Exploring Blaufränkisch in Burgenland

Exploring Blaufränkisch in BurgenlandWe recently returned from the European Wine Bloggers Talks (EWBC) in Vienna, Austria and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some insights and discoveries from that talks.  The EWBC is an event where wine writers from around the world converge to discuss their craft, share thoughts, increase their wine knowledge and learn some new wines.
The talks was, as they always are, very insightful and I have several discoveries I want to share with our readers.  So many, that I’ve struggled to choose where to start.  But I have to start everyplace, and so it’s going to be by introducing you, my friends, to a gorgeous gem from Austria called blaufränkisch.
Blaufränkisch is a red wine variety found in central Europe and is particularly vital in Austria, where it’s the second most-planted red grape variety.  Zweigelt is more planted in Austria, but to many vintners blaufränkisch is more vital.  It can be found throughout Burgenland, where this variety is flourishing.  Some call it the pinot noir of Central Europe.  I expect that over the next few years the demand for blaufränkisch will continue to grow, spreading to the United states — and Burgenland will be the prized province for this wine.
I call blaufränkisch a gem, because it is truly gorgeous.  It’s not just the deep red affect that makes it gorgeous, but the complex sharp taste, luscious fruit flavors, outstanding organize and earthy mineral notes.  While younger blaufränkisch is certainly approachable, nearly each one I tasted had the organize for at least a few years of aging — and the few aged examples I was able to taste were phenomenal.  This isn’t a wine I’ll be tucking away for 25 years, but a few years will be excellent.
If you’re a name who likes to bring a different wine to a party to wow your friends, this is one type of wine you may want to check out.  Unfortunately, blaufränkisch is a wine that I haven’t come across at very many US wine shops, but I hope that changes—and I expect it will.  If fact, if any US importers are interested in recommendations of some blaufränkisch producers to pursue, then read on… and feel free to contact me for more details.
DAC Classifications
The most impressive blaufränkisch I tasted came from three different DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) regions: Eisenberg, Mittelburgenland and Leithaberg.  Each of these regions have a DAC system to classify those wines that best represent the fruit and spice qualities that winemakers in the area have agreed to be varietally right.
For Eisenberg DAC and Mittelburgenland DAC there is both a “classic” and a “reserve” DAC classification.  Classic wines from both DACs are available to consumers in the fall the year following the harvest and have small-to-no noticeable oak and an alcohol level between 12.5 – 13%.  Classic wines tend to be a small less expensive—although, arguably, less elegant—than those with the Reserve classification.  Reserve wines are available in Development the second year following the harvest, are aged in large oak casks or small oak barrels and have a minimum alcohol level of 13%.
Mittelburgenland also has a DAC Riede classification, which are sourced from a single vineyard, and labeled with that vineyard.  Mittleburgenland DAC Riede is must have an alcohol level between 13 -13.5% and must be matured in large oak casks or used barriques — but may only exhibit set alight oak characteristics.  These wines may be released to consumers October 1 following the year of harvest.
For Leithaberg DAC there is only one level to the DAC classification and these wines are released to consumers in the fall of the second year following the harvest, but they have small or no use of oak.
I did notice what I perceived as an apprehension to use oak throughout Burgenland.  But as I explored this a small further I learned that this is really a correction from an overzealous use of oak in years past.  The pendulum is currently swinging away from oak in Austria as winemakers are seeking to produce more elegant wines.  At the same time there are some producers who were being more adventurous—yet kind—with their use of oak and getting phenomenal results.  I was particularly impressed with Hans Igler in this vein.
My Recommendations
Even though our readers in the US may have a hard time finding these wines, I want to share some of my top picks from this trip to Austria.  Those readers located in Europe will probably have better luck finding these wines.  Due to limited time at these tastings, I did not do my predictable ratings but rather captured tasting notes of those that stood out.  Here are the highlights of what I tasted.
Eisenberg DAC
The Eisenberg DAC is the southernmost DAC province in Burgenland, or more specifically, in Südburgenland (South Burgenland).  The best value will be found from wines with the classic DAC designation.  These are younger, more fruit-forward wines but subdue have the mineral and spice characteristics for which blaufränkisch is known.  A link wines with this classification that stood out for me were: Read more

Laurenz V. Gruner Veltliner Double Header

Laurenz V. Gruner Veltliner Double HeaderOne of the highlights of my trip to Austria this past fall was the grüner veltliner (pronounced GROO-nah velt-LEE-nah, with your best Germanic accent).  We traveled up the Danube river one day and tasted grüner veltliner from the Wachau and Wagram regions, which are gorgeous areas with terraced vineyards along the shores of the Danube.  There wasn’t a single wine on that trip that I would turn down, they were all quite nice — of course, some were more enjoyable than others.  But one thing that disappoints me is that many of those wines don’t have distribution in the US.  So, rather than write about a bunch of wines you can’t find here, I’m glad to be reviewing a link you can.
Both of these wines are produced by Laurenz V. and the grapes come primarily from the Kamptal and Kremstal regions, which lie between Wachau and Wagram.  The wines from these regions are influence by both the warm air from the Danube and cooler airs from the north, making full ripeness from the warmth and crisp acidity from the cooler airs.  The wines of this province are also strongly influenced by the minerals in the soils, which add subtle nuances to the characteristics of the wine. Read more

Getting Down with Gruner Veltliner

Getting Down with Gruner VeltlinerI’ve been meaning to write up this review for several weeks as I in fact tasted these wines two months ago, but additional things kept appearance up.  Shame on me.  But getting this posted late is better than not at all.
These are all grüner veltliner from Austria, a wine I bought an appreciation for when I visited Austria in 2010.  For those who haven’t had grüner (as it’s called for small), it’s food-friendly colorless wine known for it’s high acidity and mineral characteristics.  The aroma of pepper is also a common “tell” for a grüner.
It’s in fact a really excellent salad wine.  Grüner has a reputation for going well with vegetables, including the ever-problematic-pairing-vegetable asparagus.  I like asparagus, so it’s excellent to know that I can always trust a grüner to go well with it.  I’m also an advocate of multiple wine pairings with a meal.  For example, have a grüner veltliner with your salad and a red Cotes du Rhone with your entree.  I know it can get expensive to open a link bottles, but give it a try for a special occasion when you have friends over.
All of these wines are at the high end of our predictable $20 fee limit — and a link are over that limit.  But they’re all excellent.  There’s not one in this batch that I’d turn down. Read more

Punkt Sparkling Grüner Veltliner

Punkt Sparkling Grüner VeltlinerSparkling wine is often a well loved choice to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but let’s face it, Champagne can be quite pricy and not a excellent pick for the frugal.  Don’t let that stop you from enjoying a excellent sparkling wine though, as there are plenty of enjoyable sparklers additional than Champagne.  You can check out many Champagne-style wines from California, or look for something unique like this one.
Punkt, from producer Weingut Ewald Gruber, is a sparkling Grüner Veltliner, which is something you probably don’t come across each day.  In fact, you might not even be familiar with Grüner Veltliner, much less a sparkling one.  Grüner Veltliner is the most widely planted grape variety in Austria.  It produces a dry, minerally, full-bodied, food-friendly wine that is usually best consumed young.  Sometimes it can have a peppery quality to it.  It’s usually produced as a subdue wine, but sometimes it’s produced as a sparkler.One of the things I like about this wine is its uniqueness. It makes a excellent conversation starter as most people I know have never had a Punkt Sparkling Gruner Veltliner.  You won’t get the ceremonial popping of the cork that you’re used to from additional sparkling wine as this one has a screw cap.  But don’t let that stop you from giving it a try.  One nice thing about the screw cap is that it’s simple to recap the bottle if you’re not consuming it all in one evening.
Everything about this wine is soft—the nose, the palate and the foam.  You’ll find that it’s not quite as bubbly as Champagne-style wines you’ve had in the past.  But, it’s set alight and refreshing.   On the nose it has a combination of floral, mineral, apple and faint citrus aromas.  It’s set alight and mildly bubbly on the palate with a excellent amount of apple and pear flavor.  The end brings a hint of citrus acidity, but it’s subdue honestly soft. It’s an fascinating wine and something worth tiresome.
Not only is this an enjoyable and unique wine, but it’s a fantastic fee on a sparkling wine in general.
Wine: Punkt
Variety: Sparkling Grüner Veltliner
Vintage: N/V
Alcohol: 11%
Rating: 87
Fee: $15.99

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