Austrians would really like you to afford their signature crimson wine grape Blaufränkisch the identical type of respect as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah. However there’s a snag: they solely began to take action themselves comparatively lately.
Like so lots of their counterparts elsewhere, Austrian wine producers on the finish of the final century had been preoccupied with the well-known French grape varieties and closely oaked, highly effective types of crimson wine. Purple was nonetheless a little bit of a novelty within the land of Grüner Veltliner and probably the most admired examples tended to be copies of crimson bordeaux based mostly on Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, with Kollwentz of Eisenstadt a revered pioneer of the type. Blaufränkisch, which is of course excessive in each acidity and tannin in its youth, was comparatively troublesome to understand as a single-grape “varietal” wine. Seen by Austrians themselves as a gauche native, it typically obtained a look-in solely as an ingredient in blends.
Austrian winemakers’ rising expertise with making varietal Blaufränkisch has resulted in higher and higher wines, and its notoriously lengthy rising season has grow to be much less of an issue given warming summers. However the inconvenient reality stays that almost all critical varietal Blaufränkisch actually wants prolonged time — years — in bottle to indicate its greatest, which isn’t useful in our quick ahead age.
All this emerged at a latest Blaufränkisch Summit on the Austrian ski resort of Lech am Arlberg. It was organised by Dorli Muhr, Austria’s main wine publicist, who additionally occurs to provide a number of the most distinctive Blaufränkisch within the windswept Carnuntum area. Addressing a convocation of wine professionals from throughout Europe and the US, she defined that “in our new crimson wine period [Austrian] customers needed early-drinking copies of bordeaux so this was not a great time for Blaufränkisch. Now we realise we should give Blaufränkisch each time in bottle and the proper website, so we have to assist the buyer perceive that.”
Ernst Triebaumer’s 1986 Blaufränkisch, nonetheless in good condition, was a seminal, if lone, instance that confirmed a few years in the past simply what was doable for varietal Blaufränkisch. The following milestone got here when celebrated winemaker Roland Velich determined to commit his new Moric label to varietal, terroir-driven Blaufränkisch, launching it with the 2001 classic. He has made more and more advanced and expressive examples, typically from very outdated vines, yearly since. That each of those producers are based mostly within the heat Burgenland area within the far east of Austria is not any accident. Burgenland summers are typically very dry and Blaufränkisch copes with drought circumstances significantly better than most wine grapes.
However Burgenland may be very totally different from most different Austrian wine areas, being successfully a continuation of Hungary’s Pannonian plain. And, as Velich identified, communism shrivelled wine tradition and quality-driven wine in Hungary. Which means that Blaufränkisch, basically an Austro-Hungarian grape, suffers from a scarcity of historical past. In Hungary, the grape additionally has a unique identify. It is named Kékfrankos, which can be a direct translation of Blaufränkisch, however the synonymy shouldn’t be apparent to those that don’t converse each German and Hungarian.
Translation points prolong past this explicit border. Latest DNA profiling means that Blaufränkisch might be a spontaneous crossing of Gouais Blanc, dad or mum of the large Pinot household, with an obscure vine apparently confirmed to be Slovenian. This almost definitely happened in what’s now Slovenia, the place it’s often called Modra Frankinja. It’s also called Frankovka in Slovakia, Gamé in Bulgaria, Borgonja in Croatia and Burgund Mare in Romania — oh, and as Lemberger in Germany and Washington state. This profusion of names does nothing to assist the repute of Blaufränkisch, whose Austrian identify and spelling are a bit difficult in most of the world’s most essential wine markets.
On the Blaufränkisch Summit, Sascha Speicher, revered editor-in-chief of German journal Meiningers Sommelier, reported that he had lately organised a blind tasting of Austrian Blaufränkisch and German Lemberger for high producers of the latter. The Austrian wines had been judged persistently superior, in addition to notably and unexpectedly larger in acidity. The Germans had been (wrongly) satisfied that the Austrians should routinely add acid to their Blaufränkisch.
Even in hotter vintages Blaufränkisch is often fairly recent and chewy in youth, solely medium-bodied with deep color and sometimes has a bit bitterness on the end. (Native sommelier Günther Meindl urged evaluating it to Tuscany’s comparatively tart crimson wine grape: “near Sangiovese however a bit decrease in acidity”.) Its components want time to knit collectively to provide one thing actually satisfying. Velich suggests not less than 15 years. Can Twenty first-century wine customers wait that lengthy?
After all, as is so typically the case, there’s a new era that wishes to do issues a bit otherwise. This was proven most dramatically on the summit by the 2020 and 2021 examples from Claus Preisinger that we tasted, with early-picked grapes and trendy amphora ageing. These wines had been a lot paler than most, having had solely a handful of days’ contact with the grape skins within the fermentation vat. They appeared already approachable. An growing variety of Blaufränkischs are starting to be made like this however they’re routinely rejected by the tasting panels that are notoriously rigid within the types they permit to hold the appellation of a “high quality wine”.
One of many liveliest discussions on the summit was about this longstanding situation in Austria. The pinnacle of the Austrian Wine Advertising Board, Chris Yorke, made the purpose that the nation’s wine guidelines had been devised for prevailing tastes within the home market which don’t essentially match these exterior Austria immediately. “However now there are some producers who export so much and they’re affecting the interior market too,” he reported. In keeping with Yorke, 20 per cent of exported wines — and 50 per cent of these exported to Canada — usually are not formally authorized. “And but the typical worth of non-quality wines is larger than the typical worth of high quality wine!”
Issues do appear to be altering in Austria. However I’m nonetheless undecided how lengthy it will likely be earlier than Blaufränkisch joins the grape greats.
Blaufränkisch and Kékfrankos
Heumann, Rosé 2021 Villány, Hungary (Kékfrankos with 25% Syrah) 13.5%
£8.50 The Wine Society
Hans Igler, Traditional Blaufränkisch 2020 Burgenland 13%
£10.50 The Wine Society
Peter Wetzer, Spern Steiner Kékfrankos 2018 Hungary 14%
£19 The Wine Society
Claus Preisinger, Bonsai Blaufränkisch 2021 Burgenland 12%
£34.49 Sip Wines Store, London; $49.99 Wine Remedy, New York; additionally (cheaper) in Germany, Czechia and Norway
Rosi Schuster, St Margarethen Blaufränkisch 2013 Burgenland 13%
€49 Broeding, Munich; AU$75.83 (£43) Wine Search, Melbourne
Wachter Wiesler, Ried Saybritz Blaufränkisch 2017 Eisenberg 13%
€49 Nur Gutes, Germany; SFr63.97 (£56) Smith & Smith; $81.95 The Wine Guide, California
Krutzler, Perwolff 2009 Burgenland 13.5%
SFr149 (£131) Weingallerie, St Gallen
Moric’s Burgundian Blaufränkisch wines are imported into the UK by Clark Foyster and the US by Winemonger.
Dorli Muhr’s Carnuntum examples can be found from Justerini & Brooks within the UK, in addition to from dorlimuhr.at.
Tasting notes on Purple Pages of JancisRobinson.com. Comply with Jancis on Twitter @JancisRobinson
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