Anita & Hans Nittnaus, Blaufränkisch Leithaberg, 2006

Anita & Hans Nittnaus, Blaufränkisch Leithaberg, 2006

If the wine world were a fair place, I would not have to draw your attention to what should by rights be an iconic bottle of Austrian red wine. But I'm happy to: Anita and Hans Nittnaus are founding members of the Pannobile group of wine growers - the name is a combination of "Pannonia" (the historical and geographical name of the east Austrian and Hungarian plain) and the Latin word for "noble". When Austria was first working her way out of the hole it had dug herself with the infamous 1985 adulterated wine scandal with a whole new generation of wines, Hans Nittnaus's reds were hailed as revelations. Then, since the late 1990s, they were increasingly eclipsed by bolder, bigger, heavier-hitting bottles.

This gave him some pause, naturally, and eventually made him adjust his style. Not, however, and to his everlasting credit, in the direction that the wind seemed to be blowing, towards more oak that is, more concentration, and all the latest blinking cellar technology. Instead, Nittnaus went back to the future, towards purity of fruit, drinkability and precise varietal character. A case in point - the 2006 Leithaberg:

The Leithaberg is a range of hills west of Lake Neusiedl where Nittnaus started cultivating a few cooler vineyards, away from the heat and humidity of the lake shore. And indeed, the smell of ripe cherries, juniper and red peppers that hits your nose is understated, classic, and most of all: textbook Blaufränkisch. On the palate, it starts out round, smooth and pleasant, and then becomes more precise, transparent and purist as you give it a bit of air: Plummy and peppery fruit, quicksilver acidity, perfectly integrated oak and highly polished tannin.

This vibrant and distinctive Austrian comes very close to my three stylistic ideals for red wine: freshness, freshness and freshness. Having met Hans Nittnaus only once and fairly briefly, it would be pretentious for me to link winemaking style to personality in that meaningless and clichéd way of much wine journalism. What I will say is that the sense of a personal touch, be it real or imagined, significantly enhanced my drinking pleasure.


Submitted by torsten Monday, 16/05/2011

Not only a wine that sounds very exciting, but the bottle also looks the part (a certain Munich photographer might have had a hand in this). Interestingly, I really like the Austrian colours on the cap, but then I am not sure I'd want this for German wine. Either way, it makes it very easy to pick an Austrian wine from a wine cellar...

Submitted by Andrew Connor Tuesday, 17/05/2011

I can't speak for this particular wine (though a bit of topic Andy Kollwenz makes a spectacular Chardonnay from the Leithaberg) but I have their 05 TBA on the list, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc and it is astounding. I remember first tasting it at the Austrian tasting oh I guess three years ago now and it ran rings around every other sweet wine there, and in the context of Austrian sweet wine those are some pretty big rings

Submitted by torsten Friday, 20/05/2011

In reply to by Andrew Connor

And yet another reason to visit Lutyens (which I have not forgotten, but an ever increasing amount of work travel have kept me away from central London recently) and sample my way through the highlights of your wine cellar. I had no idea you had Nittnaus on the wine menu!