perry, Reviews
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31 Austrian perries (and a cider)

No, that’s not a typo in the headline; today is indeed a review barrage of epic proportions (by our standards).

Why so many? Simply because I am back from a press trip to the Mostviertel region of Austria, arguably the most perry-focussed place in the world (Normandy’s Domfront might contest that) and I have been lucky enough to taste an enormous amount of stuff, all of which deserves its airtime and your consideration.

Also because I’ll be writing a separate and fuller article (perhaps even articles) about my visit, my thoughts and the region itself, and if I started bolting tasting notes onto them they’d become a little unstructured. (Or perhaps just ‘a little more unstructured’…) 

So the upshot is that all the perries (and the one cider) that I was able to write tasting notes for are below; a mighty vault of Birnenmost reviews spanning 10 Austrian producers.

A few caveats before we begin. Firstly, in the usual name of disclosure, this having been a press trip generously laid on by Mostviertel Tourismus I didn’t pay for anything I tasted below. So effectively they constitute 32 free samples, though of course I’ve endeavoured to be as honest as possible, to write as though I had paid for all the perries myself and to not let gratitude get in the way of candour. 

Secondly, the format of the notes is a little different to our Cider Review norm. No comments on appearance, for instance, mainly because some of the rooms in which I tasted these were slightly too dark for any real accuracy in that respect. But I’ve included photos where I took them, and in any case, with the exceptions of the Mostellos, the cider, the Pyrus 2018 and the 1992, all were more or less along the same lines of very pale, clear lemon-green.

Since these were also tasted across a four day trip I have included the context in which each was drunk, including mentioning where some were accompanied by a meal, since that lays open the possibility that those note may have been affected by ambient aromas, and you ought to be told such things.

I have grouped my notes according to producer (with headings, would you believe it?), rather than simply reproducing them in the exact timeline that they were tasted, in an attempt to impose some sense upon the chaos. Which is why some individual producers may seem to have their bottlings listed in a rather odd order — Exibatur 2013 before Brous 2021, for instance, or the 2011 oak-aged Mostello Süss ahead of the unoaked ‘New Make’ 2017. But in each instance I have included the date of tasting along with the context.

Finally, I’ve not included descriptions of each producer, partially for brevity — there are 32 tasting notes as it is for goodness sake — and partially to avoid future repetition when my general trip writeup and Mostviertel spotlights appear in these pages. These are tasting notes only, for the benefit of those who might be interested in the many and diverse flavours of Austrian perry, and who might even wish to buy some for themselves. Though I have, of course, linked to the relevant producers (found in the name of their first reviewed product) and included a description of what each perry actually is.

I think that’s enough caveat and context to be getting on with. Let’s get cracking.

***

Mostbarons

Mostbaron Exibatur 2013 – review

(Unoaked blend of the best dry Dorschbirne and Grüne Pichelbirne from across the Mostbarons that vintage)

Where I had it: After dinner at RelaxResort Kothmühle, 8th September

Tasting note: Surely this is a Riesling? Kerosene, lime marmalade, a wisp of gunflint, dried pears, potpourri. I shouldn’t say so in this part of the world, but the Rieslings it really reminds me of are the dry Australian Rieslings of the Clare Valley. What’s most astonishing is that this is nine years old. Tasted blind I would probably have guessed about three. The fruit has opened astoundingly, yet is so fresh and vibrant and seemingly-youthful. The acidity retains all of its freshness. So balletic and elegant and refined and balanced in the grace and intensity of its aromas and flavours. There’s at least a decade left in this if you can bear to wait that long. A strong contender for my favourite dry perry of the trip.

Mostbaron Brous 2021 – review

(Still blend of the best Speckbirne and Stieglbirne from across the Mostbarons that vintage)

Where I had it: Most-Bauernhof Distelberger, 9th September

On the nose: ‘Brous’ means ‘blossom’ and that certainly delivers here. Pure blossom (written before I knew the translation) and daisies. A little cut grass. Very soft pear and icing sugar. A touch of hawthorn. Simple and delicate, but very pure. Springtime in a glass.

In the mouth: Soft, soft rounded palate, medium in its sweetness with just the lightest nibble of acidity and a touch of lemon on the finish. Otherwise pure, juicy pear offset by a wander through a spring meadow. Not built for long ageing but another year or two should open it up a little.

Mostbaron Preh 2021 – review

(Still blend of Speckbirne, Stieglbirne, Grüne Pichelbirne and Dorschbirne chosen from across the Mostbarons that vintage)

Where I had it: Most-Bauernhof Distelberger, 9th September

On the nose: Bigger, riper, waxier aromas. Still very tight and concentrated, as with so many of these perries; at a very early stage of its life. That slate and kerosene thing, Riesling-style, plus citrus peels and grass and pear skin. Needs a lot of time to open up at the moment; wants a couple of years.

In the mouth: Full, sinewy, bright arrival. Grüner Veltliner, but pear! Again super concentrated (broken record – sorry). Lime fruit, pertichor and sea minerals all superbly focussed. Opened up more with a cold meat platter but will seriously benefit from being given a bit of time.

Mostbaron Exibatur 2021 – review

(As with the 2013, still dry blend of the vintage’s best Grüne Pichelbirne and Dorschbirne.)

Where I had it: Most-Bauernhof Distelberger, 9th September

On the nose: The theme of concentration continues; as you’d expect, given the varieties, this one more than any of the others. Herbs and gunflint and lime and cut grass. Really pristine, impeccable fruit but super, super tight. This is an epic perry, but if you do drink it now, decant it well and don’t serve it too cold, and really even with food this wants another 3 years to begin with – ideally a good bit more.

In the mouth: Huge body by Austrian dry perry standards. Textural, vinous, mesmerisingly refined. Green citrus and pear, samphire, wet slate and elderflower. Unbelievable precision and concentration. It’s incredible, but it’s super, super young. Give it a few years and you’ll be richly rewarded. Given the ridiculous value (less than €10 a bottle) squirrelling at least one away feels pretty accessible.

Mostbaron Baron Cider Birne – review

(Sweet sparkling perry. A blend of pears fermented to dry then backsweetened with Rote Pichelbirne juice and carbonated)

Where I had it: Most-Bauernhof Distelberger, 9th September

On the nose: Simple, sweet but tremendously beguiling aromas of pear juice, ripe melon, icing sugar, sherbet lemons and white flowers. Spotlessly clean.

In the mouth: Sweet, but whistle clean and incredibly fresh. Just a little zip of acidity keeping everything bright and lifted with a small spritz of fizz. Lovely, modern perry. Super easy drinking. A little sweet to be a regular drinker for me, but hugely accessible and very delicious. My glass disappeared in no time…

***

Distelberger

Distelberger Birnen Schaumwein Brut (Klassiche Flaschengärung) – review

(Traditional method, c.9 months on lees)

Where I had it: Pre-dinner apéritif at RelaxResort Kothmühle, 8th September

Tasting note: Very floral, aromatics with a nicely perfumed intensity despite the delicacy of their notes. High toned citrus — lemons and limes, but the peel, rather than the juice, belie a big pear fruit middle in the mouth. Lovely balanced acidity compliments the creamy mousse and although fruit flavours take precedence over any effect of lees (feels more about the pears than the method) this certainly has the complexity and refinement which speaks of that secondary fermentation. Can’t see anyone not enjoying a glass of this. A beautiful apéritif.

Distelberger Schweizer Wasserbirne 1992 – review

(Dry single variety Schweizer Wasserbirner)

Where I had it: After dinner at RelaxResort Kothmühle, 8th September

Tasting note: Yes, a certain tint of mustiness has crept in, and yes this perry is on its way down from its peak, but for thirty years old this is unreal. Dried pear, soft apple, sultana. Hay. White grape and pronounced petrichor. Unbelievably fresh for the age, raging against the dying of its light with lovely medium-plus body and vibrancy and poise. Acidity just about there, no tannin to speak of, but still speaking vividly of its fruit. A real privilege to taste, though I would imagine there’s significant bottle variance after 30 years, so caveat emptor (as with all things).

Distelberger Godn Most – review

(A slightly sweeter than typical blend, apparently based on the perry traditionally offered to godmothers!)

Where I had it: Most Birn Haus, 9th September

On the nose: Really honeyed and floral. Juicy red pear flesh. Sugar cane juice – almost agricloe-esque. Green, but in a ripe, exotic way rather than grassy.

In the mouth: Another lovely delivery; rounded, juicy texture. Quite simple pear fruit but as with so many of the creations here, super balance and elegant and spotlessly clean.

Distelberger Baron Most Lieblich und Spritzig – review

(Off-dry, sparkling blend of pears)

Where I had it: With cold platter dinner at Most-Bauernhof Distelberger, 9th September

On the nose: The aroma of off-dry German Riesling. I could start talking about lime leaf, apple, blossom, slate, but really this is about the whole – one sniff and I was on the banks of the Mosel, sipping young Riesling next to a small, open pot of lime marmalade.

In the mouth: More tropical and ripe on the palate. Still Rose’s Lime Marmalade (for those who like their brand names…) but apricot jelly too, plus peach juice and juicy pears in syrup. Which all makes it sound very sweet, but actually we’re only in medium territory here; it’s just incredibly juicy and fruity. Tailor-made for our Chris, I reckon.

We also had the Distelberger Eis Birne 2016, my previous notes for which you can find here.

***

Haselberger

Haselberger Unter der Landlbirne Trocken 2020 – review

(Dry, still, single variety Landlbirne)

Where I had it: With dinner at RelaxResort Kothmühle, 8th September

Tasting note: Instantly thinking of Thorn — vivid, energetic aromatics of elderflower, lime and fresh melon. The acidity is pronounced, citrusy, beautiful but a gorgeous wine-like body balances it beautifully. Not much tannin — merely a whisper — but gorgeous intensity of flavour and texture. A stunning match for fish I’d wager, although we had it served with cold hams (also perfect). Drinks deliciously, but unquestionably one to squirrel away for a few years if you can bear to.

Haselberger d’haselbergers Pyrus Birnenwein Reserve 2018 – review

(Landlbirne, Dorschbirne and Grüne Pichelbirne aged 118 days in oak)

Where I had it: After dinner at RelaxResort Kothmühle, 8th September

Tasting note: Amazing, nutty, russety, melony aroma offset by gooseberry and passionfruit. Lemon curd and exotic florals. Incredible fruit bouquet in the mouth with a touch of mineral salinity. Builds on the finish with more of that rich lemon curd and passionfruit. Delicious, full texture, with just a touch of tannin, and balanced, fresh acidity. Already developed but will keep for years. One of the best I tried on the whole trip. Epic dry perry. One for Albariño lovers.

Haselberger Traditional Method (as yet unreleased) – review

(A blend of Stieglbirne, Landlbirne, Grüne Pichelbirne. Lees aged 9 months (?) yet to be released, included here in the name of completionism…)

Where I had it: The Haselberger farm, 9th September

On the nose: Stunning young traditional method nose; dough and slate on top of fresh pear, pear skin and lemon zest. Nettles and herbs. Method and fruit dovetailing beautifully; easy to see the kinship with champagne. Not just overt fruit.

In the mouth: Gorgeous, dry, elegant, refined delivery. Rounded pear, peach, honeysuckle and honeydew melon alongside intense flinty minerality, almond and a touch of sea pebble. Creamy, supremely integrated mousse, wonderful persistence and delicious acidity. This will age for years and years. One of the best traditional method perries I’ve ever had.

Haselberger Unter der Grünen Pichelbirn 2020 – review

(A single variety dry, still Grüne Pichelbirne made from fruit from three trees.)

Where I had it: The Haselberger farm, 9th September

On the nose: Big, broad aromas; evidence of batonnage, though still young and very concentrated. There’s a creaminess to the green and yellow fruit. Again very mineral; lots of pear skin earthiness. Lime juice and cut grass. Pristine, complex and exceptionally pure.

In the mouth: Lovely, full, almost waxy texture, abetted by soft, perfectly-integrated tannins and lime acidity. Cut grass, gunflint, kiwi. Sancerre meets green pear. Has that batonnage richness and there is a ripe, exotic element to the character of the citrus. Spectacular dry perry. Decant or age for a few years to enjoy at its fullest.

Haselberger 159 Jahre Grüne Pichelbirne 2020 – review

(Single variety dry, still Grüne Pichelbirne from one single 159-year-old – at the time of harvest – tree)

Where I had it: The Haselberger farm, 9th September

On the nose: Astonishing concentration. Stony. White currant, green pear skin, nettles and a little white pepper. A walk beside a river. Startlingly pure, poised, defined and complex. Needs time and a good swirl to open up, but this is a truly world class perry nose.

In the mouth: Ridiculously vivid delivery with racy acidity and a full sinewy structure underpinning lime, apricot, gooseberry, white grape and cut grass. This wants years of ageing really; as stunning as it is now, its enormous concentration is just going to unfurl and unfurl. Will richly reward you if you can hold off until 2027-2030. Poised, high-definition perry. Another contender for the dry perry of the trip — though this is really at the very start of its journey.

Haselberger Unter der Dorschbirn 2020 – review

(Still, dry single variety Dorschbirne)

Where I had it: With dinner at Gasthaus zur Palme, 10th September

On the nose: As balanced and poised as I’ve come to expect from these Haselbergers. And as concentrated too – wet slate with orange blossom, green pear, quince skin and just a flutter of that Riesling kerosene note. Lime water and yuzu. Some earthier, warmer spice. Really opened with time in the glass, but you know the score with these 2020s by now – give it what time you can.

In the mouth: Vibrant yellow acidity – yuzu, quince, bright pear plus flecks of tangfastic red cherry. A touch of lime juice, green melon and gooseberry. Blackcurrant leaf. Beautifully dry, with some gorgeous in-mouth floral perfume and a full body that along with the flavour and vibrant acidity disguises some lovely, lovely tannins. Stunning minerality. Just a stunning perry. Decant, drink with food (meaty fish ideally) or give a few years. Struggling to pick a favourite of the ‘Unter der’ single variety series – really you want all of them in your life.

***

Reikersdorfer

Reikersdorfer Urmost 2020 – review

(Still, dry, single variety Grüne Pichelbirne, aged 6 months in oak)

Where I had it: After dinner at RelaxResort Kothmühle, 8th September

Tasting note: Upfront vanilla and coconut lactones which, as it warms, soften to a lovely butteriness a la lees-stirred Chardonnay. Ripe apple, pear, peach and melon fruit alongside a beautiful fresh acidity which heightens the fruit and keeps everything poised and fresh. Some nice, integrated tannins contribute to an elegant, rather vinous (sorry!) mouthfeel. Just a trace of bitterness towards the finish. A good, and very rare, example of oak-aged Austrian perry.

Reikersdorfer Birnencider – review

(Sweet, sparkling blend of Rote Pichelbirne and Stieglbirne. Not sure if backsweetened or arrested fermentation – I suspect the latter)

Where I had it: Reikersdorfer Presshausheuriger, 10th September

On the nose: Green aromatics of hedgerow flowers, wet green leaves, blossom, capsicum and ripe red pear. A touch of slight mustiness and savoury stem. Dried pear.

In the mouth: Riper and juicier delivery than expected from the nose. Rounded and fruity and very pear juice-forward with melon, mirabelle and a little apricot. Some dried fruit too; dried pear and apple, which I think is the influence of the Rote Pichelbirne. If the nose was spring, the palate is summer. Low acidity by Mostviertel standards but plenty enough for freshness. Medium-sweet. Manages the often-tricky double act of being both elegant and very easy drinking. Sunny afternoon or light lunch perry.

Reikersdorfer Speckbirne Halbtrocken – review

(Off-dry, still single variety Speckbirne)

Where I had it: Reikersdorfer Presshausheuriger, 10th September

On the nose: Really aromatic and intensely floral – dried blossom and blooms warmed in a greenhouse. Chrysanthemums and a big note of rose petals. The melon character has the ripeness of canteloupe.

In the mouth: Ripe, soft arrival – rounded, semi-sweet pear and then that huge rose petal and blossom hit, which manages to nonetheless retain its crispness despite soft acidity. A little mandarin fruit. Incredibly juicy and another that’s just emmintly sippable (a word for which I make no apologies). It isn’t wildly complex but it’s just very clean, tasty, soft and appealing. More evidence for Speckbirne as Austria’s Hendre Huffcap, and another that I think is pure Chris-bait.

Reikersdorfer Grüne Selektion – review

(A dry, still blend of Grüne Pichelbirne and Speckbirne)

Where I had it: Reikersdorfer Presshausheuriger, 10th September

On the nose: A really wonderful union of the vibrant lime and elderflower of the Grüne Pichelbirne and the rose petals, blossom and honey of the Speckbirne. White pepper, gunflint and a whisper of bacon fat. Floral, citrusy and ripe, but with a beguiling savoury-spice edge.

In the mouth: Again a very happy marriage. Speckbirne’s round, fruity softness massages the Grüne Pichelbirne acidity and intensity whilst retaining and lime-leaf, yuzu and almost cherry-esque freshness. Tight and concentrated – has a few years of ageing potential for sure – but opens beautifully in the glass. A beautiful, supremely drinkable (there I go again – and I don’t care) dry perry. Great blending.

Reikersdorfer Legend 9 Birnenmost – review

(Still, off-dry single variety Stieglbirne commemorating Leopold’s former footballing prowess!)

Where I had it: Reikersdorfer Presshausheuriger, 10th September

On the nose: A honey-lemon aroma augmented by white grape, pear syrup and cut grass. Very complex in its ripenesses – both green and grassy and exotically yellow. Really nice aromatics but rather hard to pin down. An elusive character, if that makes sense? Probably doesn’t – sorry!

In the mouth:  Quite a mild delivery with gentle acidity, apple and pear fruit, a little blossom and just a touch of honey and gooseberry. Going in the direction of peaches but staying in pomme territory. Another lovely, clean, simple easy-drinker. A touch off-dry but well balanced. 

***

Destillerie Farthofer Mostellaria

Destillerie Farthofer Mostellaria Mostello Süss 2011 – review

(Fortified organic perry from four secret varieties, fortified mid-fermentation for natural sweetness)

Where I had it: With dinner at RelaxResort Kothmühle, 8th September

Tasting note: Gorgeous, decadent nose which, as a lover of all things fortified, barrel aged and perry-centric sits bang in the venn diagram intersection of my preferences. Deep caramels, walnuts and honeys with surprisingly bright orange, tarte tatin and dried fruits. Instantly one of my favourite cider and perry products of all time. Unctuous, but with more than enough brightness of fruit and pear acidity to balance its body and sweetness. Alcohol beautifully integrated too. Would be a stellar evening drink on its own, but pairing it with venison was a stroke of genius. Just as good with duck or pigeon I imagine.

Destillerie Farthofer Mostellaria Mostello Süss 2014 (from cask) – review

(Fortified organic perry from four secret varieties, fortified with pear spirit mid-fermentation for natural sweetness. N.B I had this directly from a single cask, so not necessarily representative of the Süss 2014 that is currently available in bottle. Just described here for interest.)

Where I had it: Destillerie Farthofer Mostellaria, 10th September 

On the nose: Huge. Pure dried fruit, leather, burned sugar, caramelised pear and dried spices with dark chocolate, oak and nutmeg. Achingly complex and intense, but the alcohol, the perry and the cask have found a beautiful harmony. One of those glassfuls I could nose forever, were drinking it not so achingly tempting…

In the mouth:  Astonishing fruit sweetness and acidity despite the eight years it’s spent in barrel. Chopped nuts – hazels and macadamias mainly, rather than darker walnuts – spices, manuka honey and luscious pear syrup. Huge in every respect but perfectly balanced and with bewildering clarity and definition. Rich, unctuous, complex, majestic and spicy. A total masterpiece. I want to bottle this barrel immediately and buy all of it. (If only I could do either…)

Destillerie Farthofer Mostellaria Mostello Trocken 2009 – review

(Fortified organic perry fermented to dryness before fortification, aged three years in oak indoors and one year in oak outdoors)

Where I had it: Destillerie Farthofer Mostellaria, 10th September

On the nose: Huge umami notes of truffle and almost balsamic and soy join dark toasted nuts, cigar tobacco, caramels and burnt honey. (Or what I imagine burnt honey would smell like – does such a thing exist?) Intense dried pear, and very stong Oloroso sherry tones. Once again I would lose myself in this nose.

In the mouth: Extremely dry. I am in Jerez; it’s Oloroso meets Palo Cortado meets pears. Never had anything like this before. Unique in the cider and perry world as far as I know. Just a little zing of acidity; almost a tangy bitterness, again a la dry sherry, amongst the soy and walnuts and cigar and dried pear fruit. Dried citrus too, plus game jus and more of that dark burned sugar. Super intense; definitely not an ‘easy drinking crowd pleaser’, but if you enjoy dry, aged sherry I absolutely implore you to try this if you can.

Destillerie Farthofer Mostellaria Mostello ‘New Make’ 2017 – review

(Fortified organic perry arrested mid-fermentation with new make spirit and bottled without barrel ageing)

Where I had it: After dinner at Gasthaus zur Palme, 10th September  

On the nose: Huge aromatics, as per its stablemates, but here with really pure fruit. Golden pear. Fresh peach. Apricot. Sweet spices. Even lychee. Just so clean and vibrant and fresh. A flutter of manuka honey, a little pear sauce. The spirit is very fresh beneath it, but harmonises delightfully with the perry – it’s not at all aggressive.

In the mouth: Despite five years’ maturity it’s so lively and brightly-fruited. Pears in honey syrup, warm lemons and apricot – both fresh and jellied. Some pep from the spirit, a little spice, but it’s rounded, integrated and surprisingly delicate. Juicy, fruity, vivid, exciting. Cleaves closer to a pear-shaped pommeau than the other Mostellos do, which is hardly surprising. Technically excellent, but is also great fun. Can imagine this cold on a sunny afternoon just as easily as I can accompanying a fruity dessert.

Destillerie Farthofer Mostellaria Mostello Süss 2005 – review

(Organic perry fortified by arrested fermentation, aged in oak and according to the label, bottled in 2015. 10 years in cask? Or some time resting in IBC or similar after the usual four years in oak? Answers in the comments if you know please!)

Where I had it: After dinner at Gasthaus zur Palme, 10th September

On the nose: Here’s a funny thing. Despite being six years older this seems lighter and fresher than the 2011 (though bear in mind I’m tasting them two days apart). Some nuts, sure, some cured meat rancio and oak and caramel, but not only is this fresh with pear and sultana, but there’s even a green, almost grassy streak of guava running through it that lends everything light and life. Extraordinary for 17 years old.

In the mouth: It is simply incredible that this is 17, and has spent possibly 10 of those years in oak. Candied citrus, dried and fresh pears, pear syrup, mixed citrus marmalade alongside fresh caramel, hazelnuts and lightly toasted oak. Amaretto biscuits! Excellent acidity, and feels drier than my memory of the 2011, which may explain the lightness on its feet. Unbelievable, mind-bending stuff. Tawny port fans, form a queue. Fans of excellent, interesting drinks simply need this place to be on their radar. Exports to the UK when, please?

***

Others (mixed)

Pirinum Lilo Cider Geil – review

(Perry with elderflowers, hops and butterfly pea flowers, which gave it an incredible natural purple hue)

Where I had it: With dinner at RelaxResort Kothmühle, 8th September

Tasting note: Intensely aromatic, but in a wonderfully fresh and clean way — nothing sickly-sweet or overbearing here at all. The pear fruit comes through nicely but is matched by intense cassis and elder notes as well as the citrus and pine of the hops which dovetail with the green tones of the pear very well. Off-dry in the mouth, but crisp acidity retains balance. Has an amazing, almost Beaujolais-esque juiciness where the purple berry fruit meets the citrus and florals. Very tasty, moreish stuff, even if diehard purists might thumb their nose at it a bit. Miles ahead of the average flavoured cider in the UK. Well worth trying.

Gatterer Birnencider – review

(Sweet perry – fermentation arrested)

Where I had it: Most Birn Haus, 9th September

Tasting note: Light, sweet, very bright. Pear-forward with lovely florals and a touch of honey and peach. Almost a smattering of light Hendre Huffcap about it — wouldn’t be surprised if a bit of Speckbirne was involved. Simple, but tasty, balanced and very easy drinking.

Seppelbauer Cuvée Extra Trocken 2021 – review

(Dry perry, blend of unknown varieties)

Where I had it: Most Birn Haus, 9th September

On the nose: Delicate, concentrated nose. Youth evident. Lime peel, river moss, green apple, pear skin. 

In the mouth: Very bright arrival with electric green pear and lime acidity. Lovely, sinewy texture and the purity of the fruit almost conveys a touch of sweetness. Absolutely worth your time buying, but feels a little young at the moment.

Seppelbauer Speckbirne Halbtrocken 2021 – review

(Off-dry single variety Speckbirne)

Where I had it: Most Birn Haus, 9th September

On the nose: Really intriguing nose with icing sugar, bacon fat (perhaps suggestion only … though I later came to find the note in a few others) a touch of kerosene, white flowers and wet slate. 

In the mouth: Atypically pronounced acidity for this variety, with lime and white grapefruit. Medium body, leant weight by the medium sweetness. Very concentrated – again, on the young side. A rather unusual Speckbirne, not as soft and rounded as some, but nonetheless tasty and very fresh.

Familie Zeiner Speckbirn Trocken 2021 – review

(Dry, still single variety Speckbirne)

Where I had it: With lunch, 9th September

On the nose: Intensely floral – almost excessively so, almost straying into soapiness but just about kept in check. Tangerine, soft pear and light herbs. A touch of smoky fat. Soft berries. Sherbet.

In the mouth: Zingy, piercing arrival – slightly sharp for Speckbirne. Much more citrusy lime, green pear, sherbet, sour cherry and green apple than the nose indicated, though that white flower aspect certainly remains, with a pinch of white pepper. Whistle clean and coursing with life. A Speckbirne to serve with Speck! (Though it was epic with pork schnitzel, which really brought out the variety’s rounded pear and honey.) Recommended. One of my favourite single variety Speckbirnes of the trip.

Familie Zeiner Stieglbirn Trocken 2021 – review

(Dry, still single variety Stieglbirne)

Where I had it: With lunch, 9th September

On the nose: Quite subtle to begin with – very pear fruit and blossom forward with some yuzu and pronounced parma violets. Lots of sherbet lemon and even a little strawberry. Becomes more perfumed as it sits in the glass.

In the mouth: Lovely red fruit berry flavours – strawberry and dried raspberry with a drizzle of lemon. Even a touch of watermelon. More rounded than the Speckbirn; although there’s some good, fresh, youthful acidity it isn’t quite as tart. Earlier-drinking. As ever with these dry perries there’s a lovely, vinous, textural mouthfeel; no meaningful tannin. Delicious delivery – don’t age it too long, just give it up to another year for the nose to catch up with that summer-fruited palate.

Weinkultur Preiß Die Apfelkönigin Pét Nat 2020 – review

(A cider! Good Lord! From a different area of Austria, made by Viktoria Preiß from red-fleshed apples of the Baya Marisa vom Theyerner Berg variety. Bottled before fermentation had completed for natural sparkle.)

Where I had it: Apéritif at Gasthaus zur Palme, 10th September

On the nose: Beautiful red berry perfume – raspberries, cranberries, wild strawberries, fresh red apples. Just a little nibble of cherry. A supremely crisp, poised, aromatic and elegant nose.

In the mouth: Follows through to absolute perfection with perhaps the creamiest pét nat bubbles I can recall experiencing. Every one of the aromas is revisited here in vivd definition alongside a little red grape skin and tangerine. Even a touch of pomegranate. Perfect, balanced acidity – not at all intrusive, just lifting those flavours alongside the mousse. Stunningly harmonious. About as perfect as an apéritif gets. Will be thinking about this for a long time.

Can you tell someone else took this photo? Thanks Justine!

***

Conclusions

There is some extraordinary stuff being made in Austria, folk. Firstly, and most impressively, let’s look at the fact that across thirty two — thirty two — perries tasted, not one single meaningful fault has arisen.

Part of that can be attributed towards a general regional preference for cultured yeast fermentations and added sulphites — something I’ll consider in more detail in that future article. But the upshot is that the absolute baseline of Austrian perry is clean, expressive of its fruit, approachable, accessible and very tasty.

There isn’t a single one of the whole flight that I wouldn’t happily drink again, and if a large part of them sit in the ‘good, rather than great’ category, there is an enormous amount to be said for that level of consistency.

Within those expressions though are some truly epic peaks; perries (and a cider) which will stand tall in memory for years to come. Haselberger, in particular, is a producer I will likely backreference and ramble on about for a long, long time and whose perries I would exhort anyone to try if they can. Ditto Destillerie Farthofer Mostellaria, whose Mostellos simply blew my mind. I would buy another bottle of the Preiß Apfelköningen in a heartbeat too, the 1992 Distelberger was a privilege to taste and the Exibatur 2013 will stick in my mind forever.

A few themes emerged; a lot of the dry perries cleaved to a relatively similar profile, though varietal characteristics certainly shone through. My favourite Austrian pear seems consistently to be Grüne Pichelbirne, though there isn’t a variety that I didn’t enjoy. I entirely understand the logistics of space that prevent bottles being held back, but a large, large number of these expressions seemed to be in their infancy and would be even more delicious and palate-broadening given time, as the Exibatur 2013 so memorably proved. High levels of minerality, racy acidity, low tannins (by British perry standards) but a lovely vinous texture made frequent appearances, and green fruits, florals, melons and honeys are probably the flavours I’ve written down most often.

However, the bottom line is that Mostviertel deserves trumpeting by anyone interested in the perry category. The drinks made there are invariably good and are frequently outstanding. The producers are as passionate, the varieties as interesting and the innovation as exemplified as in any other perry region I can think of, and it is hard, if not impossible, to think of anywhere else that collectively cares as obsessively and obviously about this drink.

It is my firm hope that importers in the UK will find a way to navigate the hellscape of Brexit and bring these marvellous drinks to British glasses; as soon as they do I will be a regular customer. In the meantime I recommend that our European congregation fills their proverbial boots. For my part it will be a very impatient wait for my next Birnenmost reunion.

My favourite five of the trip (in no order)

Exibatur 2013 (though 2021 is technically as good and will catch it given a few years I’d wager)

Haselberger d’haselbergers Pyrus Birnenwein Reserve 2018 

Haselberger 159 Jahre Grüne Pichelbirne 2020 (N.B. I could almost have picked any of the Unter der series here, and if the traditional method was on sale it would have been included too. Basically the Haselbergers are just ridiculously talented makers.)

Preiß Die Apfelkönigin Pét Nat 2020

All the Mostellos – I simply refuse to pick a favourite. You can’t make me.

(Also Distelberger’s Eis Birne No.1 2016 … but you knew that one already.)

Many thanks indeed to Mostviertel Tourismus, to the producers who were so generous in sharing their time, knowledge, hospitality and perries, to our invaluable interpreter Nicolina who was also very tolerant of our nonsense prattle and jokes about invisible pigs, to Haritz of Ciderzale who masterminded much of the whole trip, to Justine who took the brilliant photo of the Apfelkönigin and to Marco who lent me his camera when mine had died so I could take a less-brilliant one of the Mostellos.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: A spotlight on Haselberger | Cider Review

  2. Pingback: Mostviertel rising: a spotlight on Austrian perry | Cider Review

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