accompany the wine, provided by two new Austin restaurants.

For our fifteen Austrian wines, Michael Vilim's "Streat," a casual dining spot specializing in "street" food from around the world, provided bowls of Asian noodles with shrimp and a large platter of Vietnamese Banh Mi (seasoned pork on French bread with pickled slaw, serrano peppers, mayo, fresh mint & cilantro). Sehr Rockin'! For our Spanish wines, John Bates brought "pintxos-sized" versions of three of his stellar menu items from his "Noble Pig" deli in northwest Austin, including a fantastic house-cured duck pastrami sandwich, the signature noble pig sandwich (house-made ham, bacon, pulled pork, and melted provolone), and the absolute best BLT I've ever had. Muy bueno!! With salutes to our hosts, Lisa and Emmett Fox, and the many contributors of our fine wines. We had forty years of wine from the great and ascending wineries of Spain and many years of top Austrian wines from the cellar of Dr. Gary Glass.

Most attendees were quite surprised by the subtle acidity and the complexity of the Austrian wines after they had ten years of age or more. These wines are quite flexible and pair well with many foods. All of our Spanish wines were quite good, but the best were quite predictable: the old Riojas, the grand Riberas, and the complex Priorats. Autumn on a patio in Nuevo Austin. Muy bueno!

Flight 1 - Austrian Treppe Eins (5 notes)

1995 Loimer Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben Spiegel Austria, Niederösterreich, Kamptal
A surprisingly good 15 year old Gruner V, very balanced and integrated with much minerality and flavor. It had a nose of gun flint, white flower, honeysuckle, candied orange, bright acid which supported some botyritis and oak at the finish. Marmalade, peach, and white stone fruit flavors were noted by several tasters, along with melon, honey, some vegetal flavors like radish and cabbage. This was the overall favorite of the flight, though all wines in the flight were well-regarded. The integrated , minerality, rich flavor, and interesting finish led us to believe that this wine is drinking at its optimum right now.
2001 Hiedler Grüner Veltliner Maximum Austria, Niederösterreich, Kamptal
Sweeter and simpler than our other Gruner, this wine gained some minerality and fruit with air, but it lacked some acidity and might be starting its decline. It had a closed nose with some white flower and lemon zest detected, a medium body, and pronounced flavors of peach, pear, apple, kiwi, and orange, with some mild spice. A classic GV but with less acidity and complexity than the 1995 Loimer we had with it. Enjoyable, drink up.
1999 F.X. Pichler Riesling Smaragd Loibner Berg Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
With some classic Riesling "petrol," gun flint, chalk, and a bit of botrytis on the nose, this was not sweet yet had good fruit and flower flavors. It was clean and crisp, with medium-plus acidity, good balance, and some delicacy. Tasters found flavors of honeysuckle, jasmine, night-blooming flowers, pineapple, some green apple and apple skin, lemon peel, and orange oil. Quite refined and drinking well.
2002 F.X. Pichler Riesling Smaragd Loibner Steinertal Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
Was lively with an intense nose of gun flint, pineapple, and minerals. It had less acid than the 1999 Pichler drank along-side it, and seemed leaner and drier, especially in the finish. Not complex but improved much with food, which brought additional flavors out, including green apple, pineapple, honey almond, stone fruit, and some minerals. Quite enjoyable and recommended with food, for which it is quite flexible.
2000 Nikolaihof Riesling Smaragd Im Weingebirge Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
Softer and with more acidity than the two Pichler Rieslings drank with it, it was well-balanced and quite dry. Its bouquet had white flowers, citrus, chalk, granite, butter, and lemon zest, and initially seemed closed, but after awhile opened and gained vibrancy, with white peach, honeysuckle, lemon brulee and zest, ripe apple, and green apple skin flavors. A favorite of many, would have scored 92-93 if rated.

Flight 2 - Austrian Treppe Zwei (5 notes)

1997 Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Honivogl Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
87 points
Very spicy and floral on the nose, bright and dry, and maybe over-ripe so that some thought it out of balance. Lots of perfume, this had crème brulee, apple tart, sour apple candy, golden raisin, stewed peach flavors, but did not have the mineral notes our other GV’s had. Enjoyable but the least favorite in its flight.
2001 Nigl Grüner Veltliner Senftenberger Piri Privat Austria, Niederösterreich, Kremstal
90 points
No food required here, this was quite viscous, had loads of acidity, soft minerality, and good balance. Quite pleasant, it had good notes of caramel, vanilla, cinnamon apple, apricot and peach nectar, and roasted nuts. On top of the minerality, it was soft and quite pleasant, a surprise to some who thought they understood how Gruner Veltliners taste…… quite Loire-ish here.
1997 Franz Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Singerriedel Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
91 points
The favorite of the flight, most f our tasters liked the balance, citrus, stone, and fresh-mowed grass initially on the palate. Some, however, were put off by benzene and motor oil notes, a Riesling characteristic that can be off-putting to the sensitive. Quite complex, flavors ranged from Roquefort and hazelnut, peanut and chalk, to roasted peach with Indian spices and fresh herbs (slight thai basil), honeysuckle, and fruit tart.
2000 F.X. Pichler Riesling Smaragd Loibner Oberhauser Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
88 points
This wine was helped much by food. It had a cream soda and petrol nose, was dry and mineral-driven, and gained some white pepper,, lemon zest, peach pit, and honeysuckle notes over time. Overall the fruit seemed restrained, and this might improve with time.
1998 Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Riesling Alte Reben Ried Heiligenstein Austria, Niederösterreich, Kamptal
This was a bit out of balance, as some thought it slightly maderized and funky, but others liked the honey on the nose, its good balance, and extracted spicy peach and pear flavors. Few notes here.

Flight 3 - Austrian Treppe Drei (5 notes)

1997 Prager Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Achleiten Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
With some quite noticeable oxidation and botrytis character, this wine was beginning to slide but still interesting. It had medium acid and roasted, baked, and stewed flavors, including roasted squash nuts, baked apple, caramel and butterscotch, honey, brazil nut, pepper, tobacco, and lemon. Enjoyed by most tasters, but a bit hollow for some.
2000 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Loibner Berg Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
A nice, somewhat “clean” and simple wine, with some peach and citrus on the nose, good acidity, a soft and rich texture, and a good finish. Initially the wine had some radish and horseradish notes, but the mid-palate developed tropical, honeysuckle, and baked fruit notes. One taster thought it like a crème brulee crust, while others added discerned flavors of star fruit, white spice and white pepper, pear, stewed spearmint, and concrete dust. Clearly not so simple with some air.
2008 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner "Hefeabzug" Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
Vibrant acidity, lemon meets grapefruit. Some additional grassy and spice notes made this sauvignon blanc-like. This was the only young wine in this tasting of fifteen Austrian whites and it performed well, though we thought time would add balance and nuance. With a spicy perfume on the bouquet, the wine was tart and acidic, and had good fruit on the palate, including meyer lemon, green and yellow apple, and spice.
1997 Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Riesling Alte Reben Ried Heiligenstein Austria, Niederösterreich, Kamptal
With some high acidity, this was clean and dry, had grapefruit, lemon peel, and some nuttiness on the palate, and a chalky finish. A taster found "indoor swimming pool," another "lemon with an aspirin finish." The 1999 Nigl was preferred, but this wine went quite well with our Asian food.
1999 Nigl Riesling Senftenberger Piri Privat Austria, Niederösterreich, Kremstal
Tthe favorite of the flight (12 tasters), with lots of acidity and a nose of Riesling petrol/diesel, this wine was quite well-balanced and seemed younger than its decade-plus. It was rich and brought out white peach to the tip of the tongue, had flavors of red delicious and macintosh apple, under-ripe pear, “mint meets necco wafer,” white flower, and meyer lemon.

Flight 4 - Classic Rioja (4 notes)

2000 R. López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Bosconia Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
Drank very well with lots of interesting fruit flavors, noticeable tannins and acid, and some balance. Most tasters thought it time to drink this wine up. It had notes of cola, cherry, candied red fruit, leather, cured meat, iron, cranberry, chokecherry, copper penny. In other words, classic Rioja to drink now.
2000 R. López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Tondonia Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
Slightly preferred over the 2000 Bosconia tasted alongside it, the Tosconia was sweeter and had more oak, was more complex and aromatic, lean, and with a better finish. It had a nose of leather and cured meat, flavors of chokecherry, dried beef, some maple sugar, and some cherry. It seemed younger than its Bosconia counterpart, with soft tannins and very nice on the palate.
1994 Bodegas Muga Rioja Torre Muga Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
The favorite of this flight of two classic rioja producers, it had lots of oak but was in balance, had a velvet texture, and rich flavors. The nose had toasted American oak and cherry, with some faint acetone and barnyard. Lots of tannins, there was some smokiness and maybe Rutherford dustiness, and notes of dark currant, black cherries, sweet berries, vanilla, black tea, and tobacco.
2003 Bodegas Muga Rioja Torre Muga Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
This was too young, holds promise but is now rough and bitter, like many from this vintage's considerable heat. It is quite concentrated, with angular, wood tannins and lots of fruit, with notes of baking spice, black fruits, blackberry syrup, brown sugar, lavender, and black olive. Drink in five to ten years.

Flight 5 - Ascendientes-Up & Coming Spanish Wine Regions (5 notes)

2008 Descendientes de José Palacios Bierzo Pétalos Spain, Castilla y León, Bierzo
Had a very pronounced floral nose, with some Beaujolais and violets notes. In a New World style, it was fresh and rich, with medium tannins and acid, and flavors of thick black fruit, wet earth and tobacco, spicy oak, iron and minerals, black peppered strawberry, cherry, and orange rind. It finished tart and lively with some earth and pepper aftertaste. Drink young.
2000 Perelada Empordà Reserva Especial Spain, Catalunya, Empordà
Dedicated to artist Salvador Dali's birth year centennial, it was the favorite in the flight of most of its dozen tasters, with a few dissenters. Its fans thought this cab-temperanillo blend well-balanced, old school, quite spicy with some good herbaceousness, lively and refreshing, with noticeable but well-integrated American oak. The dissenters were put off by the oak but agreed this might balance out with time. Flavors included peppery dill, tar, petrol, earth, rose petal, old school leather, roasted tomato, dark plum, black tea, mint, blackberry, cranberry, and tobacco.
2002 Bodega Numanthia Toro Numanthia Spain, Castilla y León, Toro
This was disappointing, with more detractors than fans. Some thought it might still be in a dumb phase, but others thought it very New World in style so that it might have been tired. Had aggressive tannins, bright acidity, notes of musty leaves and dried mushrooms, pronounced banana and black currant, dried earth and brine, sour cherry, minerals. Not that bad a drink, but should have been better, with its 19 months in new French oak.
2007 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Campo de Borja Veraton Spain, Aragón, Campo de Borja
The favorite of one group of tasters, the least favorite of two groups. Very creamy and rich, New World in style, our Italian vinotech dumped the wine immediately, we re-poured and said “hold on there, pardner.” This is a very good wine for many, mostly CalCab-ers, but not the cup of T (actually garnacha) for our old world traditionalists. What to like: its pronounced caramel, vanilla, crème brulee character, and very extracted flavors of minty herbaceousness, burnt pomegranate, dried cranberry, raspberry, rhubarb, white chocolate, gooseberry. What's not too like? Well, lots of American oak and fruit and too little acid, so the wine is out of balance and probably won't get any better. As one taster put it: “a really good nose but a disappointing body.” Not very Spanish, n'est ce pas?
2008 Cellers Can Blau Montsant Can Blau Spain, Catalunya, Tarragona, Montsant
A popular restaurant wine here, inexpensive and simple but rustic,
with good fruit and spice. From Jorge Ordonez and the Gil family , it is a blend of 40% mezuelo, 40% syrah, 20% garnacha. Its nose had strawberry pepper, fresh garrigue, a minty liveliness, was quite fresh. Not very complex, it went well with our food and had notes of smoked pepper, red fruit, some vanilla, purple flower, iron, grape soda, forest leaf, black fruit, and strawberry.

Flight 6 - Vieja Rioja (5 notes)

1970 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Viña Real Gran Reserva Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
Could this wine possibly be still alive, with the ullage deep, deep into the bottle shoulder? All agreed this wine was in its own world, of well-aged Rioja, with old earth, rustic, hint-of-port, and blood character. For some it was the wine of the salon, calling it complex and aged perfectly. Some found oxidation and plums/prune, with nuttiness, but this did not dominate. The wine had some rich cherry and good tannins, and, well, it was quite unique.
1976 Bodegas Muga Rioja Gran Reserva Prado Enea Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
The bottle was in quite good shape (always cellared and bought "new" by its salon-er) and the wine drank well, but the wine was in decline and did not show as wel as the 1970 CVNE gran reserva. It had lost color and some of its nose, had a noticeable dried grass/hay bouquet and palate, with some flavors of sour cherry and charred arugula. Enjoyable.
1987 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
A beautiful wine, and a little young yet. Very well balanced, it had rich minerality and notes of macerated sweet strawberries, baking spices, cherry, and earth. It seemed cocoa layered, with bright acidity, minerality, and loads of red fruit, including flavors of red plum, over-ripe grapes, sugar plums, raspberry, "red earth." Complexity and depth should emerge with more age. A favorite of this salon.
1988 Siglo Rioja Gran Reserva Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
An inexpensive wine, a grocery store rioja, this showed the age-worthiness of temperanillo and some classic wine making. Purchased a few years ago for less than $10, it drank quite well, with good minerality and bright acidity, notes of strawberry and orange marmalade, clove and some spice, rose petal, and white pepper. It had some slight oxidation, an herbs de provence character, and the finish dropped of quickly. Still it went well with food, and was quite the bargain.
1994 Marqués de Riscal Rioja Baron de Chirel Reserva Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja
Quite young and will need time for this great Rioja vintage to enfold here. Had high tannins, old world wood, leather, tobacco, dark fruit flavors, was a quite masculine wine. It lacked a certain typicity of rioja, and did not have the strawbery and red fruit flavors of the other wines in the flight. Time will tell, but definitely a lovely young wine here.

Flight 7 - Priorat-the third Spanish wine (4 notes)

1997 Pasanau Priorat Finca La Planeta Spain, Catalunya, Priorat
Multi-dimensional and well-balanced, this is a chewy and spicy drink, with almost a Zinfandel character. It was one group's favorite, and another's least wine of the flight. The fans liked its jammy fruit, finding cinnamon and white pepper, raspberry, strawberry, with some Dr. peper and spice on the nose. The detractors found some oxidation, bitterness, too much acidity, old room leathery aromas, dry cherry fruit, dustiness, and sugar sweet. Same wine, different sensibilities.
1999 Cims de Porrera Priorat Classic Spain, Catalunya, Priorat
A nice wine, perhaps in decline with some prune, raisin, and leather character. It had sweet floral aromatics, was quite dry with lots of tannins and not much acidity. It had a huge mouth-feel, tasting of dark chocolate and vanilla, expresso, some licorice, blueberry fruit, black tea, and sage. Though a bit tight, probably best now.
2003 Rotllan Torra Priorat Amadis Spain, Catalunya, Priorat
A blend of 35% cariñena (carignane), 30% garnacha, 20% syrah, and 15% cabernet, aged for 12 months in French oak. Sweet, like praline, on the nose, it has ripe tanins and wild fruit and much sweetness, like frosting or wedding cake, on the palate. Well-balanced, it had flavors of red licorice, molasses, raisin, chokecherry, strawberry, and some game and raw red meat.
2003 Mas Doix Priorat Costers de Vinyes Velles Spain, Catalunya, Priorat
The favorite of the flight, it had pleasant aromas, of praline, tar, smoke, and lead pencil, with a good tannic structure and balance. The syrah shone through and reminded of grange hermitage, with lots of fruit, shiraz-like cherry, dry dark fruit, leather, cured meat, and white pepper. This had lots of personality, was quite complex, and was a favorite of the salon. May improve with some again, but quite a hit now.

Flight 8 - Grande Ribera del Duero (4 notes)

1990 Bodegas Alejandro Fernández Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva Pesquera Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
This had aged quite well, had fine balance and was still fresh, with strawberry, black pepper, wet earth, cranberry, carrot, dried fruit, tea leaf, leather, and blackberry. Had a long finish, and impressed with its harmony.
1997 Hacienda Monasterio Ribera del Duero Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
Lively and young on the mouth, compared to the nose, it was well-liked by all. Some dark chocolate and cedar on the nose, it had black and red fruits, herbs, tomato leaf, tar, black plum, and baking spices. Very smooth and seemed at its peak now, with excellent balance and a fine match for our pork sandwiches.
1999 Dominio Pingus Ribera del Duero Flor de Pingus Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
A favorite wine of the salon for some, others thought it closed and in a dumb phase. The fans found great structure, reminiscent of a fine bordeaux, with solid tanins and tastes of cola, blood, leather, and some black fruit.
2004 Alonso del Yerro Ribera del Duero Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
Quite young, with much acidity and sweet oak. It was somewhat floral and had a strong flavor of cranberry, with notes of grenadine and concord grapes. Aged sur lie and in French oak, should improve with age and become quite a good wine.
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