I recently went on a discovery trip to Austria, wine-tasting my way around the hills and valleys, as you do. I travelled with strangers from five other independent wine merchants and by day three we were friends. Wine the shared passion. Our journey was south of Vienna, away from the Danube river and the famous wines of Austria; thus, ignoring the legendary terraced vineyards of Wachau and Kamptal and their world renowned Gruner-Veltliner and Riesling dry white wines. Instead we headed for the emerging and up-and-coming wine regions in Burgenland and Styria. In the words of Cat Stevens: “on the road to find out”. But our first port of call was the small town of Rust, and Austria`s Wine Academy, where we were given an in-depth presentation on Austrian wines. It was illuminating and over the next few days we were to discover, to our collective delight, a world of wine we didn’t know existed. “Orange wines”, for example, are produced in every winegrowing region. These are ancestral “Natural” wines produced with minimal human intervention. They could best be described as weird and wonderful. Sparkling wines are plentiful too, pleasingly fresh, produced by the Champagne method. Their reds are savoury, great food wines, the best of them the Blaufraukisch. The sweet wines, many of them intensely sweet, ice wines and botrytised wines, are characterised by their balanced concentration of both natural sugar and acidity. And the dry whites, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay (and others), are perhaps best characterised by their minerality. Diverse and of high quality, comparable even to their northern counterparts, what they all had in common is a sense of place for which the Austrians are rightly proud. Before long we will be bringing some of these to Great Horkesley for you to try for yourselves. But I recommend you visit Austria and taste in situ, where you get to feel the chill air in the vineyards at 5-600 metres, meet the charming, very lovely people behind the labels, breath the fresh air, and, of course, where you can take to the hills and sing “the hills are alive” and everyone will think you are perfectly normal! Cheers all.