After my brother treated my husband and me to a mini-vertical of Tignanello recently, I tried to return the favor in part by wrapping up the evening with a bottle of sweet wine. In the past, we’ve enjoyed lingering over bottles of Port, Sauternes and Rieslings from Germany and the Finger Lakes together at the end of a meal. This time, I figured I’d treat him and his wife to something different: an Austrian dessert wine, made from the Scheurebe grape by one of the country’s storied names: Kracher.
Before he died in 2007 and his son, Gerhard, took over the business, Alois Kracher built his family’s winery into one of the world’s leading producers of sweet wines. Based in Burgenland, near the large lake called Neusiedlersee, he capitalized on the region’s fall fogs, which encourage the development of Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot, needed to shrivel the grapes and concentrate their sugars—just as in Bordeaux’s Sauternes region.
Kracher grows a variety of grapes—including the white varieties Chardonnay, Scheurebe (a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner) and Welschriesling—and harvests them in small batches to get them at ideal ripeness. The winery bottles numerous wines at the highest classification, Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA), from each vintage, along with other sweet wines and dry wines. To keep track of all the lots, Alois Kracher set up a numbering system; the higher the number, the more concentrated the wine. The wines are made in two styles: one (Zwischen den Seen) fermented in neutral stainless steel tanks or large wood casks, the other (Nouvelle Vague) fermented and aged in small oak barrels.
The 2005 No. 9 TBA—aged 20 months in stainless steel—was lush with honey and baking spices, standing out for the purity and intensity of its apricot and peach fruit. Despite its sweetness, a citrusy acidity kept it feeling fresh, and the wine made a lovely complement to an apple tart with buttery puff pastry. 92 points, non-blind—and that was one of the winery’s “weaker” performances for that vintage.
If you can track down one of Kracher’s tiny-production TBAs (sometimes made in quantities of less than 100 cases), they’re well worth the splurge.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Kracher Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Burgenland Zwischen den Seen No. 9 2005 (91, $92/375ml).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated dessert wines from Austria.