#WineWednesday Spotlight #152: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

“I feel pretty sure that blaufränkisch is pinot noir’s sexy older brother,” writes The Wine Bible author Karen MacNeil for her website WineSpeed. So can a wine exemplify the characteristics of the grape better than the racy and velvety Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg 2013? Maybe there’s no actual evidence, but I feel pretty sure that blaufränkisch (BLOUGH-frank-ish) is pinot noir’s sexy older brother—the one who rode Harleys and hung out with Hemingway (or did whatever the equivalent was two thousand years ago). This blaufränkisch from the single vineyard Spitzerberg is certainly like that—a peppery, fruity red that’s racy and dark at the same time. Blaufränkisch, Austria’s leading red, has the wonderful ability to be simultaneously velvety and structured. If I could stop what I’m doing and cook up some duck breasts with cherry sauce, I would. (13% abv) 92 points KM If you haven’t try Blaufränkisch yet, or if you’re like me and love the raciness of the grape, or if you’re ready to cook some duck breasts, here is our selection of Blaufränkisch wines from Muhr-van der Niepoort and several other top Austrian producers on our webshop. And don’t forget the cherry sauce!

Schist Happens

The first time we starting turning over rocks and looking for producers in Eisenberg was 2014. The area is certainly thematically ripe for Blue Danube given the confluence of Croatian, Austrian and Hungarian cultures and borders. A stone’s throw from the Hungarian border and a part of the Hungarian Empire for centuries earlier, but the Croatian connection is less obvious. After the Turks were pushed out in the mid 16th Century, Hungary repopulated the war torn area with Croatian communities. For centuries, villages like Schandorf spoke a unique Croatian dialect and the culture was distinctly Croatian. This was the case up until 1921 when the borders changed, empires fell, and then were broken up again with the Iron Curtain. Things have of course perked up since then, but Südburgenland is still one of Austria’s smallest wine regions, and specific areas like Eisenberg are even lesser known. Needless to say, the region’s wines are underrepresented in the US. As such we are proud to introduce Kopfensteiner. Largely committed to Blaufränkisch, Thomas and Astrid have 9 hectares in Eisenberg and 6 hectares in nearby Deutsch Schützen planted in iron rich clay, loam and layers of green schist. Combined with the highest elevation … Continue reading Schist Happens

#WineWednesday Spotlight #133: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

Last month, the Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg, Dorli Muhr‘s flagship wine, was featured in the newsletter of Flatiron Wines in New York: Spitzerberg (German for “Pointy Mountain”), is one of those best plots. This “Mountain” is actually a leftover shoreline from an ancient sea, a 300-meter-high outcropping of limestone South of the Danube in Lower Austria, near the Slovenian border. And it’s perfect for Blaufränkisch, an early budding, late ripening, grape that needs a long growing season to ripen fully. Dorli Muhr enlisted Douro legend, Dirk Niepoort, to help re-establish her family’s old Spitzerberg Blaufränkisch. Today the vines are at least 50 years old and farmed organically. They vinify using some whole clusters and foot stomping, and without additives (even sulfur) or cultured yeasts, pump-overs or modern tools. The wines are finished with two years in used barrels. Muhr-Van Der Niepoort, Spitzerberger 2012: These grapes managed to hang on the vines until October! This crazy long hang time and wild temperature swings towards the end make for a fully ripe but still super-refreshing counterpoint to Samt & Seide, with rich yet tart fruit. Six years on, tertiary umami notes are starting to complement the primary fruit. “These are little gems … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #133: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

World Class Organic Wines from Austria

Austria is now home to some of the best organic winemakers. We’re proud to represent the very gifted Ilse Maier of Weingut Geyerhof and Dorli Muhr of Muhr-van der Niepoort. Thanks to the leadership of Ilse Maier, Weingut Geyerhof in Oberfucha, Kremstal, has been organic since 1988. Ilse Maier’s family has lived in the wine village of Oberfucha since the 16th century and for Ilse, it became vital to preserve the biodiversity surrounding the village, not only for the vineyards but also for the wildlife and farm animals. In the vineyards, Ilse and her son Josef are working hard to keep the vines healthy and the soil loose and nicely moist underneath. They farm without using any pesticides, insecticides or weed control material. Clover is planted in every other row to naturally increase nitrogen in the soil, compost is used to nourish the plants, and the local wildlife is welcome. To save the grasslands around the village from overgrowth, the family is even raising cattle, which provide meat and milk and also manure for the fields. Maria Maier, Ilse’s daughter in-law, comes from a beekeeping family. She has started beekeeping in the vineyards. The bees are healthy and thriving thanks … Continue reading World Class Organic Wines from Austria

#WineWednesday Spotlight #113: Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide

Roasted stuffed wild fowls and Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide is one of the pairings that Wine Enthusiast Magazine recommends for your Thanksgiving dinner. This tasty and earthy dish is a recipe from Hedi Klinger, chef and owner of Gasthof Klinger in Upper Austria. These little bird roasts, with their gamey flavors, billowy stuffing and salty bacon, need a medium-bodied red that can stand up to but not overpower, them. A traditional Austrian selection like Muhr-van der Niepoort’s 2014 Samt & Seide Blaufränkisch, and a New World counterpart like Brick House’s 2014 Gamay Noir from Oregon, both show lovely cherry fruit, a spicy touch of pepper and lip-smacking freshness that will illuminate all the flavors without weighing them down. Purity, finesse, elegance, that’s how The Wine Advocate describes the 2014 Samt & Seide: The 2014 Blaufränkisch Samt & Seide is the “super-second wine” of the Spitzerberg “Grand Vin” and comes from up to 40-year-old vines. The wine opens with a pure and spicy, very delicate and fresh bouquet of crushed stones, dried flowers and sour cherries. like the Cuvée vom Berg, this is another Alpine character and is fascinating in its purity and spicy freshness. On the palate, this … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #113: Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide

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

The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

15 wines is a lot to get through without losing you after this sentence. However, there is a salty, tart, and often nutty line that connects them all from the Bay of Trieste down to Southern Dalmatia. These are our table wines for the summer. For the past few years, we’ve brought the Martinčič Cviček liter in from Dolenjsko (in between Zagreb and Ljubljana in Slovenia). This tongue-twisting blend of red and white grapes must be between 8.5-10% alcohol and dry by law. Now we are finally adding two more liters to round things out – the 2016 Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch) and 2016 Modri Pinot Rosé (Pinot Noir). They are both around 11-11.5% alcohol, incredibly low in SO2, and are impossibly fresh and full of character. Chill all three down and let them come up at the table. Roughly 2 hours West and a bit south by car and you hit Istria (Istra in Slovenia). Dominated by Malvasia Istarska, Teran and Refošk, the diversity by soil and proximity to the Adriatic is immense. Keeping with the liter theme, the 2016 Santomas LNG Refošk is our Dolcetto by the sea in that it satisfies the pizza/pasta needs but still lends itself … Continue reading The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

#WineWednesday Spotlight #99: Pfneiszl Zweigler

This week’s #WineWednesday Spotlight is the dazzling Pfneiszl Zweigler thanks to this Instagram post from wine lover Shelley Warkentin: Crushed this tasty Zweigelt over the weekend. Really loving this grape as an alternative to rosé on hot days, especially with a little chill on it.⚡️Also, I want to hang out with the two awesome sisters, Birgit and Katrin, who made this wine. @pfneiszlestate #glouglou #pfneiszlwinery #zweigler #zweigelt #austrianwine #realwine #birgitundkatrin #bluedanubewine Affirmative! The 1 Liter Zweigler from the Pfneisl sisters is just what you need on a hot day. Try also his brother, the spicy 1 Liter Blaufränker. Both are bright, fruity as well as organic. And don’t forget to follow Shelley Warkentin on on Instagram.

#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.

#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