Monday, November 28, 2011
̛Zantho Wines From Austria A Refreshing Holiday Hit
This year as I was preparing to serve up my smoked turkey, cranberry chutney, and cornbread stuffing I reached for my some of my usual wines. I opened a bottle of Cathedral Ridge Neutral Oaked Chardonnay, and a bottle of Shea Pinot Noir. Pretty much my normal fare for this holiday meal.
However, along with that I also found and opened a couple of bottles that my friends at Calhoun and Company, a winery public relations firm, had recently sent me. The label, which features a small lizard and goes by the name Zantho looked interesting enough. and the varietal names of Grüner Veltliner, and Blaufränkisch definitely caught my attention.
Zantho is made in a cooperation between a couple of Austrian greats in the winemaking business, Josef Umathum and Wolfgang Peck. Peck makes the wines at his facility Winzerkeller Andau, and the grapes are provided by Umathum.
Andau, where the wine is made is near the Hungarian border, about 50 minutes drive from the city of Vienna. The town’s first documented history dates back to 1488 in a government map, and then again many years later it was changed from the Hungarian version “Zantho” to the German name “Andau”.
Of course my question was why an iconic lizzard on the bottle of an Austrian wine. My thoughts kept racing back to the idea that lizard labeled wines were from Australia or New Zealand. Well, with some research on the winery’s website I found out that the vineyards team with these little woodland lizards. They apparently love the warm rocky soils of the vineyards and go there to lounge about.
On to the wines. As I mentioned, the Grüner Veltliner, and the Blaufränkisch varietal names were new to me. I didn’t know what to expect exactly. My research continued.
Grüner Veltliner is a white varietal that grows well in dry rocky soils. It has many characteristics of Chardonnay, with a little more acidity in the balance. The fermentation and the aging on this wine were in stainless steel. This makes it an ideal wine for pairing with heavy sauces, soft cheeses, fish, and poultry. This particular bottle was very bright and mineral on the nose, with crisp pear notes and a light citrus flavor. Because of the acidity on the balance it finished very clean.
The Blaufränkisch grapes also flourish on dry, gritty, and mineral laden soils. Much like a Pinot Noir grape, the juice tends to be softer and more supple than say a Merlot, or Cabernet. Peck once again negates any use of oak on this wine, allowing the fruit to speak for itself. The juice is a bright purple with a dark rim. Blackberries and floral accents of violet on the nose. Berries, earthy cedar notes, coffee, and nice acidity on the finish.
One of the really interesting things about this winery and their wines is the cutting edge approaches that they’ve taken for such an old-world region. First, you can actually trace the steps of your bottle back to the subplot that the vineyard came from because of their tracking standards.
Another thing that I found interesting is that the winery uses the new “Vino-lock” glass corks that you see here in the U.S. only occasionally. The bottle has a very clean presentation, and you know that a wine that is stopped with these enclosures will not decay in transit or storage for a long time. Both of these wines are available in larger U.S. markets for under $15 each, which makes them a steal of a deal! Go to their site at www.zantho.com.