When Constance e-mailed me about some Austrian wines from Monika Caha Selections, she said she had a "Grooner and a Zvy-gelt". That was odd, I thought--I knew she'd been over there recently and I can get by in Deutsch (even if it isn't meine Muttersprache), but I was happy to try the wines despite the English phonetic spelling. And then a few days later I received screwcap-enclosed bottles labeled Grooner and Zvy-gelt. Well I'll be a monkey's uncle!
I've spoken many times in favor of simpler German and Austrian labels. I think the Austrians are doing a better job of it from what I've seen, but they're also viewed as a newer entry to the American market and have less of an established fan base to deal with. With simple, pop art-inspired labels, anyone should be able to ask for these wines easily, even if they know nothing about the Niederösterreich appellation in Lower Austria, home to both.
I really wanted to enjoy these wines with food, and so recruited Lady A and Paul as dinner companions. For the first course, I made blackened cod with steamed asparagus and Hollandaise sauce. Hollandaise is one of those things that is completely pointless to make just for yourself, but for a group of people you can put a lot of smiles around the table. I used some of the Grüner Veltliner and lime juice in the sauce.
Speaking of which, we obviously paired this with the white: 2009 Grooner, $10, 12% abv. 100% Grüner Veltliner. It's light with a lemon and green apple aroma. Crisp with tart acidity, but not too strong. It rounds out somewhat as it warms up. Outstanding match for seafood--I have a lot of Austrian trout recipes, but I had cod on hand and was anxious to cook it. It was a bit salty with the blackening spices, but delicious regardless.
For the second course, I did something closer to Austrian cuisine. I coated a pork tenderloin with a mix of soy sauce, Dijon Mustard, and honey, and roasted it to a perfect medium, with just a touch of pink in the center. Slices were placed atop a mixture that had been braising for an hour: purple cabbage, red onion, and Jazz apples, with a bit of butter and a dash of red wine vinegar. I didn't overcook it, so the cabbage was still a bit crisp and the flavors of the ingredients were still distinguishable.
Here we opened the 2008 Zvy-Gelt. $11, 13.5% abv. 100% Zweigelt. I will quibble ever so slightly with the pronunciation here, since the German z is a sort of ts sound that takes some practice, especially at the beginning of a word. But no matter. This is a light and refreshing red wine, comparable in character to a Cru Beaujolais. Very mild cherry, soft and smooth with practically no tannins. Subtle spice and toast elements as well. Had I known it would be so gentle, I would have left out the vinegar from the cabbage and dialed back the spices a bit. The food didn't overpower the wine, but I was expecting something much stronger. As it was, the Zweigelt was a pleasant surprise and I was happy to add another grape to my list.
For dessert the always charming Lady A brought along a tasty carrot cake (Karottenkuchen) from Fresh Market with amazing icing. Usually it's just cream cheese, but I swear this had some sour cream or crème fraiche in it. Either way, it was rich, moist, and the perfect cap for the dinner.
Note: This wine was received as a sample, and the shipment included some lovely autumn-patterned table napkins that will show up in a future post.