The holidays are over, and so are all the lists and guides and recommendations on what wines go with what occasions. I, for one, will drink to that. So, as we start fresh for 2009, I went hunting the other day for some new wines to consider for the new year. My requirements were that they be from regions I hadn’t covered for a while and that they represent good value, which is a priority these days.
When I say good value I’m talking about wines that will not only make you take notice of their individuality, but that will also make you think you got a great bottle for the price. And who isn’t looking for that?
Well, one of my new wines, a $14 red from Austria, makes the point superbly. It's the 2006 Blauer Zweigelt from Anita and Hans Nittnaus in the Burgenland region. The Blauer Zweigelt variety, also known simply as Zweigelt, is a cross between two well-known Austrian red grapes, Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent.
In the Nittnaus interpretation it produces an enticingly fruity, soft and immediately accessible wine that is hard to put down. With its satin texture, this is a wine for those who want a refreshing break from big and tannic reds. Medium-weight with a modest 12.5 percent alcohol, the Nittnauses make it using biodynamic vineyard practices (a method of organic farming) in Burgenland’s Neusiedlersee area, named after a shallow lake that tempers the hot climate.
And here’s the deal clincher: For all its approachability, the wine still offers considerable complexity, with tastes of spicy cherry accented by sage, mint and touches of black licorice and vanilla on the finish. I enjoyed it with steak and it will also match well with other red meats, pork and herbed chicken.
“Easily drinkable and intriguing at the same time,” I wrote in my notes. Add the modest price and you’ve got a great bottle of red for these modest times. Austria, of course, is best known in this country for the white Gruner Veltliner variety, which produces some first-class food wines in a range of prices. With wines like the Nittnaus Zweigelt, the reds deserve a more prominent place at the table.
The Nittnaus wine is part of the Austrian portfolio of Monika Caha Selections and is distributed in the New York area by Frederick Wildman and Sons. I bought it at Chambers Street Wines.
Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at