Mrs. Claret arrived back at the house yesterday evening clutching an intriguing looking black bag. Had she indulged herself in a new dress or pair of shoes I asked? Absolutely not, it was actually a present for me – and a consumable one at that! She had happened across a stall at the South Bank cheese and wine festival selling an interesting selection of Austrian wines and decided that a Rotgipfler would be suitably obscure and interesting.
Merry Widows Wine is a small operation specialising entirely in wines from two producers, Heinrich Hartl from Thermenregion and Bernd Heiling from Burgenland. Their USP is to make most of the wines available in three sizes – 250ml, 500ml and 750ml (the tagline is “for me, for us, for everyone”). I like this idea – there are often times when opening a full bottle of something is over indulgent (or downright wasteful).
Rotgipfler turns out to be a grape indigenous to the Thermenregion in Austria, and is sometimes compared to Viognier, although its parents are Traminer and Roter Veltliner. The 2009 Heinrich Hartl Rotgipfler is pale in colour, with an enticingly spicy nose (white pepper, a hint of ginger, and the telltale tropical fruit aromas of a cold-fermented wine made in a modern style). The texture is really thick, somewhat viscous and oily on the palate, very much like an Alsace Gewurztraminer (clearly a nod to one parent). Whilst there is a pleasant floral element, a hint of lychees and the same peppery note in the mouth, this doesn’t have the more extreme flavour profiles of either Viognier or Gewurztraimer. Personally, I wanted a touch more zest to offset the oiliness. On this point I disagree with the Merry Widows’ own tasting note, which refers to “tingling acidity”. Of course they may well be referring to the 2008, presumably now out of stock.
At £12 a pop, I’m not sure if this is something I’ll be buying by the case load – it’s well made and attractive, but hardly profound – however, it did prove itself when paired with the rest of the contents of the black bag – some absolutely divine Scamorza, which we toasted on rye, to create a sort of Heston Blumenthal eulogy to Cheese on Toast. Some handmade chorizo from a small mountain village near Alicante completed a rather wonderful Friday night aperitif.