Yep – Sekt. Today we’re talking about Austria and Germany’s response to Champagne, Sekt. So, Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.
In the past, Sekt’s reputation has been soiled as cheap (because there’s a lot of poor Sekt wines made out there). But, I’m happy to say that Sekt can be made with incredible technique and care, creating a knockout that can leave you wondering, “why haven’t I tried this before?”
If you love bubbly, especially relatively affordable bubbly, and you like to be a trendsetter amongst your friends — you need to know about Sekt.
A Little History
Formally called Winzersekt, Austrian sparkling wine houses originated in the early 19th century. Sektellerie Kesseler (say that five times fast) the oldest Austrian sparkling producer, was founded in 1826. Sparkling wine soon became a big hit everywhere, especially in Germany.
The word on the street is that in 1902 Emperor Wilhelm II placed a tax on all sparkling wines (just sparkling wines) to fund his WWII War fleet (thanks to the Anschluss, Austria adhered to this tax too until the end of the war). The tax is still in place today at 1 Euro.
Fun fact: in 2014 Germany recorded that the population consumed over 5 bottles of sparkling wine per person each year. Austria was right behind them with 4 bottles per person. And a lot of what those two countries are drinking is Sekt.
German Vs Austrian Sekt
Now German and Austrian Sekt are very different and there are very different quality ranges that you want to keep in mind when purchasing. If you want the full breakdown check out WineFolly’s article on Sekt here.
See the below images for reference, from the aforementioned WineFolly article. I find that these are quite helpful to look at side by side for comparison.
The grapes are a big difference here – with the best German Sekts being produced (most often) from Riesling (sometimes a blend of Riesling with other varietals), and the best Austrian Sekts coming from Grüener Veltliner. Riesling is incredibly high acid, with citrus fruit, lychee and other exotic fruit, and mineral notes.
Whereas Austrian Sekt made primarily from Grüner is still fairly high acid, but also has floral, apricot, and white pepper notes. Grüner is not as complex as Riesling either, so Austrian Sekt made from it are going to be a bit more of an easy sipper, or something that you can simply enjoy rather than spending a lot of time on dissecting the flavors.
Also note that German Sekt has a bit more red varietals that can be added – this gives German Sekt a bit more body (not color).
Sekt Sweetness Levels
The sweetness levels are fairly similar – brut is the most common which can contain anywhere from 0-12 grams per liter of sugar. That’s honestly not that much considering how much acidity these grapes have. The sugar at this level will (and should) be more for balancing flavors than adding sweetness.
Sekt Quality Levels
Here’s where things can get kind of confusing. Bear with me, I’ll try to make this simple without being simplistic.
First, you need to know that German Sekt is not as rigorous when it comes to classification requirements which is why it’s important to know that both countries use the simple term of “Sekt” as the lowest quality standard. This means that most of the grapes don’t even need to be made in either Germany or Austria to qualify this level.
If you can — look for a higher classification for both. If a bottle says “German Sekt” or “Austrian Sekt” it’s one level higher than the basic “Sekt” and will be a bit better. So keep going up if you can!
What To Look For On A Quality Bottle of Sekt
Producers who take a lot of pride in their product list out the special things on the bottle. So also look for a bottle that says any one or two of these things:
- Sekt b.A. (German Wines only. This meaning it’s from one of the 13 designated wine regions in Germany)
- Wizersekt (German wines. This means single varietal, highest quality estate grown, in Germany)
- Traditional Method (“Klassische Flaschengärung” in German)
- Klassik (Austrian wines. This style will be similar winemaking techniques to Prosecco)
- Reserve (higher winemaking standards, most of these will be Traditional Method Austrian wines)
- Grosse Reserve (highest quality Traditional Method Austrian wines – these rarely make it into the US so check it out if you see one!)
- A vintage Date (really only allowed on Reserve bottles of Austrian Sekt)
- A specific region
Not all the bottles will have all of these things — but a good rule of thumb here is the more information a bottle has, the better the bottle quality.
As for pricing, Austrian Sekt is typically ~$18-$28. Whereas German Sekt has a much broader range, beginning at $20 and going all the way up to $80 or more.
The other thing to note is that most Austrian Sekt doesn’t make it across the pond to the USA. As a result, it’s really hard to find good stuff – except for Szigeti, I have found that at a few different specialty wine shops. Winebow is one importer of it, so ask your local wine pro to order you some!
If you’re in the 30A area – head on over to Grayton Corner Cafe to pick up a bottle of this traditional method Austrian Sekt called Szigeti for around $20. All of Szigeti’s wines are made in the traditional method with careful harvesting
Szigeti is a “negotiant” meaning they buy grapes from smaller vineyards in their preferred and selected areas. Then they make the wine in their own facilities. The choose grapes from contracted growers in Burgenland and Niederösterreich and has the protected designation “Österreichischer Sekt g.U.” This means it’s in the “Austrian Sekt” quality designation, even though the wine is made in the same style as Champagne.
The reason why that matters is because Burgenland is a warmer area, which allow the grapes to ripen more – thus adding more flavor and body to the wine. In fact, Burgenland typically grows big bold red wines. The Niederösterreich area is Northern and cooler, so those wines are very It’s linear and zingy. The combination of regions create a beautiful marriage of ripe fruit and minerality.
Proudly made in the same method as the Traditional Method (Champagne Method), the wine has been aged for 12 months on the lees. Made from 100% Gruner Veltliner grapes, this wine has an intense acidity that can cut through even the heaviest of sauces. At a low alcohol level of 12% it can also tone down spice.
Wine Critic Amy Glynn says, “Grüner is a “light-bodied” wine in the extreme; in fact it can be a bit watery if it’s not handled well. Not to worry here. Szigeti’s sparkling version is definitely a casual wine, but it’s not lacking in flavor. Tart acidity, large bubbles and a short, almost sharp finish highlight a strongly lemony character. This is a great, equal-opportunity food wine, refreshing and non-overwhelming and plain tasty.”Amy Glynn
Szigeti can also be purchased online at: wine.com, vivino.com and more! If you can’t find this one, or want to try a German Sekt, check out these two recommendations:
- Dönnhoff Pinot Brut, Nahe Germany.
- Peter Jacob Kühn, Blanc De Noirs Spatburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) Sekt Brut, Rheingau Germany 2018
Have you tried a Sekt you liked? I’d love to hear it! Until then, Cheers!
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