At the time of the infamous 1985 “antifreeze” scandal a story did the rounds that the Japanese government had briefly and erroneously banned the importation of Australian wine, comedically confusing Australian with Austrian. It was, almost certainly, an urban myth but one does wonder what the fabled and lexicographically challenged Japanese civil servant would have made of Bert Salomon.
The Salomon family have been making wine from slopes overlooking the Danube since 1792, so he was already set for a career in Austrian wine. Widening his horizons as a young man, Bert went to New York for a while before returning to Austria to work for a wine importer and among the wines they were importing were Penfolds wines and a love of Australian wine developed in young Bert. Trips to the Australian vineyards followed and, by 1995, he had purchased the Finnis River estate at the foot of Mt Lofty south of Adelaide in South Australia.
Worried that he would miss home too much, he never settled in Australia – instead, Bert, wife Gertrud and two children, alternated between harvest-time in Australia and the rest of the year at home in Austria. In 2001 he joined the family firm in Austria and Bert now oversees two vintages a year at opposite ends of the planet. A truly frequent flying winemaker.
Classic Grüner Veltliner – bright and crunchy, good acidity with just a hint of white pepper.
£11.95 per bottle (£10.95 by the case)
Seven generations of Salomons have produced classic Austrian white wines in Kremstal and Wachau in the Niederosterreich, west of Vienna. Here cold Winters and warm Summers with warm days and nights cooled by Alpine winds offer ideal growing conditions for Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. All grapes are hand-harvested.
GRÜNER VELTLINER 2012 Hochterrassen Salomon Undhof £11.95
The Hochterrassen was our first foray into Austrian wine and, in the subsequent vintages, has gone on to become a firm LEA & SANDEMAN favourite. The grapes come from high-altitude terraces in Stein and Krems. Classic Grüner Veltliner – bright and crunchy, good acidity with just a hint of white pepper. Great aperitif, a super Summer refresher, nice with grilled fish, or as a more interesting alternative to the traditional Chasselas with a nice Alpine fondue.
“Probably the best value of the “everyday” Grüners is Salomon Unhof Hochterrassen Grüner Veltliner”.
Jancis Robinson MW
GRÜNER VELTLINER 2012 Wachtberg Salomon Undhof £17.95
The impressive loess terraces of the Wachtberg vineyard are located right behind the old town of Krems. This vibrant wine is full to the brim with spice and classic Grüner fruit. Lovely grainy texture, good depth balanced with crisp acidity. Lovely food wine with lighter dinners.
GRÜNER VELTLINER 2011 Von Stein Salomon Undhof £24.75
South facing steep primary rock terrasses in Stein, 50+ year old vines. Really stunning in this vintage. Limpid with bright fruit, white peach flesh, lots of texture and very fine acidity giving tremendous lift and drive. Drink this now and over the next five years.
RIESLING 2011 Undhof Kögl Salomon Undhof £16.95
South-terrace single-vineyard in Stein, heavily weatherd Urgestein with crystalline schist. Typically floral and stone-fruit-driven Riesling with great finesse. Notes of orange blossom on the nose, bright and floral on the palate, with a long and dry finish.
RIESLING 2012 Alma Salomon Undhof £19.75
Along with many winemakers, Bert has been tempted to try making wine in terracotta amphora, and this fascinating and atypical Riesling is the result. The nose lays dried mandarin zest over pear candy, whilst the palate is both fresh and minerally dry whilst having a gentle note sweetness with crisp pear-cider tones. Something different to serve with bolder fish dishes or even with softer cheeses. It’s a wine with great purity and a sort of ‘natural’ feeling softness and clarity of expression.
Keen to try the fresh aromatic loveliness of Bert Salomon’s Austrian whites? Then why not try a mixed case.
WACHAUER MARILLE Salomon Undhof – £29.95 per half litre
A white Eau de vie distilled from apricots grown in the Wachau region to the west of Vienna. Such is the quality of fruit in the area that apricots grown in the Wachau have EU protection in the same way as grapes, and products made from the apricots – be they jams, strudels, cakes or, as in this case, spirits – enjoy similar EU protection to wines. This is beautifully textured with a real expression of fruit and is far from being the usual firey ‘eaux de vie’.
Bright brambly fruit with mulled wine spices and a refreshing finish.
£13.95 per bottle (£12.75 by the case)
The Finniss River extends along the southeast shoulder of the Adelaide Hills, part of the Fleurieu Peninsula, and offers a slightly cooler vine growing region. Bert has planted mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Merlot. His is more than ably assisted by Mike Farmilo, longtime friend and a former Penfolds red winemaker.
SÜD Merlot & Co 2010 Salomon Estate £13.75
Nicely fruited Merlot-based red with bright red fruit characters and a subtle twist of pepper spice. A versatile unpretentious drinker that would suit a hearty kitchen supper, some good old English bangers ‘n’ mash, or a large pizza with friends.
BAAN Shiraz & Co 2011 Salomon Estate £13.95
Mostly Shiraz but with a little more finesse than the ‘typical’ leathery affairs one often encounters at this price – bright brambly fruit with mulled wine spices and a refreshing finish. A fine accompaniment to the cremated remains from the BBQ.
NORWOOD Shiraz Cabernet 2010 Salomon Estate £15.95
Bert Salomon’s great great uncle, Johann Nepomuk Hinterocker, beat him to Australia by over 100 years, arriving in 1866 to join the Jesuits and make wine at the Sevenhill Winery in Clare Valley. He later founded St Ignatius College in Norwood, a suburb of Adelaide. Bert named this wine in his honour. It’s quite a classic Aussie red with plump plum and berry fruit with a subtle lightly-spiced edge. Super with a nice roast dinner, especially gammon or pork where the intense fruit comes to the fore.
FLEURIEU PENINSULAR Syrah Viognier 2010 Salomon Finniss River Estate £19.95
95% Syrah, aged for 18 months in 300 litre used French hogsheads. Extraordinarily pure currant and berry fruit, intense and ripe but with charming finesse, an almost Pinot-like silky feel and a refreshing finish. Certainly more ‘Syrah’ than ‘Shiraz’. Will enrich any dinner table.
ALTTUS 2003 Salomon Finniss River Estate £72.75
Selected in exceptional years only, the Syrah grapes for Alttus come from the highest and best vineyards on the Finniss River Estate. The vineyard falls gently away towards the north-east, providing ideal exposure. Warm days ensure ripe fruit flavours while the cooling breezes rolling off the Southern Ocean in the late afternoon ensure excellent aroma retention. Aged for 18 months in new 300 litre French hogsheads and given extended bottle-ageing prior to release.
Many of our customers invested in the 2001 vintage after Jancis Robinson MW gave it a higher score than Grange and have reaped ample gustatory reward since. We are confident that the 2003 will develop just as satisfactorily.
If you’re keen to try the warm fruit and subtle refreshment of Bert Salomon’s Australian reds? Why not indulge in a mixed case?
Or, why not try the best both worlds with this tempting selection of his Austrian whites and his Australian reds.
But, don’t just take our word for how good they are – here’s one blogger’s experience of Bert Salomon’s world-straddling wine making.