Let’s face it: We all love Thanksgiving. The holiday season is awash in traditions: family gatherings, friends and loved ones, good food, and of course, wine. This Thanksgiving, Circo Vino is delighted to share some of our most cherished traditions to keep you warm and happy.
A Storied Tradition in Wien
In Vienna, there is perhaps no tradition more dear than Gemischter Satz. A field blend of grapes that are grown and vinified together, the concept started out as a kind of insurance policy. Planting a vineyard to a few different varieties helped to ensure success in the case of disease or bad weather, and the various stages of ripeness at harvest delivered an easy consistency to the wines. Gemischter Satz is the traditional go-to wine when indulging in another Viennese tradition, the Heurige. Found throughout Vienna, Heurigen are small taverns run by wineries, and are only permitted to serve estate-produced wines.
Gemischter Satz has long held a reputation as a fresh, young-drinking village-style wine, and as Austrian producers began to focus on single-vineyard varietal wines, it was in danger of being forgotten. But in recent years, winemakers have turned their attention toward creating more serious examples of the beloved field blend. Fritz Wieninger of Hajszan Neumann is at the forefront of this movement, farming 20 hectares of biodynamic vineyards on the famed Nussberg, much of which is planted to the traditional varieties of Gemischter Satz, including Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, and Welschriesling, among many others. . Fritz brings his decades of winemaking experience to the vineyards and cellars of Wien, crafting elegant, terroir-driven Gemischter Satz.
Given that Gemischter Satz is a blend of many different food-friendly grapes, its versatility at the dinner table comes as no surprise. The combination of Riesling’s acidity and aromatics, Grüner’s spice, and Pinot Blanc’s body and elegance lend Gemischter Satz an ability to pair with any appetizer that might find it’s way to your Thanksgiving feast. Balancing old- and new-school winemaking philosophies, today’s quality Gemischter Satz is a tradition unto itself.
Varieties: Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Neuberger, Welschriesling
Vineyard: Limestone, shell limestone, clay
Analysis: Alcohol: 13.0%, Acid: 6.2 g/L, Sugar: 1.1 g/L
An Historic Estate
West of Vienna, in the Kremstal, there is another viticultural tradition, one that predates Austria itself. Messwein, or altar wine, has been produced in the area for hundreds of years. Originally used for the celebration of the Eucharist in Catholic mass, Messwein has gained popularity among wine consumers recently, owing to it’s approachable, easy-drinking nature. Messwein can be made from any grape variety, so long as the strict purity rules laid down by the church are followed.
One of the oldest wineries in Austria can be found here as well. Stift Göttweig has been making wine, including Messwein, since the 14th century on the banks of the Danube. Situated beneath the historic Göttweig Abbey, the winery, helmed by the talented Fritz Miesbauer, is steeped in history, and its vineyards on the slopes of the Göttweiger Berg are planted mainly to Grüner Veltliner.
The versatile Grüner, Austria’s favorite grape variety, lends itself particularly well to Messwein. Vinified light and dry, Stift Göttweig’s take on Messwein combines centuries of winemaking tradition with an Austrian classic to produce a unique, quaffable Grüner. Try it with an appetizer of Brussels sprouts and pancetta.
Variety: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Vineyard: Löss, primary rock upon the Göttweiger Berg
Analysis: Alcohol: 12.0%, Acid: 6.2 g/L, Sugar: 3.0 g/L
An Ancestral Institution
The Kremstal is world-renowned for its signature white varietals, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, so it may come as a surprise that world-class Pinot Noir can be found here as well. The finicky grape grows remarkably well in certain microclimates of the Kremstal terroir, and with proper care and grooming, has become a niche staple of the region. Locally known as Blauer Burgunder, an etymological nod to the grape’s French origins, Kremstal Pinot’s develop a depth of character unique to Austria.
Speaking of Kremstal tradition, it doesn’t get any deeper than the Malat wine estate. Ninth-generation vintner Michael Malat faithfully continues to run the family winery in Palt, which was founded in 1722. While the estate focuses mostly on white wine, Michael has a few select vineyard plots planted to Pinot Noir. An elegant, extremely food-friendly wine, Malat’s Pinot Noir pairs with everything from cheese plates to turkey and lamb.
Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
Vineyard: Deep löss over primary rock, alluvial sand and gravel
Analysis: Alcohol: 13.0%, Acid: 5.0 g/L, Sugar: 1.0 g/L
Keep it in the “Familie”
The Thermenregion, south of Vienna, is red wine country, and Austria’s native red grape, St. Laurent, thrives here. Likely a cross of Pinot Noir and another unknown parent, St. Laurent is named for St. Lawrence Day, which coincides with the time of year that the grapes begin to change color. The third most planted red grape in the country, it requires a watchful eye in the vineyard due to its fussy nature and susceptibility to spring frost, but in the right hands, St. Laurent shines as a lovely reminder of Austria’s long heritage of red wine production
The Reinisch brothers have elevated Austrian red wine to an art form in the Thermenregion. Some of the finest examples of the craft can be found in their single-vineyard offerings, which marry terroir-expressive varietals with specific vineyard sites to produce stunning wines. The family’s Frauenfeld vineyard boasts the estate’s oldest St. Laurent vines, and the sunny, dry climate ensures full ripening and aromatic development of the finicky grape. Pair this with hearty fare like roasted game.
Variety: 100% St. Laurent
Vineyard: “Frauenfeld” single vineyard site, Alluvial gravel, limestone
Analysis: Alcohol: 13.5%, Acid: 5.1 g/L, Sugar: 1.2 g/L
The holiday season is a time to celebrate traditions, heritage, and family. Whether you’re sitting down to a formal dinner with three generations of family, or hosting your inaugural, wine-fueled “Friendsgiving,” the themes are the same: good food, good wine, and love. We are thankful for the opportunity to have a place at your table. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Circo Vino!