Tom Cannavan's   

Tasting notes from Austria

text and photographs © 2013 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on the Wines of Austria.

Hannes Sabathi, Styria

No UK importer for Hannes Sabathi at time of writing, but O'Briens of Dublin stock the wines.

White Wines

Hannes Sabathi, Welschriesling STK 2012, Austria
"This is the wine to drink in the Buschenschank with a cold cut," according to Hannes (a Buschenschank is an informal restaurant). With only 11.5% alcohol it has a fresh pear nose, lots of zip and apple freshness. Nice and dry and fresh, lots of crisp and clean flavour. 85/100. STK = low alcohol, stainless steel and for early drinking, but will be rationalised to "Steirische Klassik" for this variety too from 2013. 6.30€ locally.

Hannes Sabathi, Weissburgunder Steirische Klassik 2012, Austria
Or Pinot Blanc. More time on lees, and some time in big old casks. "I hate residual sugar and carbon dioxide in this style." Certainly has more leesy, yeasty character, a little bready note to the nutty apple fruit. Very clean very citrusy on the palate. The ripe clean apple and melon comes through, more substantial fruit and persistence in the finish, lovely acidity and bone dry. 86-87. 8€.

Hannes Sabathi, Chardonnay Gamlitz 2011, Austria
Very nice, clean, classic nutty Chardonnay nose, with an undertone of peach, but more about cool nutty apple fruit. The palate is clean and fresh, a nice medium body with juiciness, fresh-cut apple and a squirt of fresh lemon juice in the finish. Grapes from two single vineyards. 12 months ferment in large used oak. Gamlitz is the village where the vineyards are, a legal classification as in a village wine in Burgundy, but very few producers use it on labels. 87-88/100. Hannes thinks it will store for 5 to 7 years. 11€.

Hannes Sabathi, Grauburgunder Jägerberg 2011, Austria
Single vineyard Pinot Gris, 18 months on fine lees in big old casks. A warm vintage here, so the wine is pretty big, Hannes thinks it needs 3 or 4 years. 14% abv. Big, rich and exotic stuff, the smokiness of the Pinot Gris, the little honey and fatter, more tropical fruit tempered by cool apple. Big and hugely sweet fruit on the palate, this is a big wine with a spicy, full finish. It doesn't show the heat of the alcohol too much, but perhaps a little extra acidity would have been good. Loads of flavour and fruit though, and that gentle smokiness. 89/100. 17€.

Hannes Sabathi, Grauburgunder Jägerberg 2003, Austria
Coppery colour, lovely gently nutty and oxidised stuff, with a touch of custard and a full palate, lots of honey and crystallised fruit, that core of apple again, but the acidity back in balance more from this hot vintage. It has the streamlined, more energetic finish. 91/100. Available to drink in the Buschenschank.

Hannes Sabathi, Sauvignon Blanc Steirische Klassik 2012, Austria
Has a very nice touch of the fruit skin grip and the gentle herbaceousness of the grape, a hint of apricot too, but very fresh. 20 - 40% natural yeast ferment, but the other cuvees only natural yeast. The palate has lovely orange juice freshness, lots of tang but the cool, lean mineral dryness. A little rounding weight. 87-88. 9.30€.

Hannes Sabathi, Sauvignon Blanc Gamlitz 2012, Austria
Made in used old oak casks, all spontaneous fermentation, from two single vineyards, 70% gravel and sandy soils in Kranachberg, 30% Limestone in Jägerberg. There's a nutty hint of richness to this. A burgeoning hint of peach and nectarine, but the ripeness is there, hinting at passionfruit. Lovely sweet fruit, with a real juiciness, a squirt of apple acidity but that tropical fruit always hinting in the background. Long and very nicely focused a touch of mineral saltiness. 90/100. 15€.

Hannes Sabathi, Sauvignon Blanc Kranachberg 2011, Austria
18 months on fine lees in big barrels, from the single vineyard Kranachberg. Terrific nose: quite big, smoky, nutty and rich, the fruit cool and tempered, like sweet melon and apple, but again there's a hint of passionfruit coming through. The palate is quite rich, with real tang. The oak does give a nuttiness, but it is the freshness that still impresses. The light oxidation, minerality and nuttiness is delicious - somewhere between Bordeaux and the crisp minerality of natural wines. Punchy citrus in the finish really lifts this. Maybe not for everyone, but fascinating and excellent. 92/100. 21€.

Hannes Sabathi, Sauvignon Blanc Kranachberg 2006, Austria
Fantastic, custard apple nose with more oak possibly? Hannes later confirms it was in a newer barrels, but the wine also went through malolactic. The palate has delicious tropical-edged fruit with hints of pineapple and nectarine tropicality, a touch of green bean, but then that lovely core of dry mineral and lemon rind acidity comes through, this is drinking so well, with precision and a but of fat and generosity. 92/100.

Hannes Sabathi, Gelber Muskateller Gamlitz 2012, Austria
Lovely floral and herbal notes, lots of old roses lift, lots of fragrance. A little terpene character of greenness, and a touch of Turkish delight. Here the majority is from the limestone soils. Only 12.5%. Big, dry palate, the zipping freshness of the acidity and the cool precision of the mineral flavour. This is about steely, lime and lemon freshness on the palate and is delicious. Hannes says it goes really well with beef, "opposites attract"! 88-89/100. 13€.

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