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