From €5.83, £6.50 and 11.62 Swiss francs.
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What we need on Twelfth Night at the start of what looks as though it will be an extremely crunchy year is wine that is really delicious but also keenly priced. Austria’s finely etched whites are not well known for being bargains but this is a delicious exception. It’s made by the admirable Freie Weingärtner Wachau (FWW) co-operative in Austria’s classic white wine region, the Wachau, on the stunningly terraced north bank of the Danube upstream of Vienna. Its 600-odd members own nearly a third of all the vineyards in this beautiful region between them, many of them with less than a hectare each. It was founded in 1938 and is just outside the town of Dürnstein, where Richard the Lionheart was famously imprisoned.
I have had the pleasure of drinking many FWW wines from the 1990s after many years in bottle and they constitute some of the best co-op-produced wines I have ever encountered. There have been several different eras of management and winemaking, but the current team of general manager Roman Horvath and winemaker Heinz Frischengruber who took over in 2005 really seems to be on top form.
Most inexpensive versions of Austria’s signature grape taste pretty tart and lean but this Domäne Wachau, Wachau Collection Grüner Veltliner 2007 Wachau tastes more like a more serious wine. Grüner Veltliner is grown on more than half of all of the co-op members’ vineyards and this example is delightfully crisp yet spicy with lots of white pepper perfume. It is just off dry, with 4.7g/l residual sugar, and is clean as a whistle. Just the job for a New Year’s palate scrub, this wine would make lovely drinking without food, or with dishes such as carpaccio (of fish as well as meat) and light pasta dishes – especially those with a creamy sauce.
Domäne Wachau is the new name adopted for the co-op’s wines aimed fair and square at export markets. I am seriously surprised that this wine is not more expensive than it is. The new importers of wines from this producers are Alliance Wines of Scotland, and current principal stockist in the UK is Tanners of Shrewsbury, who sell it for just £6.50 a bottle. (I am hoping, incidentally although tangentially, that this choice may encourage James Tanner to respond to this current thread on our forum about the ticklish subject of exactly how buyers of wine en primeur can be sure that they hang on to their wine in the event that the wine merchant were to go belly up.)