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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Neusiedlersee, refers to both the 133 km-long, notably shallow lake of mysterious origin that plays a critical role in the wine-growing mesoclimates of the northern half of Austrian burgenland, and to an official wine region along that lake’s northern and eastern shores, with roughly 9,100 ha/22,500 acres of vines making up 18% of Austria’s total.

A quick tour of this region beginning on the border with the neusiedlersee-hügelland wine region and just to the west of the lake’s northernmost extension highlights its geological, mesoclimatic, and vinous diversity. The villages of Winden and Jois alternately feature slopes of mica schist and limestone, and sites such as the Alter Berg and Junger Berg are gradually re-establishing reputations with blaufränkisch and Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder). Among white wines, the Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) in this sector—while not widely planted—also distinguishes itself. At the northern tip of the lake, the low range of hills between the Parndorfer Platte and the lakeshore at Weiden and Gols features combinations of gravel, sand, and clay that support all the local red grape varieties—notably Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, Pinot Noir, and zwiegelt—as well as Merlot, Cabernet, and even some Syrah. The wealth of white grapes in this sector includes Chardonnay, neuburger, Pinot Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. Few villages in Austria are more singularly devoted to viticulture nor so crowded with family wineries than Gols, among which estate-bottlers Hans ‘John’ Nittnaus was the pioneer in the 1980s, champion of unblended Blaufränkisch. Josef ‘Pepi’ Umathum is notable for his rigorous Blaufränkisch vine selection, part of a multifaceted local cultural preservation project. Wide diversity of vine varieties is perpetuated around Mönchhof, Halbturn, and Frauenkirchen further south and east—the so-called Haideboden sector—more dominated by the warmth of the Great Pannonian Plain and less by the lake, a dominance that reaches its Austrian apex at Andau on the Hungarian frontier, known for its rich reds and in particular for the most powerful Zweigelt of all.