Uncorked: Where should I start with Austrian natural wine?

Everyone is talking about Austrian natural wine, but what the hell is it and where should you start? In our new series taking the mystery out of wine, the Honest Grapes Wine Gurus explain all

Friday 09 December 2022 20:51 GMT
The Wachau valley is home to some of the oldest natural wine producers in the country
The Wachau valley is home to some of the oldest natural wine producers in the country (Getty)

Are you a wine connoisseur in the making? Or simply an oenophile-in-training? Either way, the Indy Wine Club is here to help.

In our new series Uncorked, we are taking your burning questions about wine straight to the gurus at our partner Honest Grapes. No question is too big, or too small: is there ever a right time to serve red chilled? What should you look for when buying a Côtes du Rhône? And is cork always better than a screwtop? These are just some of the questions we’ll be answering in this column.

Don’t get stuck in the grapevine. Send your questions over to our food and drink editor Hannah Twiggs and we’ll pop the cork on your biggest grape gripes.

That’s enough wine puns (for now). Let the education commence…

I’ve heard about Austrian natural wines. Where should I start?

Where to begin! First things first, the designation “natural wine” is somewhat nebulous, insofar as currently there’s no certification (unlike organic or biodynamic). It is generally agreed however that farming biodynamically, with organic materials, with nothing added and nothing taken away during the winemaking process, and no fining or filtration, will result in a “living” and “natural” wine.

Austria has been at the heart of this movement for almost a century. In fact, the founding father of biodynamic farming was an Austrian – Dr Rudolph Steiner – an occultist and famous clairvoyant, who during a series of lectures in 1924 delineated a set of principles that the natural wine world now follows. It’s a category without a definition but grabbed the attention of everyone in the industry – either dismissed as a passing fad, or embraced as a point of difference or interest.

It’s not regionally specific either. Weingut Nikolaihof, the country’s oldest estate in Wachau, was one of the world’s first biodynamic wineries, and more modern wineries in Burgenland such as Claus Preisinger and the legendary Gerhard Pittnauer embrace the hands off, minimalist approach to winemaking with tremendous results.

As the natural wine movement keeps growing here, you’ll find more Pet Nat (a method of sparkling wine that pre-dates champagne), and more unfiltered (cloudy) wines, as well as every other style imaginable. The beauty is that there are no hard and fast rules with natural wines, so for every one you dislike, you are almost guaranteed to find several more that agree with your palate. The other side of this is the lack of consistency, so if you do find one you like, next time it may not taste quite the same…

If you are completely new to natural wine, some of the more extreme examples may be too funky, cloudy, dirty, cider apply and cheesy to your palate… so always ask about the wines you are buying. In any case, I recommend you dive right in and start exploring!

To learn more about Independent Wine Club and catch the first cases – the Italian Festive Case and the Festive Heroes Case – before they sell out, sign up here.

Got a question for the wine gurus? Send it to hannah.twiggs1@independent.co.uk or tweet @hannah_twiggs.

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