Some might be surprised by today’s wine, but not me: I expected it to be great, and sure enough, it is. This is Willi Bründlmayer we’re talking about, and you don’t need to take my word for it: Among the countless accolades he’s received, Wine & Spirits magazine named him “the best Austrian winemaker of the last 25 years.”
Sure, your first thought may be of precision-crafted Riesling and Grüner Veltliner from the most hallowed vineyard parcels in Austria’s Kamptal, but among Bründlmayer’s 90 hectares are some choice plots of Pinot Noir, which is blended with St. Laurent and Zweigelt to create this beautifully detailed Brut Rosé. Grown in plots rich in limestone chalk, this is as mineral and complex as anything from Champagne, including many big-ticket rosés that will set you back a lot more. This is not something I say very often about Austrian sekt,
but again: Bründlmayer. Not only do I expect to open at least one bottle at Thanksgiving, I can see this wine serving me exceptionally well throughout the Winter, with its hints of smoke and dried citrus and warm spices. And this isn’t my longtime friendship with the Bründlmayer family talking, either: One sip and the case is made, unequivocally.
Nevertheless, I realize that it’s difficult for many to leave their chosen Champagne “lane.” Yes, this wine is made in the same way as Champagne, but maybe you can’t get past the German terminology on the label. Let me help: “Traditionelle Flaschengärung Handgerüttelt” means “traditionally bottle-fermented and hand-riddled.” Just like Champagne. Add in the cool climate of the Kamptal, chalky soils, and Bründlmayer’s transcendent talent, and the only question left is: How soon can it get here?
The Bründlmayers—legendary Willi and his son, Vincent—are outspoken advocates for sustainable farming and works rigorously to maintain healthy vineyards through natural solutions. They employ natural fertilizers, eschew herbicides, and plant cover crops in between vineyard rows. Upon harvest, the grapes are typically picked in several tries, or passes, to assure that only grapes of optimal ripeness will go into the final blend. Considering the breadth of their holdings (roughly 185 acres) that’s a time-consuming feat that results in a staggering array of different single-vineyard bottlings. But year in and year out, Vincent and Willi turn out one of the most impressive top-to-bottom wine lineups in the game.
Today’s Brut Rosé is a blend of Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, and St. Laurent fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in a combination of 300- and 2,500-liter Austrian oak casks before its second fermentation in bottle. Some ‘still’ Zweigelt is added to the blend as well, and, once bottled, the wine spends at least 18 months aging on its lees before disgorgement. As noted above, “riddling” (the occasional rotation of bottles to collect yeast sediments in the neck) is done by hand.
The result is a classic salmon-pink rosé sparkler of incredible refinement, persistence, and penetrating minerality. It is racy and refreshing but powerful as well, with aromas of red cherries, cranberries, red apple skin, dried orange peel, caramel, toast, warm spices, and a touch of smoke. It has a slightly more delicate mousse than the typical Champagne, which is great, frankly—I like to let the carbonation blow off to get a better read on the wine, and this one stretches its legs aromatically with time in the glass. It is bright and immediate and face-slappingly fresh but lingers on the finish with notes of dried flowers and fruits. Serve it at 45-50 degrees in all-purpose stems with (dare I suggest this?) a fancy take on “pigs in a blanket.” That is one apéritif hour I would like to attend! Enjoy!