Simple Pleasures: Steinfeder

Posted By Chris Kaplonski on May 3, 2016

Two years ago, both halves of Anthroenology and paid a visit to Domaine Wachau to chat with some of the people there. At the end, we had a small tasting. The woman doing it was going to skip over the Grüner Veltliner Steinfeder, saying they didn’t export it, and it was really just for local consumption. Julia asked if we could try it, and so we did. I ended up bringing home a bottle.

So, what is Steinfeder? It is a somewhat peculiar classification for wine, used only in the Wachau region of Austria. It’s the lightest classification, out of three. (The other two are Federspiel and Smaragd.) The classification is based on the must weight – the amount of sugar the juice contains. It’s a light wine, fruity and dry. It cannot have more than 11.5% ABV. It isn’t intended as a ‘serious’ wine – as the Austrian Wine Board notes, these are the cheapest of the Wachau wines. Alas, precisely because the wine is what it is, it is hard to find outside Austria. Looking around on-line, I did find a bottle in the UK, but for £21. Perhaps there is posh Steinfeder, but there’s also Steinfeder that’s sold in 1 litre bottles, and intended for making spritzes with.

Back to the story.

The other night, I was in the mood for wine, but couldn’t decide what. So, in browsing the wine rack, I realised I still had the Steinfeder. That sounded good. I wasn’t sure how it would be, since it’s meant to be drunk young, and this was 3 years old. I’m not going to bore you with a tasting note. All I’ll say is that it was superb. Not in a complex way, like a really good Burgundy or Côte-Rôtie. Rather, it was simplicity itself, but done very well. The Domaine Wachau website describes their Steinfeder as ‘pure drinking pleasure!’ and I’d have to agree. It was simple, well balanced, refreshing. It was what a wine should be. It also brought to mind my first trip to Austria and my first encounters with Grüner Veltliner. Was it the ‘best’ wine I’ve had recently in some abstract, analytical sense? No. But was it the best wine I’ve had in quite some time that simply was about the pleasure and experience of the wine? Yes. And isn’t that ultimately the point of wine? To take pleasure in it?

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