Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Burgenland The Champion Of Austrian Red Wine

Wine from Austria’s Burgenland is diverse and delicious.

Burgenland Pleasure

Wine in Austria is closely wedded to Grüner Veltliner, the most important grape variety in the country. While this light and sometimes spicy white grape produces by far the most wine in Austria, there is one Austrian region that flips the script. Burgenland, the easternmost region in Austria, produces the most red wine in the country.

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“Burgenland is the youngest winegrowing region in Austria,” said Georg Schweitzer, managing director of Wein Burgenland. He is quick to point out that the winegrowing tradition in the area dates back to 3000 BC. That apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that Burgenland was formerly part of Hungary. In 2021, Burgenland celebrates 100 years together with Austria.

The Burgenland wine region is the warmest in Austria, hence its great suitability for producing outstanding red wines. At the top of the list is Blaufränkisch, also known as Lemberger. That’s an unfamiliar grape to many wine drinkers. Austria has its own unique wine style and, in fact, grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay aren’t even among the top five grapes produced.

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In Burgenland, Blaufränkisch is followed by Zweigelt (another red variety) and then Grüner Veltliner, in terms of grapes grown. In Austria, the second most common white grape is Welschriesling, a variety distinct from Riesling that most likely originated in Northern Italy. During the recent tasting hosted by Wein Burgenland, we had the opportunity to explore Blaufränkisch in all its glory as well as some unexpected surprises.

Burgenland Bubbles And Underdogs

The tasting opened with bubbles to dispel everyone’s troubles. The light and creamy 2019 St. Laurent Ancestral Pet Nat from Claus Preisinger was followed by the 2017 Cuvée Prestige from Sektkellerei Szigeti. Sparkling wines are becoming more important in Austria, with an increase of 200% over the last two years.

As Georg stated that the world has three important wine regions starting with “B” – Bordeaux, Burgundy and Burgenland, we enjoyed the “underdog” whites from the region. The 2020 Welschriesling from Winery Straka featured a smooth texture, fresh grass aroma and herbal influences. Oysters on the half-shell paired with the 2019 Chardonnay Ohne from Winery Hareter Thomas. This Chardonnay was unfiltered with orange peel on the nose, herbs, chalkiness and earth on the palate. The 2019 Grüner Veltliner Vulkan Alte Reben from Winery Kolfok is an example of a modern style Grüner with a funky aroma and complex stone fruit flavors.

Blaufränkisch And Cuvée Wines

For me, having a glass of Blaufränkisch is a real treat. The grape is becoming more visible in the US, with great examples in the Finger Lakes and even North Carolina. To have a Blaufränkisch flight of four wines as we did really made me ecstatic. The flight displayed the diversity of this late-ripening grape which is beautifully able to capture the nuances of its particular vineyard.

The 2018 Blaufränkisch from Winery Schiefer.pur has cherry fruit and earthiness on the nose. On the palate, there is smooth red cherry, a hint of spice and dirt followed by a long finish. This lighter wine was contrasted with the 2017 Der Geistesbltiz, Mittelburgenland DAC Reserve Blaufränkisch Ried Dürrau. The latter wine is a single vineyard bottle that is aged for two years in partially new French oak. The toasted aromas come through as do blackberries, forest floor, and currant.

The 2016 Blaufränkisch Joiser Kirschgarten by Winery Umathum is fresh and structured. The tannins hint at the potential for long aging. This darkly colored wine sees Austrian, Slovakian, and French oak for two years. It is an elegant wine with a chalky note and hints of oak. The 2008 In Signo Sagittarii Blaufränkisch is an ideal partner with a steak. It is aged 24 months in French oak and is deliciously deep with cocoa, smoke, and plum flavors.

We love Super Tuscans and were delighted to learn that Burgenland has the equivalent, special cuvées that blend the native grapes of Austria with international varieties. The 2019 Naturschönheit from Winery Hareter Thomas is a blend of Zweigelt and Saint Laurent that is fresh and clean. The 2018 Tridendron from Winery ET is a superb Merlot, Blaufränkisch, and Cabernet Sauvignon blend that is electric with a hint of black tea leaf and toast.

The 2017 The Oak Cuvée from Eichenwald Weine is a Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Merlot, and Cabernet blend that gets 28 months in new French oak. It is full-bodied with dark black fruit flavors and toasted and roasted mocha. The 2016 In Signo Leonis from Winery Heribert Bayer blends Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an oak-dominated wine. Inspired by the zodiac sign Leo, this wine roars with flavors of mint, dark berries, cedar, and dark chocolate.

We closed the tasting with the 2018 Ruster Ausbruch “Auf den Flügen der Morgenröte” dessert wine. This is a blend of Furmint and the Welschriesling that has an amazing nose. There are flavors of botrytis, honey, and ripe berries.

Burgenland is producing beautiful wines. They aren’t in the stores, you may say. Yes, they are, but you must look. The effort will be rewarded. For additional information check out Wein Burgenland.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Dear Dave,

it has been a pleasure to present our wines from Burgenland.
Thanks for your participation and the interesting discussions we had.

I hope to do a masterclass soon again, there is much more to discover on hidden secrets.

All the best and cheers