Hills (and Dales)

The wait-staff recently held a small gathering, ostensibly for the holidays, though the real purpose centered around one of those strange human versions of entertainment known as a movie. In this particular movie, there is a great deal of singing and dancing for no apparent reason. Humans, as far as we can tell, rarely break out into song and synchronized dancing. Yet, there they were, spinning across a lovely alpine landscape, singing about the hills.

To the writers’ credit, one song does acknowledge the sheer wonderfulness of felines. (As well as brown-paper packages and a few other things, but the important thing is the recognition of us.)

The guests who attended this viewing also insisted on singing along for several songs. This is generally not a behavior we wish to encourage, since most humans have very dull voices and certainly not the range of a feline. And alcohol only seems to encourage this behavior.

A dilemma, then – to discourage singing or encourage wine?

Wine, it turns out, is hard to pass up, even if human wailing is involved. Truth be told, wine makes the whole singing thing less reprehensible.

In the spirit of this weekend folly, we decided to recognize a few of our favorite Austrian wines.

First up, the Gruner Veltliner. This is a popular wine in Austria, and is making inroads in the U.S. A good gruner should have a bit of greenness to it, but not in an unripe fruit kind of way. Think more like fresh snap peas, just from the vine and waiting to be shelled. Or maybe fresh snow peas would be more precise? Austrian gruners also have a brightness and richness that can be missing from the more mineral gruners of Germany. One of our favorites is Nikolai Wachau, which treats you to a lovely summer flavor of lemon zest and fresh greens, bright and deep and so much more than just a way to pass the time on a long summer night.

And what would a discussion of Austrian wines be without mention of Riesling? Though long associated with Germany, Austria has a small and growing collection of Riesling wines. Riesling is a grape that truly reflects its terroir, and its flavors can vary wildly from place to place. Most Austrian versions, for example, tend to be less fruity and more dry. The fruit is there, but it’s balanced by a strong sense of stone.

Finally, we’d like to mention a little known red. These are reds that are juicy, with a bit of that syrah pepper kick, and plenty of warmth to help guide you through those long winter nights in the shadow of a hulking mountain. The wine is called blaufrankisch, and it is one that deserves your attention. Hard to find? Very much so. Worth the investment? Absolutely.


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