When it comes to Pinot Noir, Austria is a minor player. The variety accounted for just 1.3 percent of the country’s wine production in 2015, according to the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, which notes that Pinot Noir cultivation “is still in its infancy” but with “increasingly promising results.”
Evidence of that promise comes from one of the most exciting Pinot Noirs I’ve tasted — from anywhere — this year: Meinklang’s 2017 Pinot Noir from the Neusiedlersee subregion of Burgenland.
There, the Michlits family farms about 170 acres of vineyards, part of a much larger “mixed farm” where grains, fruit orchards, and vegetables are also grown along Lake Neusiedl on the border with Hungary. (Part of the farm actually lies in Hungary, and Meinklang produces several wines from vineyards there.)
A clue to Meinklang’s farming philosophy lies on its labels: The symbol is a cow, which represents the fact that the farm uses biodynamic practices, including fertilizer from the manure of cows, sheep, and horses Meinklang maintains for this purpose. Other techniques from the natural wine playbook include minimal use of sulfites, native-yeast fermentation, and not filtering the wine.
In Meinklang’s Pinot Noir, or Blauburgunder in German, the result is a bright, earthy wine with gorgeous mixed-berry fruit tastes that evoke blueberry, strawberry, and cherry with a touch of black licorice, all of it framed by a moderate tannic grip. Fermentation and aging take place in stainless steel and in large, used barrels, so there is only a hint of oak.
With lively acidity and alcohol at just 12 percent, the wine is refreshing with a light chill and can be served with all kinds of simply prepared dishes, including grilled chicken and pork. It’s also a great value at about $20 or so.
When first poured, you’ll notice a little spritz, which is not uncommon in low-intervention wines. It goes away after you swirl it around in your glass. What emerges is a charming young wine that’s delightful to drink, interesting, and downright irresistible.
In the world of Pinot Noir, this one is in a class by itself — an Old World wine that’s simpler and more accessible than Burgundy, but unencumbered by the burdens of big-fruit, high-alcohol, and excessive oak found in so many New World Pinot Noirs.