I read recently, under the Decanter Magazine headline “Bordeaux becalmed”, that for the first time since Sotheby’s started selling wine in 1970 Bordeaux has dipped below 50% in sales. The decline in popularity of this once king of the wine regions is something for others to ponder, but at a wholly different level there have been few international success stories as swift as the rise, or maybe we should say rebirth, of Austrian wine. The pendulum swings…or is it just that even rich old people eventually go to another place and take their ideas on quality, and what makes for exciting wine, with them?
Austria makes plenty of old school classic wines, as the fine Rieslings and Grüners of the Wachau attest, but there’s no doubt that what is driving interest in Austria among the new, younger, wine drinkers are the young producers who are starting out, or taking over established parental estates. Of course, the fact that many of these are turning to “natural wines” doesn’t fit in with the parameters of taste established by the old guard. They don’t really like it up ’em, especially if it has undergone skin contact (the illiberal wine elite let out a shudder).
There’s no finer example than the Rennersistas in Gols, creating a buzz with their new wines and eye-catching labels, just doing something so very different. I mention the Rennersistas because I’ll be visiting them very soon, but it is no coincidence that you can find their wines in Newcomer Wines at Dalston Junction. As I’m off to Austria soon I thought I’d pop over to take a look at what’s new.
Since they moved up to Dalston Lane from Shoreditch Boxpark they have grown their range and grown in stature, but that doesn’t get around the fact that a special effort is required for me to get over to see them, and three or four times a year is all I manage now. I need to try harder, because this is one of the most exciting places to buy wine in London, with some of the friendliest staff.
It’s a really good time to make an effort to get there yourself because Newcomer seems to have taken delivery of a fair few new vintages of existing lines, plus a few new additions.
From Rennersistas in particular, now is the time to try their Waiting for Tom white blend (Chardonnay, Weissburgunder and Welschriesling), a worthy partner for the excellent red I have kept back from their first vintage (2015), just as an experiment. I left Dalston yesterday with a bottle of In a Hell Mood, Stefanie and Susanne’s petnat (75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, Ancestral Method, seven months on lees, unfiltered). This producer is surely one of the most exciting in the vicinity of the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland, and there is actually a good, wide, selection of their wines on the shelves at the moment.
Claus Preisinger is, of course, closely associated with the Rennersistas. If you want a brilliant range of Gols wines, from cheap to expensive, Claus may well be the place to start. Somewhere in the middle of his range sits two sparkling wines, Ancestral (ancestral method with crown cap, not kept on yeast lees, £30) and Xtravaganza (mushroom cork, traditional method, £39). Both wines are made from Sankt-Laurent, and the prices here are pretty close to what you’d pay in Austria.
Since the 2015 vintage Claus has made one of the best “fun” wines in the country. Puszta Libre is a blend of mostly Zweigelt with (depending on vintage) 20% to 30% Sankt-Laurent. Part of the fruit undergoes carbonic maceration and part is direct pressed. The 2017 vintage is just in. I love this wine, a brilliant light glugger, quite inexpensive. I’ve not tasted the ’17 but I sensed real enthusiasm for the new vintage from the staff (“really fruity with more extract and texture than the ’16”). Needless to say, some went in my bag.
Michael Wenzel makes wine further down the Neusiedlersee on its western shore, at Rust. It was a shame I was quite unaware of Michael when I visited Rust in 2015. Michael’s focus is on Furmint. Historically it was always planted here, because we are just over the border from Hungary’s Sopron wine region, both of which sat firmly in the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the First World War. But it almost died out in Austria through the middle of the Twentieth Century, until Michael’s father, Robert, smuggled vines over the Iron Curtain from Sopron in the 1980s.
As well as the excellent Furmint 2017 which, coming off mica and gneiss, has ample fresh acidity and a mineral edge, don’t pass by the Gelber Muskateller 2017. This is a traditional variety of the western shore, off the same soils. It sees seven months on lees and is bottled without filtration. A very pure wine when I’ve tried it before, and I’m quite a fan of the wider dry expression of this grape from this part of Burgenland.
I’m not massively familiar with Baden producer Enderle & Moll. Sven and Florian have become something of a Pinot Noir specialist, in a region (and indeed, country) where the competition with this variety is hot. Some have even gone as far as to rank them number one in Germany, quite a shocking accolade, on which I’m not qualified to comment.
Newcomer has their Pinot Noir 2016 (only £21), but a step up is Liaison. This comes from vines of at least 45 years old and is considered a kind of Premier Cru. They use an old basket press and barrels from Dujac, yet all this care will only set you back around £30 (take-out price). Hardly a risk. Liaison is available from 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages. And why not grab their fun Müller-Thurgau at the same time (£15).
Another new vintage just arrived is the magnums of Christian Tschida‘s amazing “Brutal” red blend cuvée. One of the best of the wines made and labelled after the bar of the same name in Barcelona for their Brutal Wine Co, this is quite rare and even at £78 for the 2016 should really be snapped up. The wine beside it in the photo is Sonja 2016, a bit of a labelling departure for Christian. But hey, Cabernet Franc from Neusiedlersee’s eastern shores is surely a must-try, even though Tschida’s wines never come cheap (£38).
Weinviertal isn’t an Austrian region I knew a lot about until I was struck almost dumb by the top wines of Poysdorf producer, Ebner-Ebenauer, earlier this year. About 20 minutes south of Poysdorf, in the village of Hohenruppersdorf, you will find Michael Grindl. I’ve never tried his wines, but I know I should – he’s a skin contact specialist whose wines sometimes have quite long periods on lees. Two labels I’d not spotted in Newcomer before were his Weissburgunder and Riesling Sodalis from the Sol vineyard.
Finally, from Austria, Vienna’s star natural winemaker Jutta Ambrositsch. There is a good full selection of her wines in stock right now. The one I took away was Rakete 2017 which she bottles as a Landwein but describes as a “Röter Gemischter Satz Rechts der Donau”. Gemischter Satz is the traditional Viennese field blend of which I am so enamoured (and, of course, a passion I’ll be pursuing when I visit Vienna soon).
I’ve truly adored Jutta’s wines ever since I bought her white Gemischter Satz, Sieveringer Ringelspiel, back in Newcomer’s Shoreditch Boxpark days. I tasted this red wine at the “New Old World” RIBA Tasting earlier this year, and this will be my first purchased bottle. As with Claus’ Puszta Libre, serve cool or (even better) lightly chilled.
Newcomer has a whole lot more these days than just Austrian wine. As far as I know they are the only place in the UK to stock a wide range of wines from Swiss Valais producer, Mythopia, who must surely be one of the most unique Pinot Noir specialists in the world – prices range from £49 up to £79 (for Wild Geboren 2012).
I didn’t spot any bottles from Mosel’s Rudolf and Rita Trossen on the shelf yesterday (reclusive, near mythical, natural wines from the less lauded slopes of Kinheim in the Middle Mosel), but I did spot a very healthy Jura offering this time (Labet, Domaine des Cavarodes, J-B Ménigoz’s Bottes Rouges, Les Dolomies) and the same Domaine Giachino Savoie Apremont I bought in Paris a few weeks ago (again, at almost the same price in Euros, £21).
Other names to look for from France include De Moor Aligoté, Yann Durieux (Love and Pif) and Jerôme Prévost, whose Meunier La Closerie Les Béguines can at least be had here, even if it now retails for over £70.
Back closer to Austria, don’t forget to check out the Czech/Moravian wines of “Autentisté Group” Member Milan Nestarec, whose crown capped Danger 380 Volts sees just two months on lees in bottle, and is a lovely grapefruity petnat in perhaps a lighter style than some. His Forks & Knives wines (green label below) have given a lot of pleasure here, too.
Do get yourself over to Newcomer this summer. I strongly suggest a small suitcase accompanies you. There’s still an awful lot I haven’t mentioned, like the Werlitsch and Strohmeier pictured below. Those who know me well know how I’ve been inspired by the wines of the wonderful Ewald Tscheppe, and his “tree and earth” labels.
The Strohmeier Schilcher Frizzante is a real Steiermark Region speciality, made from the Blauer Wildbacher grape. Tart yet creamy, with the flavour of tiny wild mountain strawberries. For devotees and initiates, and the most adventurous of wine lovers, until a year or so ago this was a purely Austrian delight. People like Newcomer’s Peter Honegger and one or two others are seeking to widen its appeal. I hope they succeed.
Werlitsch, Strohmeier, Preisinger Puszta Libre and Jutta’s Rakete red Gemischter
Newcomer Wines is at 5 Dalston Lane, London E8. Best options from Central London are either overground to Dalston Junction or the separate Dalston Kingsland stations (both very close), or by bus. Bus routes 56 (from St Bart’s Hospital near St Paul’s) and 76 (from Waterloo) stop close to Dalston Junction.
You can read about the large Newcomer Wines Tasting, “The Old New World” (March 2018, the the RIBA) here.