In days long past, the gathering of the harvest was a raucous occasion. Pan walked the earth, Dionysus frolicked in the forest with his Bacchanites, magic was afoot! With winter approaching and lacking the modern convenience of long-term food storage, erstwhile children of summer used feasting holidays following harvesting time to fatten up for many months of lean. Subsisting most of the year off a limited and rationed diet, ancient peoples could let their hair down and grub down on a cornucopia of tasty treats.
It was not just feasts of wheat, barley and meat that defined the harvest festival…wine flowed with abandon rarely seen the rest of the long year. What was more, the harvest festival wine was as magical as the season itself, far removed from watered-down, ho-hum variety that made water before sewage systems potable. Everyday wine was almost accidental in its process and method, but harvest wine was the product of thoughtful and conscious years of experimentation, evaluation and innovation.
In the current era, we are a world population veritably spoiled by the high quality wines available to us on a daily basis in seemingly every variety and at every price-point. Gone are the days of wine as a means of sanitation or watered-down wine due to lack. Gorgeous wine is abundant. Celebrating the feats of harvest is as simple as going into your local, independent wine shop and choosing from the myriads of carefully curated bottles.
As the temperaments of fall shift us into cozy thoughts of root vegetables, spoonable casseroles, braised meats and rich sauces we would like to re-visit some of the wines and varieties in our stables that have stood the tests of one hundred harvests.
Wines in Three – Eight Time
If a wine were a waltz there would be no better a bottle to dance to than a bottle of Austrian Gemischter Satz. Gemischter Satz is a style of wine and the name means “mixed-set” or “mixed-planting.” Due to recent DAC laws in Austria, the Vienna growing region is most immediately associated with wines of this style as it carries the Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC designate. Gemischter Satz is not just a Viennese tradition, though, and wines of mixed planted vineyards can be found throughout Austria with several examples in other parts of Europe, most notably Alsace with Edelzwicker style wines. Harking back to the knowledge imparted by Pan and Dionysus, grape farmers of yore noticed that a diverse planting of varieties, especially in a fashion interspersed through the vineyard, led to a more balanced, tasty, and most importantly, successful wine. As with waltzes, opera, and grand balls, the Viennese (later) somewhat perfected the idea of Gemischter Satz during the late 1700s and continue, to this day, to protect not only the prized 613 hectares of vineyard land within the Vienna city-limits but also the Heuriger culture and historical mixed-vineyard plantings that perpetuate the Gemischter Satz style.
Variety: 30% Grüner Veltliner, 26% Pinot Blanc, 22% Riesling, 15% Welschriesling, 5% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Traminer
Soil Type: Clay and limestone on the Nussberg in Vienna
There Are Hundreds of Songs With “River ” In The Title
Lovers of Austrian wine are quick to tell you that some of their favorites are produced from the Danube River region. Whether it be the north bank of the Danube with the breathtakingly steep, stone-terraced, Wachau Valley vineyards, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000 or the ancient, alluvial and mixed soils of the south bank of the Danube in the Kremstal region or the many and varied derivations of river influenced microclimates in the rest of Lower Austria, there is no doubt that even when wine-related technology was nonexistent, these areas were known for growing the most notable wines. Today, we see that some of Austria’s most collectable and celebrated wines come from vineyards directly influenced by the Danube and its history.
Variety: 100% Riesling
Soil Type: Alluvial, Sandy löss
Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
Soil Type: löss, gravel
During times when wine-growing was seemingly more place-centered and beliefs about wine’s role in society more spiritual and nature-based, harvest time was anticipated by subtle changes in the wind, a growing crispness in the air, and the ebbing away of green to make way for the multi-colored hues of fall. In fairy stories, evenings were spent around the fire, maybe with a cup of mead or the dregs of last season’s wine – spiced perhaps. There was usually song and dance. Today we track harvest on thermal maps, podcasts and Instagram, of course. Regardless of yesteryears, today, or tomorrow, the unifying thread of wine time is that right about now, somewhere in the world, a wine-grower is standing in their field making decisions about this vintage’s wine. Be a part of harvest. Find some well-farmed wine, make a toast to Mother Nature and, Bottoms-Up!