L-R: the Austrian Financial Attaché, Rod Schiffman of Westcoastwine.net and Othmar Ober.
For welcome bubbly, continuing with the amuse bouche:
(L-R: Johnson U, Edouard M, Mike T & Louie L)
2004 Sekt Bründlmayer Brut by Weingut Bründlmayer - According to Othmar, this attractive, brilliant pale straw-yellow, apple-green tinged bubbly is composed of pinot noir, pinot blanc (a.k.a., weissburgunder), chardonnay and a tiny bit of grüner veltliner.
Very dry and crisp with healthy, bracing acidity, I initially thought there was was more grüner veltliner to this due to fresh touches of green bean, lentils and bell pepper in the aroma. The raciness/freshness in the attack fleshed out somewhat mid-palate where one could feel the weight of the chardonnay and the subtle rounded feel of the pinot blanc. A minerally backbone propped up the mellow primary apple, pear and white stone fruit nicely. Over-all general impressions were of clean lines, sharp focus and purity. Very easy to drink a lot (read: too much) of this in the heat of summer.
With my favorite course of the night, Carpaccio of Napkin-Dumpling in Tomato Vinaigrette and Pumpkin Seed Oil with Assorted Salad Leaves, Home-Smoked Duck Breast and Terrine of Smoked Rainbow Trout with Horseradish-Cranberry Mousse:
2005 Grüner Veltliner Terrassen Federspiel by Domaine Wachau - Those unfamiliar with one of the traditional grapes for Austrian white wines, grüner veltliner, will detect familiar grapefruit/grassy/gooseberry notes reminiscent of ubiquitous sauvignon blancs from Marlborough, New Zealand, albeit of a milder, more reserved, self-possessed character. This is where the similarity ends, however, as this wine also displays a bit of green apple, touch of lime, and finely-interwoven fresh, vegetal and spice notes (green beans, lentils, green pepper, white pepper). Pleasantly dry, this was quite versatile providing cut and lift to the smoked duck breast, body and substance to the salad, while adding brightness to the napkin-dumpling and trout terrine.
With the next two courses of Tafelspitz Consommé with Meat Strudel, Sliced Beef, Semolina Dumpling and Poached Quail Egg (nb: mine lacked the quail egg for some reason, but I didn't bother saying anything at the time):
Sander Fillet, Champagne Sauerkraut Baked in a Strudel Leaf on Riesling Sauce:
2006 Langenloiser Riesling Kamptaler Terrassen by Weingut Bründlmayer - Though very young, it already exhibited the petrol/gas notes (a.k.a., goût de pétrole) typical of mature/older rieslings towards the back of the mouth and in the finish. I think this threw those not very familiar with rieslings a bit off as I received a few questions about it and had to explain that this was really a characteristic of, and not a defect in, the wine.
Clear, limpid, pale straw-yellow with a just-barely-discernable light greenish tinge, its somewhat tight aroma called to mind small white flowers, white fruit, unripe peach and mere hints of citrus. Pleasant enough, sufficiently balanced and, to me, very approachable, though, due likely to its youth, it did not display any material depth. At this point, it is accessible, entertaining and charming enough in a light-hearted way, which, I think, is all one could or should reasonably expect from it now.
As regards the dishes and pairing: I didn't have the consommé with wine but felt it was a fine pairing with the Sander (which is hardly surprising). Louie L. particularly enjoyed the consommé and expressed praise for the finesse of the sliced beef and delicate fullness of the broth's flavors.
The next course was Oven Roasted Veal Shank in Natural Gravy and Duck "Groesti", served with Braised Red Cabbage and Morel-Bread Pudding which was paired with 2002 Cuvée Vincent CF/CS/ZW by Weingut Bründlmayer - Othmar sat and spoke with me about this wine and I forgot to take a picture of it as well as the dish (I put the blame on him, in any event). I now understand that the wine is made up of (in descending proportions): "CF" (cabernet franc), "CS" (cabernet sauvignon) and "ZW" (Zweigelt, a grape I've never before heard of).
Before being briefed by Othmar, I simply couldn't grab a handle on the wine. It puzzled me to no end and I couldn't guess what it was (save, obviously, that it was Austrian). It was ripely sweetish red-fruit dominated (cherry, raspberry) over blackcurrant/cassis, slight violets, with a distinct touch of black pepper. Medium-bodied, it was smooth enough on the palate and had a somewhat comforting warmth about it.
I think my unfamiliarity with the wine/varietals, coupled with my strong personal preferences (read: dog-headedness) got the better of me. I couldn't quite get this enigmatic wine; though, admittedly, I liked it more with the veal. Edouard (he with centuries of Bordeaux running through his veins) and Jérome (Manila's resident French, Non-Bordeaux Crusader) told me they thought it was good enough, a nice novelty and that it grew on one the more one sipped it.
Then came my second favorite course of the evening, a virtual parade of curiously sounding delights: Quark-Dumpling, Kaiserschmarren with Plum Roester, Tossed Poppy Seed Noodles with Home-Made Apricot Ice Cream, paired with...
2004 Auslese Cuvée by Weinlauobenhof Alois Kracher - As far as I could find out from Othmar and Bernie S., this wine is made up of chardonnay and welschriesling, harvested late and touched with botrytis cinerea (referred to as Edelfäule in German), which touch totally throws me for a loop in trying to guess varietal composition (I can only get it when it is very obvious like in the cases of gewürtztraminers and, most of the time, with furmint-based Tokaji Aszu). Though I have very limited exposure to the wines of the late Alois Kracher, I was aware that he was virtually without peer in Austria when it came to making dessert wines. I have the good fortune of having tried a few of their trockenbeerenauslese, and they are quite sinful indeed.
Not quite as richly "botrytised" as the more familiar sweet wines of Sauternes/Barsac, I felt this auslese was closer to the vendages tardives wines of Alsace - this, perhaps, with marginally less botrytis. Straightforward and enjoyable honeyed apricot, peach and a whisper of orange rind, its sweetness is adequately balanced by acidity. Straightforward, good and, importantly, locally available. I recall the wives liked this wine.
As far as I was concerned, however, the Austrian desserts demanded and deserved center stage. Particularly, the quark-dumpling and toasted poppy seed noodles were absolutely delightful and memorable. I can still taste them now as I write. Hopefully, I can somehow convince the chef at Aubergine to re-execute this for me sometime.
To cap off the evening, Othmar generously shared his last bottle of Edelbrand Williams. It was a good thing I had a driver that evening as I wound up tipsier than I thought I would.
This was a memorable night as it was the first time I ever had a taste of authentic, fine Austrian cuisine, with each course carefully paired with Austrian wine no less. Short of visiting Austria, one would have to look long and hard for a similar experience in the Philippines. This is one of the many reasons I am glad I joined the IWFS. Of course, learning from and enjoying the company of like-minded friends certainly don't hurt.