Back in November 2006 I hosted Wine Blogging Wednesday #27 with the theme of Ice Wines (here's the round-up). I had first tasted ice wines at the wineries in the Niagara Wine Region, so I was very excited when offered the chance to taste eiswein from the Old Country, namely Weinrieder eisweins from Austria. (click on photo for larger image)
Sadly, timing conspired to make that not possible for WBW #27. I thought I would try them over the holidays, but then life conspired to prevent that. So I considered saving them for Valentine's Day, as sharing a bottle of eiswein while getting cozy on the sofa sounds lovely. But two bottles of eiswein for two people... that would have been some Valentine's Day. So I called up friends Barb and Sheila, who graciously consented to help us with this hardship duty. Sheila brought along a third bottle of Vidal Blanc ice wine, which will go in a separate write-up, so it was three bottles of wine for four people. (Let's just say a good time was had by all...)
We set up the table with the wine and discussed tasting order. Sheila recommended we start with the Riesling (as she thought the others would overpower it), followed by the Chardonnay, and then the Vidal Blanc.
With that settled, we poured. Except we poured the Chardonnay first! No matter, I said, and jumped up for more wine glasses, and we poured the Riesling. Foolish me, I grabbed the same style of glass. Now, keep in mind that these are both golden-yellow wines, with the Chardonnay slightly more amber-colored, but under our living room lights they looked nearly identical. There was a momentary panic when Sheila and I each sniffed our glasses, and sniffed again, and yet again, and with a dismayed look were both forced to declare (with much embarrassment) that we couldn't tell them apart. Joe said, "don't ask me," but offered his glasses for reference sniffs since he had wisely put them on two different tables. Barb just laughed. She had no trouble telling hers apart. Well, somehow one of us had ended up with two glasses of Riesling, and the other two of the Chardonnay. We swapped a glass and sniffed again, and with great relief pronounced that we could tell them apart. I was extremely pleased to realize that I could even tell which grape was which just from smelling them. Once we tasted them, of course, it was easy...
Full disclosure: I received these wines as a press sample.
Weinrieder Schneiderberg Riesling Eiswein, 2002
The wine is a golden yellow in color with lovely aromas of honey and apples (maybe a touch of apricots). It had a rich, creamy feel in the mouth, and it tasted like it smelled — lots of very sweet honey and apple with enough acidity to balance that sweetness. This wine is a dessert by itself. We all enjoyed this one, and Joe was particularly enamored of it. I would much like to see what this wine will be like in a few years.
Weinrieder Birthal Chardonnay Eiswein, 2001
A lovely golden amber color. The nose of this Chardonnay eiswein was not as obviously sweet as the Riseling. In fact, its nose seemed surprisingly "dry" to me, leading me to expect a less sweet wine. As it turned out, I would call it moderately sweet. The flavor had apricot notes with some honey (but not as heavily honey-flavored as the Riesling) with a tangy finish with a hint of bitterness. Joe described it as a quinine-like note, but I think Barb nailed it perfectly when she said "grapefruit." (Ah, yes, grapefruit!) A lively wine — bright and, I think, well balanced between the sweetnes and acidity. This one was my favorite, and was quite popular with Barb and Sheila, too. (Joe liked it, he just liked the Riesling better.)
The Weinrieder Estate is near the town of Poysdorf, just 50 km North of Vienna, in the Weinviertel region. Wine growing in the Weinviertel region dates back to at least the 12th century, and the area is known for its sparkling wines. Weinreider Estates is specifically known for its high quality white wines, including Grüne Veltliners, Rieslings, Chardonnays, and Weissburgunders, as well as its dessert wines: Eiswein, Trockenbeerenausleesen, and Strohwein.
Weinrieder Estates website: http://www.weinrieder.at/ (Click on the British flag for the English-language version. Unfortunately, the English version is not as up-to-date as the German-language pages.)
Weinrieder is imported into the US by the Blue Danube Wine Company in Los Altos, California, so they're the people to contact if you want to locate a bottle.