The Rise of Blaufränkisch

It seems that in the last few years, Blaufränkisch (German for blue Frankish) has become Austria’s most successful red wine variety. It’s not a new grape: based on its name, we think that it had been growing in Central Europe since the Middle Ages. The name Fränkisch comes from Franconia, a German region praised for its quality wines in the Middle Ages, and so at the time, grapes that were producing superior wines were called Fränkisch. Better rootstock, denser plantings, better cover crops management and nuanced winemaking explain the recent rise in quality with more and more Blaufränkisch wines showing great complexity and finesse. Some producers describe Blaufränkisch using the “triangle” comparison: the grape has the elegance of Burgundy Pinot Noir, the pepperiness of Northern Rhône Syrah, and the structure of Piedmont Nebbiolo. Its home is Burgenland where many of the finest examples are grown. Carnuntum, a region just southeast of Vienna, is also a source of quality Blaufränkisch where they are especially fresh and elegant. Burgenland was part of Hungary until 1921, when most of it was annexed as Austria’s ninth and easternmost state after the dissolution of he Habsburg Empire. The exception was Burgenland’s capital Sopron, which was … Continue reading The Rise of Blaufränkisch

#WineWednesday Spotlight #78: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

On International Women’s Day, let’s praise Dorli Muhr’s outstanding Blaufränkisch, especially her flagship wine, the Spitzerberg, thanks to a contribution from British wine critic Stuart Pigott: Nowhere that I know of does it give more fragrant wines than on the slopes of the Spitzerberg in the small region of Carnuntum (named after the ancient Roman city there). Dorli Muhr of the Muhr – van der Niepoort estate winery, pictured above, is the most important producer of these wines and in the 2013 vintage she made the finest Spitzerberg Blaufränkisch I ever tasted… there’s an earthiness behind the floral charm. The one thing that is eye-popping about this it is how vivid and energized it tastes, a dramatic contrast to many warm climate reds with their high alcoholic content and low acidity levels. In common with the best Blaufränkisch from Moric (in Mittelburgenland) and Uwe Schiefer (in Südburgenland), this wine has enormous depth and serious dry tannins, yet great balance and delicacy. For me, those are the hallmarks of world-class wines from this grape. You should check the whole blog post: New York Wine Diary: Day 5 – The Fragrance of Austria.

Meet our Women Vintners

Do you know that as many as 13 of the wineries in our current portfolio are run or co-run by women? Witnessing an increasing number of talented women involved in the wine industry on International Women’s Day is exciting. They may have taken different paths — some took over their family estate from their parents, others founded their wineries from scratch — but they are all passionate about their work. Whether they have a degree in oenology or learned the trade while working with their family, these women are making important contributions to viticulture and winemaking. In Austria, grower and winemaker Ilse Maier pioneered organic farming in Kremstal when she took over Geyerhof, the family estate, in 1986. Dorli Muhr resuscitated her family vineyards in Carnuntum and now produces some of Austria’s finest Blaufränkisch. In Tokaj, Hungary, winemakers Judit Bodó and Stéphanie Berecz founded respectively Bott and Kikelet wineries with their husbands and are now making some of the best wines of the region. In 2014, Stéphanie was awarded by her fellow winemakers the prestigious title of “winemaker of the winemakers”. Sarolta Bárdos who owns and runs Tokaj Nobilis was the winner of the prestigious award of 2012 Winemaker of … Continue reading Meet our Women Vintners

#WineWednesday Spotlight #67: Pfneisl Blaufränker

This is a contribution by Jeremy Dugan, wine buyer at The Wine Country in Long Beach. Not too often does an Austrian wine get to be Wine of the Month. But when I sat down with Orshi Kiss, our Blue Danube Representative, and tried this Blaufrankisch from Weingut Pfneisl in Burgenland, Austria, the second thing I did after enjoy it myself was take it back to Randy and said “We could do this for Wine of the Month in December.” The rest of the staff tried it and everyone was in agreeance, this wonderfully balanced medium bodied red wine is the type of crowd pleasing, goes well with everything kind of wine people love. Especially at $13.99 for a liter! But who is Weingut Pfneisl? And who the heck are Birgit and Katrin? Once named Pfneiszl when they lived in Hungary over 100 years ago, the family moved to Austria to escape Communism, dropped the z from their last name and kept making wine like they did in their home country. Since 1993, the Pfneisls have had two wineries, one in Austria (Pfneisl) and the other in their ancestral Hungarian lands(Pfneiszl). The Austrian winery has been ran by Franz Pfneisl … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #67: Pfneisl Blaufränker

#WineWednesday Spotlight #60: Muhr-van der Niepoort Prellenkirchen

If last week’s #WineWednesday Spotlight was a red wine from a mainly white wine appellation, this week’s Muhr-van der Niepoort Prellenkirchen is a white wine from Carnuntum, a wine district east of Vienna, better known for its fruity Zweigelt and elegant Blaufränkisch. Dorli Muhr was in New York City this week presenting her latest vintage and maybe you had a chance to meet her and taste her Prellenkirchen. Prellenkirchen refers to the name of one of the main wine-growing villages of the region. The wine is an organic blend of 90% Grüner Veltliner from 25-to-30-year-old vines and 10% Riesling for a touch of freshness. Part of the grapes is sourced from a limestone vineyard on the Spitzerberg Hill and the rest comes from a vineyard near Prellenkirchen. The grapes are crushed by foot and pressed after two days of maceration with their skins. Then, the must is fermented with native yeasts and matured in used French oak before being bottled with a minimal amount of sulphur. The wine shows a bright golden color and a nose of apple compote and honey. The palate is full and silky with some mineral and earthy notes on the finish. We paired it with … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #60: Muhr-van der Niepoort Prellenkirchen

#WineWednesday Spotlight #59: Geyerhof Zweigelt StockWerk

Although Kremstal — an appellation in the Danube Valley situated around the old Austrian town of Krems — is best-known for its white wines, it enjoys a slightly warmer climate than in the nearby Wachau where the valley is narrower. Thanks to these conditions, the Maier family from Geyerhof grows organic Zweigelt (pronounced TSVYE-gelt) in deep sandy soil on east-facing slopes for their StockWerk project. The name StockWerk, which means in German work (Werk) on the vine (Stock), reflects the philosophy of the Maier family, a pioneer of organic viticulture in Kremstal. Farming an organic vineyard implies a lot of additional hard work to keep the vine healthy and preserve biological diversity in the vineyard. To save the grasslands around their village of Oberfucha from overgrowth, the family started raising cattle again last year. They now have manure for the fields and also meat and milk. Moreover, Maria Maier, daughter of a Beekeeper, started beekeeping two years ago. Thanks to the absence of pesticides, she has now healthy and thriving bee colonies. The cow and bees that you can see below the vine on the wine’s label illustrate that biological diversity. With its light peppery nose, aromas of sour cherry … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #59: Geyerhof Zweigelt StockWerk

#WineWednesday #53: Spotlight on Geyerhof’s Grüner Veltliners

Following the trace of Sisi, the beloved Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, we crossed the Erzsébet híd (Elisabeth Bridge) in Budapest and drove up the Danube River to Vienna. Contrary to Budapest, the inner city of Vienna is not exactly on the Danube but borders the Danube Canal, a smaller arm of the river. But one of the most scenic stretches of the river can be experienced just an hour from Vienna, in the Wachau. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site that lies in the Danube Valley between the towns of Melk and Krems. Driving along the river, you can admire baroque towns and monasteries, quaint villages, ruins of medieval castles and steep terraced vineyards planted with Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. Facing Krems on the other side of the river is the small wine village of Oberfucha, home to the Maier family, who has been producing wines for 15 generations. We were welcomed by Ilse, her son Josef and his wife Maria. Baby Matthis, Maria and Josef’s new son, was still sleeping. First, Josef took us for a tour of the Kirchensteig (path to the church) vineyard just behind the house. While walking in the vineyard, Josef explained … Continue reading #WineWednesday #53: Spotlight on Geyerhof’s Grüner Veltliners

The Stockwerk project

Our new Austrian container is reaching U.S. shores, packed with new wines from the exceptional 2015 vintage, including the 2015 Geyerhof Stockwerk Grüner Veltliner and 2015 Geyerhof Stockwerk Zweigelt. Stockwerk is the child project of Geyerhof‘s next generation of winemakers, Ilse Maier’s son Josef and his wife Maria. We’ll let Josef describes it in his own words: StockWerk is a real project of the next generation at Geyerhof (we are the 15th generation of the family). Maria had the idea of the name and the label. Generally the label should show how organic viticulture works. In German, StockWerk means the work (Werk) on the vine (Stock). Of course the vine is in the middle, but in an organic farm, there is also a strong focus on the surrounding. For us, it was very important that the vine was not drawn bigger than the cover plants around it, because for the ecosystem, they have the same importance. The secret little helpers stand for all the manual work in our vineyards. But the label should also show the projects of Maria and me: In the right corner you can see bees. Maria’s father has been a beekeeper for 30 years and so … Continue reading The Stockwerk project

#WineWednesday Spotlight #33: Muhr-van Der Niepoort Samt und Seide

This Austrian blaufränkisch has gotten a lot of praise in the press lately. And deservedly so! See what top wine publications have to say and try a bottle for yourself. 2013 Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide Wine Enthusiast: There is nothing obvious about this wine: everything is subtle and elegant. The nose holds back and the taut palate only unfurls slowly to show a floral, fruity wine that reminds one of crimson peony petals as much as of dark, juicy cherries. yet there is nothing facile about this. it is the silky-smooth texture, however, that delivers the killer blow. A most sensuous, intriguing wine of great elegance. Little wonder: its name means silk and velvet. 92 points Wine & Spirits: Samt & Seide (“velvet & silk”) is a spot-on description for this blaufränkisch, a blend of young and old vine fruit. It’s expressive from the get-go, the rich texture holding a wealth of fresh, frisky fruit. It’s how the wine lasts over the course of several days that proves it is more than just delicious, the minerality holding it firm as a rock while the breezy acidity blows over it with notes of herbs, spice and sappy flavor. This … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #33: Muhr-van Der Niepoort Samt und Seide

Drink Your Way Through Austrian Wine

This guide by Wine Folly makes it easy to learn more about Austria’s key wine grapes and styles: Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Saint Laurent, Riesling, Gemischter Satz, and Sekt. Austrian wines are mostly made in the eastern side of the country (where the major population areas are) and the cooler continental climate produces racy, dry white wines and elegant, fruity reds. This is not a region for rich, opulent wines like what you’ll find in much of California and Australia. Instead, Austrian wines lean towards tart, herbaceous flavors in a style more akin to France. So, if you’re a Francophile when it comes to wine preference, Austrian wine has that certain je ne sais quoi. Shop Austrian wines