Master Sommelier Eric Zweibel’s Insight on Austrian Wine

By | 6 April 2024

Eric Zwiebel MS, wine director at the Michelin-starred Samling Hotel in Windermere in the UK’s Lake District, gives his expert opinion on the current state of vinous play in Austria.

By Eric Zwiebel MS

As a sommelier, what is your view of Austrian wine in the restaurant context?

Having worked in various restaurants across the UK over the years, I’ve concluded that the example of Austrian wine is the best model to follow. 

Has that changed over the years?

Yes. When I arrived in England in 1998, Austrian wine was still somewhere between the reputation it had because of the 1985 anti-freeze scandal and the emergence of some great producers who were starting to show another side. Producers such as Nikolaihof, FX Pichler, Prager, Schloss Gobelsburg, Opitz, Kracher. These producers are still leading the way and have also created an important quality legacy (varietals, style, and terroir expression). It means that, when consumers come to eat in restaurants where they are unfamiliar with the list of the wines presented, they can be quite confident in choosing an Austrian wine, because Austrian wines’ quality consistently matches with value for money.

Were there any significant moments in the story of Austrian wine and its development that helped it become more accepted by sommeliers and restaurant-goers?

In 2003, the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) initiated the development of the DAC (Districtus Austrian Contolatus) system, intended to highlight specific regions and their characteristic grape varieties. I confess, initially, I was somewhat skeptical about its efficacy. However, as time has passed, I’ve come to believe it’s an excellent strategy for introducing more Austrian wines to the British market. Currently, the predominant grape varieties in the UK market include Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. However, we’ve observed a growth in popularity for the white varieties Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Chardonnay (Morillon), Muskateler, Sauvignon Blanc, Rotgipfler, and Neuburger. Additionally, there’s been an increased interest in red wines, such as Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, St-Laurent, Pinot Noir, and Blauburger.

How are Austria’s sparkling and dessert wines performing in UK restaurants?

Sparkling wine is, for the most part, currently limited to the domestic market. This isn’t because of any deficit in quality but rather due to supply constraints. The dessert wines, on the other hand, offer excellent value for money. I believe these are of exceptional quality and provide a diverse range of choices.

Which Austrian wine producers do you hold in high regard?

I’ve already mentioned Nikolaihof, FX Pichler, Prager, Schloss Gobelsburg, Opitz, and Kracher; then we have Domäne Wachau, Rudi Pichler, Jamek, Hirtzberger, Knoll, Alzinger, Stift Gottweig, Schweiger, Eichinger, Loimer, Brundlmayer, Hirsch, Hiedler, Poltz, Tement, Muster, Umatham, Feiler-Artinger, Tschida, Moric, and Oggau.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *