Winery of the Week: Austria’s Leo Hillinger

In my May column for The Washingtonian, I highlighted several European wines that remain terrific values at less than $20 despite the current exchange woes of the dollar. This month, I’ll build on that theme by highlighting wineries from around the world that continue to score high in what wine geeks call QPR, or quality/price ratio. In other words, bang for the buck.

This week’s Winery of the Week is Leo Hillinger, from the Burgenland region of Austria. Look especially for the 2007 Pinot Grigio ($11), which is from an unusually ripe vintage for Austria. The wine is darker in color than you’d expect for this grape, rich and ripe in flavor, with an impressively long finish. Not exactly a refreshing patio white—this one needs food.

The 2006 Small Hill Red ($15) is a great summer red for grill season. An unusual blend of Pinot Noir, Merlot and St. Laurent (an Eastern European red grape related to Pinot Noir and similar in texture, though its taste may make you think of Syrah), the wine will appeal to Rhône lovers for its perfume and its silky mouth-feel. Fantastic value at a price Rhône wines can rarely match these days.

Hillinger wines are imported by Klaus Wittauer, a former wine buyer for Sutton Place Gourmet who now exclusively imports wines of his native Austria. I’ve written about his Anton Bauer and Tegernseerhof wines before. Any wine that says “KW Selection” on the back label is worth trying.

The wines are distributed locally by Select Wines of Chantilly. They’re available at all area Balducci’s locations, Rodman’s (5100 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-363-3466), and the Wine Cabinet (1416 North Point Village Ctr., Reston; 703-668-9463).

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