Contributed by Matthew Gaughan: wine blogger and educator based in Napa, CA. See Matthew’s blog Matthew’s World of Wine & Drink.
This is part two of a spotlight on Rosenhof eisweins. See the first post here.
Last week I wrote about an Eiswein made from Austria’s signature grape variety, Grüner Veltliner. Even more unusually, this week I focus on another of Austria’s quality varieties: Blaufränkisch, the landlocked country’s second-most planted black grape. Eiswein from a black grape is not unheard of – I’ve tasted Eisweins made from Malbec in Argentina and Cabernet Franc in Canada – but it is uncommon.
Red wines produced from Blaufränkisch, called Lemberger in Germany and Washington, can come in a range of styles, from light and Pinot-esque to oaky, more concentrated, and Syrah-like. Whatever the style, the wine should be marked by high acidity, a bright colour, firm tannins, and red fruits. Like the Grüner Veltliner last week, I was curious to see how varietally specific the Eiswein would be.
The Rosenhof winery is run by a father and son team, Vinzenz and Reinhard Haider, whose family have been making wine since 1947. Despite that history, the Haiders – as with many other Austrian winemakers – do not seem overwhelmed by tradition. Their winery also encompasses a hotel and restaurant, and making Eiswein from Grüner Veltliner and Blaufränkisch certainly demonstrates a willingness to experiment. At the same time, their focus on sweet wines shows a worthy respect for the Neusiedlersee’s history of quality sweet wine production.
The Blaufränkisch Eiswein looked, smelt, and tasted like a high-quality sweet rosé: a vibrant, light, yet intense orange colour, with perfumed floral aromas of rose petals and violets and ripe red fruit aromas of cranberries, pomegranates, strawberries, and raspberries. Even though the alcohol is lower than last week’s Grüner Veltliner, the palate felt richer and fuller – a combination of the red fruits and the higher levels of sugar that haven’t been converted into alcohol.
Overall, I was extremely impressed by how the Haiders have maintained the varietal characteristics of Grüner Veltliner and Blaufränkisch while producing intensely sweet wines. The two wines are different and individual: the Grüner Veltliner’s rich, spicy quality would make it ideal with an apple crumble or strudel, while the Blaufränkisch would pair well with a strawberry shortcake. Of the two wines, I preferred the Grüner Veltliner due to its acidity more successfully balancing the sweetness, but what I most appreciated was the concentrated, expressive character of each wine – something difficult to achieve in Eiswein.